Friday, October 29
"...that they may always have His Spirit to be with them" (Moroni 4:3).
I think that, as a society, we are becoming more and more alone. It would be easier to never look up from the sidewalk, to not stop by to see a friend and say hi, to ignore a person I know in the grocery store if he is ignoring me… or to never even acknowledge the presence of a stranger on the street, even when I walk two paces behind him.
I remember once walking down Main Street in Salt Lake City - going South just next to the Courthouse. It was probably 9:30 at night and a woman was a few steps behind me. I slowed my pace and cheerily began a conversation - sharing a bit of my day and asking how hers went. She stared at me, then gave a somewhat guarded answer. I kept talking, and within moments she was smiling and laughing. Then she looked at me again, this time with disbelief in her eyes, and asked, "Is everyone here this friendly?" She explained that she was visiting from out of state, had never been to Salt Lake before, and had only had a few hours to walk the city. She further explained that in her home town the only people who would ever start a conversation, in the middle of the night, with someone of the opposite gender, were somewhat unsavory.
Her question caught me off guard. I countered by remarking that I didn't live in Salt Lake, either, so I wasn't completely sure. We parted ways and her question stuck with me. I realized that I have absolutely no clue how friendly people are… because, in my mind, it doesn't matter.
At 14, while struggling with a massive inferiority complex, depression, accidents, perfectionism, high school academics, sports teams, and the ubiquitous same-sex attraction, I turned to the Lord, and, from Him, learned a lesson that eventually changed my life.
I wanted to feel loved, appreciated, and understood. And similar to the time-worn Christmas saying, "giving presents is better than receiving them," the Lord told me that if I wanted to feel loved, understood, and appreciated I needed to spend my life loving, understanding, and appreciating others.
I'll be totally honest. In my heart I knew that God had spoken to me. I needed to take the initiative for my own life. I needed to be a better friend and reach out to others. But in my head it sounded completely absurd, and that it wouldn't work. Everyone else had best friends without even working at it. Everyone else looked like they were understood, loved, and appreciated. And how would helping others help me have more friends?
I tried it for the next few years of life, and my prophecy came true. I was a friend to others but had few friends. I organized my own activities, but was rarely invited to those of others. I was a counselor to others but had no one I could counsel with. And amid the crowds I still felt empty, misunderstood, and alone.
I went back to the Lord and asked for help. Again, He told me to go outside of myself and love others. So I tried again, and returned feeling empty, worthless, and alone. Finally, I went back again, willing to do anything. I had tried to be a friend, to counsel others, to be an example, to do anything I could. And yet no one truly understood me.
And when the Lord told me to love them a third time, He reminded me that He would love me - and that nothing else mattered. If I would keep His commandments and do all I could to help His children return, He would be my constant Companion, my Friend, my Counselor. He would love me, and I would never be alone. In the end, no one else could ever perfectly understand me anyway - because only He had suffered my pains and seen the entire scope of my life.
It's true. The greatest blessings of love do not come from being accepted, honored, and loved by others. They come from doing those things myself. And so now I strive to love others - to reach out and be a part of their lives. Yes, I have friends and family members who support and encourage me. Yes, I appreciate their love and admiration. But, at the end of the day, when no one else can ever truly understand the workings of my soul, I talk with God. With Him, I feel loved, understood, worthwhile, and whole. He is my Friend, my Father, my Counselor, my God. And with Him at my side, I am never alone.