Thursday, October 9, 2014

How do you share goodness?

For some reason, I hate sharing my personal stories, especially my past mistakes or my imperfections. But how could I share goodness if I hide everything I've ever been through?

I love how Robin Roberts says it, "Make your mess your message." 

So I'm going to be real because after speaking with my cousin today and reading her post, I am reminded of a few things.

Ever since the day I can remember, I had the strongest, boldest testimony of the LDS Church. In fact, even as a 7 year old, there were times when I would go to church by myself and sit with a neighbor family because my own family didn't feel like going and I knew I needed to be there. I couldn't wait to be in young women's or attend the temple. I earned my Young Women's medallion twice by the time i was 16. I even earned an honorary charm bracelet my ward young women's presidency offered me for service hours and mentoring other girls to challenge me to never stop focusing on Jesus Christ. The light of Christ was in me. 

After High School graduation I had become really good friends with a group. A boy in the group started liking me, however he didn't live by the same standards I upheld, so I told him we couldn't date. I was very kind and respectful and kept being his friend. He was very persistant until several months later I found myself saying yes we can date. I saw he was making changes in his life and he promised me that we would use our time dating to become our absolute best selves. He told me we would study scriptures and pray together and that he needed me to be a spiritual guidance for him. He told me he would even consider going on a mission and dating me would be the preparation he needed to prepare him because I was stronger than him and he needed my testimony. I had turned 18 not long before and I thought it sounded like a great plan. Besides, I was starting to care about this person an awful lot, I didn't want to do anything to hurt him. So we started dating.

Little did I know, he would be the one influencing me instead. I would take him to church with me but slowly I started to see he wasn't as invested as he had promised he would be. I kept thinking how I wanted to be with him forever and I needed to help him gain a strong testimony so we could go to the temple together to be married. Through this process, he would share his doubts with me. He would share why he found going to church boring or why certain standards made no sense to him. He was very persuasive, in fact so persuasive that little by little his doubts and disbelief's started to chisel at my testimony. I NEVER, not once fully lost my testimony. I NEVER stopped going to church but it got to a point where the strong rope I was holding onto was all but left to a tiny thread.

I felt alone and broken as the years went on. People would try to tell me to break up with this guy or they would preach things to me I just wasn't ready to hear. You see, once you get to this point, your heart is HARD and you have your plan and that's the only vision you can see. I wanted it to be him, I grew comfortable with him. He knew me, he understood me and he believed in me like no one in the entire world ever had. That's all I thought I ever needed. 

When people would tell me they disagreed with the guy I was dating or when opinions or beliefs were shoved in my face, I held onto what I wanted even MORE! It had to be my choice on my time with the loving patience and guidance of my Heavenly Father. He knew my heart and he honestly and fully prepared the way for me to leave in a timing that synced with mine.

The reason I share this is because missionary work is very heavy on my mind lately. I know the happiness I feel now, and I want others to experience this as well.

When others preach, shove or critique, and humility isn't in the other person's heart, that person is bound to do the opposite of what is being said. Those that can't comprehend God's love for them will feel attacked instead of the love of Christ. 

I wanted to give a shout out to my amazing cousin for being such an amazing missionary in my life when I was lost. While I wouldn't call myself completely inactive, the gospel wasn't fully in my heart. I wasn't converted like I am now. My cousin knew who I was dating wasn't right for me but she never preached or lectured me about it. My family voiced it loud and often. I look back now and my heart aches for not listening to those who knew better, however I know I had to learn on my own and I would not be who I needed to be without those experiences in my life. 

It was my cousin, Elise who always shared hope and goodness, just through her love and friendship. She never made me feel inadequate for the choices I was making. She was patient and kind. She loved me for me and not for what I was or wasn't doing. She would share church thoughts and quotes or take me to institute with her but it was never overbearing. Elise never pushed and that made the difference! She was the example I needed in my life for me to be able to let go of the guy I was dating. She accepted me for who I was, I didn't ever feel like she was trying to push missionary work on me. I felt her love for me and that gave me the desires to reevaluate my life enough to take a leap of faith and let go of what I was hanging onto so tightly. 

Lately I've thought about the question of why we do missionary work. Missionary work should never, ever be about who is right and who is wrong. It shouldn't ever be about pushing personal beliefs onto another person because you know it to be true. In fact, it should be the opposite. It should be about loving the other person so much that you respect their decisions and if/when the timing is right, they can personally choose to join or come fullheartedly back to the church because it was the spirit that touched their heart. 

We can share and teach what we believe all we want and we REALLY should. But this shouldn't define us. We should share goodness through love, service and acceptance no matter who we feel is right or wrong. We are all imperfect, we all make mistakes and there is so much beauty in free agency. So we shouldn't ever preach what we know to be right or what we strongly believe in because just maybe at the phase of life they are in, they see things differently than you and they aren't ready! LOVE them anyways. Mormon or not, never exclude anyone. Never, ever allow someone to feel less than you because they aren't living the way you are.

Let's get rid of labels. Let's not define one another by what religion we are. Missionary work should be founded on the principle of service. We should start by being a friend and serving because we care about them. That should be the main reason we do missionary work. Once the love of God gets inside of you, it will come easy and natural to pass on that love and help others to feel it just by your kindness and loving words.

I wrote this post for two reasons: 

1. To tell girls that who you date has a stronger influence on you then you can comprehend. Choose wisely, with deep prayer and thought. 

2. I wanted to share my personal experiences to bring some food for thought on how we're approaching missionary work. Love & acceptance is one thing that everyone needs in their life.

So go share goodness!

{Credit goes to Elise for parts of our conversation today}

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