Thursday, March 7, 2013
Think about it! Literally!
I told him I was reading his favorite book, Dante's Inferno, and watching Italian movies with English subtitles. He was excited!
Reading Dante!? That's the best news of my life!! As long as you read Dante's Inferno and the Scriptures, you're pretty much set.
Wow, a whole lot happened this week. Or maybe that was last week... everything sort of blends together after the first few days. I cannot believe it's been a month. I seriously can't comprehend it. We have less that two weeks here at the MTC, and then we're Italy-bound. I don't think any words in any language could describe how excited I am! Right now it's sort of a selfish excitement, which is male (bad, evil - pronounced "mah-lay"), but when I think about the Italians and I think about the Lord and I imagine serving them to the best of my ability as obediently as I can, my excitement is blown up like a spiritual balloon and I'm so very happyyyyy!!
Anyway... I should have brought my journal or something. It's hard to remember what happens in a week. I had something of a breakdown, but that happens to everybody at the MTC. I didn't get angry or anything like Audrey is doubtlessly imagining, but I just got really sad and wondered if I could really do this. It's so hard, everyone. It's so hard. And I've only been out for one month. People always told me, "The mission's really hard, but it's so worth it." I have absolute faith that that is true, and I look forward to adding my testimony to theirs in two years' time, but whenever I heard that before I got out here I always thought, "Yeah, whatever. I'm going to Italy, it'll be a cinch." FALSE. The pressures of being a missionary are incredible. I feel like I'm getting squished by a winepress or something. We're told every hour to be as perfect as we can be, and I want to! I want to be a perfect missionary so badly! And then I do something dumb, like have a mean thought or say something "inappropriate" as far as mission standards go or start singing a pop song or all of this other stuff that isn't "BAD," per se, but it's not PERFECT either. And then I think, "Oh no, I'm the worst missionary ever!" And then the Spirit leaves because you're mad at yourself, and then you don't have the Spirit with you so you're even more sad, and it's just a really bad cycle.
The KEY, my friends and family, is NOT to get discouraged by mistakes, because you will make them. I make them all the time. "Perfection" is not an instant thing, and in this life it's not even an attainable thing, but in order for me to be a "perfect" missionary, all I need to do is my best. I need to repent of the mistakes I make and aim a little higher for the next minute, and the next hour, and the next day, and the next month, and the next year, and the next TWO years, and the rest of my life, and THEN SOME! Higher and higher and higher, a little better every day, and suddenly... you're perfect. Obviously it's not that simple--my unexpected wave of tears proves that. Sometimes you just can't take the stress and you break down. But that's not evil, either. It's human. So you brush your coat and shine your shoes and press onward one more time.
It's good to write this out. These are the kinds of things I put in my journal, but it's so much easier typing them. It takes half an hour to write a tenth of what I've typed out here in ten minutes. Oh, well. Sacrifice.
Speaking of which, sacrifice is something I've focused on this week. I'm amazed at the power of sacrifice, and I believe in it almost more than any other principle. I believe that noble, heartfelt sacrifice literally brings the Spirit, and with it, great power. Even small sacrifices, when dedicated to the desire to feel the Spirit stronger, will result in an increase of spirituality. Obedience brings the Spirit, and because we are natural men we desire carnal things. When we obey God's commandments and sacrifice those carnal things, TURNING away from the Natural Man and toward God, we are blessed with an abundance of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost can become our constant companion (see D&C 121:46 and... pretty much that whole section) and guide our thoughts and actions toward more righteous ones and comfort us when we feel like it's just too hard.
Do you see how that all works? Everything I've written fits together. The more you strive to be obedient and follow God's commandments and sacrifice everything you have for His will, He blesses you with the only thing that really matters, the only thing that everyone wants: happiness. And he does that through the Holy Ghost, and through an assurance that you are saved through Christ, and through the love of your friends and your family, and His own love, and it just keeps going on and on. But you don't receive those blessings that actually matter until you make room for them by getting rid of--or sacrificing--the things you think you need or want.
Anyway... there are some insights from this week. I hope they'll help someone somewhere with something. They've certainly helped me.
Every Tuesday night a General Authority comes to give the missionaries a devotional. This week, that was Brother Aidukaitis, a charismatic Brazilian who was as funny as he was intelligent and insightful. There are many things he said that I'll share with you someday which I wrote in my journal, but something I'm prompted to share is not something he emphasized in his address, but rather a phrase he casually repeated several times that I've been writing down everywhere: "Think about it!" People talk about pondering a lot in the Church. President Hinckley taught us to "meditate". But what do those things mean? I suggest that it's a very simple practice. We don't have to cross our legs and hum and light candles (although that very well might help). We just need to think about it! Set aside a time to ponder, meditate, and just think about what you've learned that day. Think about the secular things, if that's important, but be SURE to think about the spiritual things. Just think about it! One thing this generation--or perhaps just this planet--severely lacks today is pondering. People rarely take time to sit down and mull over new ideas, or old ideas, or sudden realizations, or old inspirations, or experiences or relationships or stories or scriptures or anything! Pondering is something I try to do often at the MTC--or at least as often as is appropriate, since you shouldn't be pondering while you're supposed to be learning or serving or some other thing.
I challenge you all to set aside a time to ponder this week. Ponder about something you've learned... just pick two or three things that a teacher said, or that the Spirit whispered, or that the scriptures taught you. Think about it! Literally! Just sit there and think about it. Connect those thoughts with other ones you might have, or have had in the past. Imagine things, make connections, I don't know. Everyone ponders differently, I suppose. But really take the time to SOLIDIFY important ideas in your mind so that you can apply them, use them, and maybe even teach them.
I'm not sure if that made any sense. I'm sorry if it didn't. I offer my testimony that the Spirit will work in you and guide your very thoughts if you give Him the opportunity. "Treasure up in your minds" does not mean bury a thought and mark it with an X. It means value that thought as you would gold or diamonds or chocolate brown Italian suits. I promse you will benefit if you prayerfully try to ponder.
Okay, there you go! Another update from Anziano Burton. Throw a few questions at me for the next time (and by "a few" I mean, like, 2 or 3)! Food's good, people are... people, and all of the teachers are amazing. Any questions about them? I'd be happy to answer as well as I can.