Rugged path leading upward

I’ve​ ​spent​ ​a​ ​good​ ​deal​ ​time ​thinking​ ​that​ ​God​ ​had​ ​my​ ​life​ ​mapped​ ​out​ ​for​ ​me,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​if​ ​I​ ​was faithful​ ​He​ ​would​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​where​ ​to​ ​go​ ​and​ ​what​ ​to​ ​do.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​certain​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​truth​ ​to​ ​that,​ ​but it​ ​can​ ​be​ ​a​ ​paralyzing​ ​and​ ​disappointing​ ​way​ ​to​ ​live.​ ​It​ ​can​ ​leave​ ​one​ ​arrested​ ​at​ ​every​ ​life​ ​choice, wondering​ ​which​ ​of​ ​our​ ​many​ ​options​ ​is​ ​THE​ ​RIGHT​ ​one.​ ​It​ ​can​ ​leave​ ​us​ ​feeling​ ​unsatisfied​ ​with the​ ​common,​ ​humdrum​ ​way​ ​that​ ​life​ ​progresses,​ ​and​ ​devastated​ ​when​ ​blessings​ ​we​ ​have​ ​worked for​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​get​ ​delayed​ ​or​ ​canceled.​ ​It​ ​can​ ​make​ ​us​ ​judgmental​ ​of​ ​those​ ​whose​ ​choices​ ​don’t match​ ​our​ ​own.​ ​It​ ​can​ ​also​ ​leave​ ​us​ ​feeling​ ​hopeless​ ​despair​ ​when​ ​we​ ​realize​ ​we​ ​made​ ​a​ ​wrong choice​ ​and​ ​are​ ​not​ ​where​ ​we​ ​ought​ ​to​ ​be.

At​ ​some​ ​point​ ​I​ ​had​ ​an​ ​epiphany.​ ​I​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​God’s​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​me​ ​has​ ​less​ ​to​ ​do​ ​with​ ​where​ ​I​ ​go and​ ​what​ ​I​ ​accomplish,​ ​and​ ​more​ ​to​ ​do​ ​with​ ​who​ ​I​ ​become.​ ​I’m not trying to “level up.” I’m not chasing some imaginary finish line. My worthiness does not depend on reaching a certain percentage of perfection, which gets derailed every time I trip up. I retain a remission of my sins by consistent progress… by becoming better today than I was yesterday, and THAT happens when I couple my life with the Lord, even though I haven’t reached perfection.

In​ ​the​ ​final​ ​judgement,​ ​it​ ​won’t​ ​matter so​ ​very​ ​much​ ​if​ ​you​ ​managed​ ​to​ ​become​ ​the​ ​prophet,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​will​ ​matter​ ​if​ ​you learned​ ​to​ ​give​ ​of​ ​yourself​ ​and​ ​to​ ​serve.​ ​Your​ ​salvation​ ​won’t​ ​depend​ ​on​ ​whether​ ​or​ ​not​ ​you served​ ​a​ ​mission​ ​and​ ​helped​ ​some​ ​magical​ ​number​ ​of​ ​people​ ​get​ ​baptized,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​will​ ​depend​ ​on whether​ ​or​ ​not​ ​you​ ​testified​ ​of​ ​Christ​ ​and​ ​fulfilled​ ​your​ ​responsibilities.​ ​You​ ​will​ ​not​ ​lose​ ​blessings because​ ​you​ ​didn’t​ ​manage​ ​to​ ​find​ ​your​ ​”soulmate”​ ​and/or​ ​have​ ​children.​ ​But​ ​you​ ​will​ ​lose​ ​blessings if​ ​you​ ​failed​ ​to​ ​learn​ ​how​ ​to​ ​clothe​ ​the​ ​naked,​ ​comfort​ ​&​ ​mourn​ ​with​ ​those​ ​in​ ​need,​ ​and​ ​protect​ ​& provide​ ​for​ ​the​ ​innocent.  

When​ ​you​ ​think​ ​about​ ​God’s​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​you​ ​as​ ​a​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​becoming​ ​something​ ​special​ ​instead​ ​of accomplishing​ ​something​ ​special,​ ​life​ ​makes​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​more​ ​sense.​ ​Moments​ ​that​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​total waste​ ​suddenly​ ​have​ ​value.​ ​Think about it! If we believe the purpose of life is to achieve something, like a celestial family for example, then despair and defeat naturally follows common experiences like the failure to find a spouse, or abandonment, or infertility, or divorce. But if the purpose of life is to become a celestial member of a family, some of the pain of these events evaporates. Because God can lead us to the best within ourselves, especially in the worst circumstances.

The devil tells us that failure is bad. He tells us that our mistakes are proof that we don’t belong with God. That is a lie. The truth is that if we cannot see our failures we cannot progress, and when we cannot progress, we are the very definition of damned. A favorite hymn of mine, “God Speed the Right,” proclaims, “Like the great and good in story, if we fail, we fail with glory.” Failure is an essential part of the road to eternal glory. When we look at our lives with an eye for personal improvement, instead of personal achievement, we see our progress, and we see our worthiness.

And​ ​best​ ​of​ ​all,​ ​we​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​no​ ​blessings​ ​are​ ​hopelessly lost.​ ​No​ ​wrong​ ​turn​ ​can​ ​take us or our​ ​loved​ ​ones​ ​too​ ​far​ ​off​-course.​ ​No​ ​illness,​ ​no​ ​loss, no​ ​impairment​, no failure ​can​ ​really​ ​keep​ us​ ​from​ ​eternal​ ​progress​ ​unless​ ​we​ ​let​ ​it.

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