This is not a public journal. There is no theme, agenda, or overall purpose. I need a reason to write and it needs to be well informed. I consider myself an expert in only one subject, my own thoughts. I am reflecting my experiences onto the internet because this seems to make them more beautiful to me, especially when they are idealized and inaccurate. This is not a mirror for me to see myself looking back, nor is it a mirror that reflects a detailed image of myself to others. This page is but a jumble of letters, words, and ideas that will be interpreted differently for each person, including myself. There are no mirrors because these thoughts are directionless, inaccurate, and fuzzy; a vague, splotchy reflection of McKinley.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Refiner's Fire


For he is like a refiner’s fire… and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier… and he shall purify…that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
Malachi 3:2-4


Every once in a while we can be given an opportunity to see the grace that surrounds us. There are moments where we feel deep appreciation and gratitude. There are other moments where we feel deep understanding and come to know undeniable truths. There are moments where our hearts fill up like a balloon that’s about to burst (American Beauty quote). There are moments where we understand our purpose, meaning, and most of all­­—our potential.

Then, sometimes we are lucky enough to have a moment where all of those feelings culminate into one experience. This post is about a moment where all of those feelings came together for me. It was with undeniable clarity that I came to see that God knew me and was directly involved in my life.

*          *          *

One day, I thought my house was going to burn down. As I drove out of my neighborhood there was a large pillar of smoke just on the other side of the hill. I called my mom to let her know and kept driving. As I made my way down the mountain I considered what would change if my house burnt down. I thought to myself, “almost all of my belongings are practically worthless.” I was totally calm. I realized that I would have only kept what was important. I felt like it might actually be nice to start again. I wasn’t worried. 

This fire was called the Quail Fire. It was one of an unusually high number of fires that started last month. The Quail Fire came close to Alpine and put my neighborhood in Draper (Suncrest) on alert.  Luckily, it didn’t take any homes or people, but it burned a very large part of the mountain near American Fork Canyon. My family began to organize our belongings and prepare for other events like this. We sorted through the important things. We cleaned and detached ourselves from everything that didn’t hold any real value.

Fires are destructive. With the wrong perspective a fire can be something inherently negative, unfair, or unwanted. Fires can take lives. Once they start they seem to take and take and take with no regard for what they use as fuel. Yet, somehow, amidst their taking they find a way to give. They offer a new beginning. Every piece of life that survives a fire feels like it was just born. Rising from the ashes must feel like the first day of life. Although everything around was lost, everything of real value remained for the new life. Life begins in the ashes.

*          *          *

I never had a testimony of the power of the atonement until I felt completely healed by it. I never really understood it either. I struggled with the concept because it’s so abstract that it requires us to experiment with it. Once we experiment with it we can begin to understand it. Once we begin to understand it we can gain a testimony of it.

Please be understanding as you read this because I promise I would be equally as understanding if I knew about your mistakes. I only share this because I feel like it is of worth to someone who reads it. You can hear about repentance as an abstract concept but when someone you know overcomes something similar it can be the difference in giving hope. That hope can inspire change if you let it. Like I said in my last post, I want hope to spread like wildfire.

I used to have a problem. I originally planned on stating exactly what the problem was but then I realized that it creates a distance from people with other types of problems. Like all sin it attacked my self worth. Like all sin it caused me to miss opportunities to serve, progress, and grow. (If you are curious about what it was I am willing to talk about it openly, just email me or ask me in person sometime.) I don’t think any less of myself now and I’m not embarrassed by my past. This is because I have since lost every desire to act the way I did. It feels like I’m writing about a different person, and, essentially, it is a different person. There is the “Old man of Sin” and the “New Creature in Christ” (which is a concept from Brother Bott).

During those years I led a normal life as I wasted time stalling my personal and eternal progress. Yet, I continually prayed for anything that would help me leave it behind. There are so many things that contributed to the process of healing. Many bishops, friends, and experiences are a part of the complete path to full recovery. I owe all of them a great deal of gratitude. 

In the beginning of June I began to feel like it was time to put every effort into being better. I continually felt this desire before then and I acted upon it by trying a number of things.  I had had times of strength and times of weakness, but in June I decided it was time to be consistently strong. I wanted to live up to my name; I wanted to be a rock, a large mountain like McKinley should be.

I started the process of change; then God stepped in and led me to exactly what was needed. It was a few weeks later that a great example of strength was placed in my life. On June 8, I called her for the first time. 

In a great coincidence, which I now realize wasn’t a coincidence at all, we went on a date the next day. On that first date she told me something that had an immediate impact. It made me toss and turn that night (in a good way). She told me that she doesn't watch PG-13 movies. To some people that may seem fundamentalist and crazy, but it was just what I needed to hear. It was then that the lesson began: there is no action that is too extreme if it means it will make you better

I obviously can't include all the details of the relationship. Honestly, I didn't think I was that far off track before all of this happened. I have since seen the hundreds of ways that I needed improving. In June I caught fire, and she was specifically used to spread the flames into parts of my life that I didn't even realize needed fixing. 

It was her and her only that could have caused this change. It was the specific feelings that I had, her personality, the timing, and even her hesitancy that caused my change of heart. I didn't change for her, I changed simply from getting to know her. An example of strength is the greatest missionary tool.

The relationship ended. It ended last week. You might feel a desire to console me because it seems like something really good is over. Please never tell me you are sorry for me. The end turned out to be so much more than just an end.

When a movie ends we feel complete and satisfied because the story served its purpose. But when a relationship ends some of us tend to wait through the credits, sit in the theatre, and waste our time hoping for a sequel. It was in the end of the relationship that I had my most cherished experience. It's very personal to me and you probably won't feel the same way about it as I do; but similar experiences are within your reach if you'll open your heart to them.

On Friday, as I was coming to terms with the end, I was suddenly given a spectacular perspective. It was undeniably clear why everything happened exactly how it did in that relationship. I felt like I was given a glimpse of God's perspective for a brief moment. Years of prayers were finally answered and I now know, with more certainty than ever, that God knows me very well. After this realization I broke down and felt the most happiness I have ever felt. July 20, 2012 was the first day of my life.

This was one of those rare moments where every bit of grace around me was clear. My heart filled up like a balloon that was about to burst. I felt deep appreciation and gratitude. I came to know undeniable truths. I actually understood my purpose, the meaning of my experience, and most of all—my potential.

It is clear to me that I’ve been forgiven. It’s clear to me that the doors of progress are back open. No more barriers to my capacity. It is clear that God doesn’t want me to waste any more time. I have been surrounded by opportunities to serve, to grow, to teach, and to begin to repay my debt for such a wonderful life. I can’t imagine how much good all of us are capable of if we will just accept our potential and let it seep out of us as we watch our beautiful, meaningful life unfold.

*          *          *

On the day I thought my house could burn down I ironically got my temple recommend renewed. I had already caught fire. After the interview I went to surprise the girl I was dating with a small gift at work in Provo. That small act of service kept me out just long enough for it to be dark as I drove home. I could see the flames glowing on the mountain from the freeway.



As I looked at the glowing embers I thought to myself, how could something so beautiful cause so much fear? I felt at peace as I saw the flames eat away the mountainside because I knew that there is nothing to fear when it comes to change. 

They say that the Quail Fire started with just a small spark at a construction site. It was just a worker whose hoe hit a rock. That’s all it takes is a spark—a desire to change. Once you let the fire start it quickly eats everything inside and around you. Then, out of the ashes, life can begin.



"Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration."
Elder D. Todd Christofferson




*             *            *            *

Epilogue?

Yes that was the end of the story, but here is some stuff that has added to this great lesson. Not really an Epilogue but some additional thoughts about how God was involved in the experience. Also, how he can be involved in your life. The most miraculous part of what happened is that I saw everything line up perfectly. It was one of the few times I felt like I understood every bit of an experience.

Even the media I have seen lately has contributed to this great lesson I’ve learned. I want to share with you two of my favorite movies and a favorite song that accompany my experience.

Movie One: On Friday, hours after my experience, a favorite movie, O Brother Where Art Thou, was on TV. I felt like I had just experienced exactly what that movie portrays. The three main characters begin a journey and don’t really understand the meaning of what is happening until the very end. It is clear that everything in their experience served some purpose to free them from captivity and bring them towards repentance. The best part is that it all just unfolds before them just like it did for me.

Movie Two: Last week I re-watched Forrest Gump for the first time since I was a kid. This time I understood it. I cried a lot, which has to mean something? Haha. Forrest was so humble but succeeded at everything he tried. This is because he had a pure heart. He just did good things for the sake of doing them, and he was led through a life of meaningful experiences. At the end, he offers some of the greatest wisdom that I want everyone to reflect on. (Watch an extended clip for full effect)


“I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

I know that if we are open to it we can lead a meaningful life. We can gain satisfaction in fulfilling our great potential. It’s also true that we can just float around accidental-like on a breeze. If you feel like your life is accidental it means you have some pondering to do. Not just pondering but some correcting. Don’t fear it, you can start now towards your own moment where every bit of grace that led you to full happiness will be as clear as sunlight through an open window: Shimmering, glimmering, and bright.


Song: This song represents what I have felt in the process of receiving the grace I described above. It’s in a made-up language that my favorite band sometimes sings in called “Hopelandic.” Their music always fills me with hope. I find this song fitting because it begins slow and delicate and culminates into a loud, beautiful, hopeful mess. Listen to it if you can and you will get a slight glimpse of my experience. It’s 10 minutes long and the loud parts are at about the 4 and 7 minute marks, so if you feel like listening you can have your own hopeful experience :). Apparently someone already made a video of this song to a fire, I just discovered it, I guess we had the same idea.