You are not the person you see in the mirror.
I roll out of bed at 10:24 to make it to an eye appointment by 11. My alarm clock started going off over two hours ago. Every nine minutes I’d hit the snooze button, assuring myself of a different reason why I should still have plenty of time to sleep (something that I very much enjoy doing). At first it was that I did not need to do that 3 mile walk this morning…then that I did not need a hot breakfast…then that I could go without a shower…that I could skip my scripture study…that I could throw my hair up into a pony tail…that I could wear my pajama pants and no one would care…
I now have 6 minutes to get out the door.
I can start that diet tomorrow, I tell myself as I reach for another brownie. I will pay fast offering next month, I think as I use the last of my grocery money to pick up a pizza for dinner. I will call that sick friend later, I know, when it’s more convenient. I will do my Visiting Teaching next week, when I have more time. I will offer to mow the elderly neighbor’s yard, when I’m not so tired. I will follow that prompting to share a scripture, when I’m not so shy. I will go to the temple more often, when it’s not so far away. I will say my prayers before bed, when the floor is not so far down there. I’ll help the kids with bedtime prayers, when it’s not so late. I will turn down the invite to the rated R movie, when it’s not so embarrassing. I’ll decline the drink at the business dinner, when it’s not so detrimental to my job.
I’ll stop yelling at my kids, when they start listening.
I’ll be more open with my spouse, when they better understand me.
I’ll quit the habit, when I’m not so addicted.
I’ll step away from social media, when I’m not so lonely.
I’ll obey the commandments, when it’s not so hard.
“Life is like a raging battle—a never-ending war—between what we know we want to do. And what we know we should do."
In an October 1985 Conference Report, Elder Russell M. Nelson said,
“You consist of two parts—your physical body, and your spirit which lives within your body. You may have heard the expression ‘mind over matter.’ … I would like to phrase it a little differently: ‘spirit over body.’ That is self-mastery”
Some time ago, probably a couple years now, I would regularly visit the Rogers Activities Center after dropping my kids off at school in the morning. I’d spend about an hour on the treadmill, each day trying to push myself a little harder to go a little further in the same amount of time. As my speed began to increase, and I’d get a little bit further in that hour, it started to become harder and harder to get through the last ten minutes or so. My legs would cramp, my lungs would burn, and I would be almost overcome with an incredible desire to give up. But there was one phrase I would tell myself over and over inside my head:
You are not this body.
In a way, that wasn’t completely true. As Elder Nelson pointed out, you consist of TWO parts: both your physical body and your spirit. Together, they make up you in your entirety. One cannot exist without the other. There are sacred ordinances we could not perform, experiences we could never have, a perfected form we could never achieve without our bodies. They’re very much a part of us, and we are reminded of that on a daily basis. Every time we are tired, every time we are hungry, every time we’re out of breath, every time we are sick, or angry, or hurt, through every single weakness and shortcoming we experience on a daily basis we are reminded just how much a part of us these temporal shells are.
But how often do we remember that it is not all of who we are?
“There is a bit of divine in all of us. Perhaps the greatest lie Satan ever told mankind was to try to convince them otherwise."
We often hear quoted Mosiah 3:19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord...”
This one scripture sums up the entirety of why we are here.
In a conversation I had this week with my 11 year old, we were discussing the topic of depression. “Depression is a physical weakness,” I explained to her. “It’s a chemical imbalance within the brain that causes emotions to go awry—can cause the internal systems of the body to malfunction—much like diabetes, or heart disease, or epilepsy, or alcoholism, or Parkinson’s disease. It is a shortcoming of the body which we must overcome. There are several ways to do this. There are medications, and therapy, eating healthy and exercising, and spending time with friends and family. But do you know what I have discovered is the single most effective way to combat depression? To fight any form of physical weakness for that matter? If you consist of two parts, the temporal and the divine, then how do you think you overcome the temporal weakness?” I asked her.
“You strengthen the divine,” she said.
“We are given mortal bodies to learn to overcome them. And we are given the freedom to choose, so that we may choose to give it up."
So why is the natural man an enemy to God? Because the natural man is everything about us that tries to convince us that we are nothing more than the natural man. That we are not good enough. That we are not strong enough. That we are not smart enough. That we are not brave enough. That we are not worthy enough. That we are not repentant enough. That we are not trustworthy enough. That we are not committed enough. That we are not articulate enough. That we are not loved enough. That we are not needed enough. That we are not attractive enough. That we are not experienced enough. That we are not secure enough. That we are not doing enough.
That we are simply not enough.
It is the natural man that tells us that there is not enough time, not enough convenience, not enough rest, not enough understanding. It is the natural man that tells us that there is not enough reason, not enough ease, not enough resources, not enough paths, and not enough probability of success.
“It has been said that one of the greatest tragedies of our time is that so many people live so far below their potential,” said Elder Donald L. Staheli in an address at BYU in 2003. “President Hinckley has counseled, ‘Do your best,’ and then he frequently adds, ‘but I want to emphasize that it be the very best. We are too prone to be satisfied with mediocre performance. We are capable of doing so much better’”
You are capable of doing so much better! So much more! And do you know why that is?!
You are a child of God.
Do you know that?! Do you really know that?!
I have a necklace that I wear every day, a Christmas present from my husband that I received a few years ago. It’s a dove pendant. He chose the dove because at one point, many years ago as we were preparing to go to the temple, I told him I wanted something that I could keep with me that would be a continual outward reminder to me of who I really was. Something that I would see every day, that would be a reminder to me in every decision I made of what I stood for and why I was here. The dove, to me then, is a representation of the Holy Spirit. It is the only part of our divine selves that we keep with us while on this earth. It reminds me that I am a beloved daughter of a Heavenly Father. That I am of noble heritage and divine worth.
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." -Matthew 16:24-25
So lose yourself. Let go of what you think you are. Let go of what you think you want. Let go of what you think you must be.
And embrace the full potential of what you were always meant to become.
To “take up your cross”—your cross of loneliness, your cross of physical limitations, your cross of poor health, of transgression, of success, beauty, fame, wealth, talent, financial burdens, pride, criticism, rejection, violated trust, naivety, lack of self-esteem, abuse, neglect, perfectionism, poor upbringing, bitterness, addiction, obsession, covetousness, longing, or loss—means to take yourself the way you are, and lift yourself in the direction of the better. Regardless of where you have been, what you have seen, what you have experienced, what you have done, or what you haven’t done. Regardless of your weaknesses, faults, or shortcomings. Regardless of just what part of the natural man is most intoxicating and enticing to you.
If I have a testimony of anything in this life, it is that I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father, that I have a divine mission and an individual worth, that I was sent here for a purpose, and that, like each one of you, no one else on the planet can fulfill that role quite like I could.
And yet, I fear, that somewhere along the way I may have lost sight of that. That somewhere along the way my cross had become so heavy, my burden so crushingly painful, my natural man so overwhelmingly prominent, that even I—who have known from the time I was a small child that He loved me—could forget. That I, who have felt His love in such a way that, even as a seasoned author and with the assistance of every language that ever existed upon the earth, could never quite put into words. That now, even I, as I stand before you and profess the truths I have known since before the world was made, could, in my infallible state, still question.
Has your cross become so heavy that you too have forgotten just who you are?
Do you have any idea how much He loves you?
Do you have any idea of what you are capable?
Do you have any idea of what you—of what we—have been sent here to do?
I cannot begin to express to you the place you hold in my heart. I know how it feels. I know how hard it is to roll out of bed each morning. I know what it is to be lost and alone. I know how it feels to walk into sacrament, to stand up for a talk, to be asked to say a prayer, to look at myself in the mirror, and hear the words screaming over and over inside my head:
"You DO NOT belong here. These people are all so much better--so much more--than you."
But it is a lie.
"The biggest difference between us and Christ is that He had a perfect understanding of the fact that He was a Son of God."
Perhaps that is what it really means to be "Christlike." When we become a disciple, a follower of Christ, we covenant to take upon ourselves His name and remember. What we fail to realize, however, is that Christ wasn't his name. It was his title. When we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, what we are essentially saying is that we take upon ourselves everything that title entails. The responsibilities. The sacrifices. The selflessness. The compassion. The mercy. The temperance. The diligence. The righteous indignation. The noble heritage. And the blessings.
President Spencer W. Kimball once said that the most important word in the English language is:
Because the fact of the matter is, you've already made your choice. You made your choice as one of the 2/3 of the hosts of Heaven who stood by Christ. You made your choice when you agreed to the plan of salvation. You made your choice when you came to this earth. You made your choice when you accepted Christ into your heart. You made your choice when you entered the waters of baptism. You made your choice when you stood at the doors of the temple. You made your choice when you partook of the Sacrament. You made your choice when you chose to follow Him.
"Satan would have us believe that we are here to win the war. The truth is, the war has already been won. It was won long, long ago. Before any of us ever came to this earth..."
All we have to do is...remember.
Why I Left the Church
The Importance of Friendship
Secrets to Staying Sane
Fighting the Rain