Sunday, August 23

Dreams, Goals, and Realities

I don't have many dreams. Most of my time is spent working, pushing slowly forward in the day-to-day grind, and I don't spend a lot of time looking 5, 10, or even 1 year down the road of life. I enjoy my work, I enjoy what I do, and I'm good.

It wasn't all that long ago that I had lots of dreams. Lots of ideas, lots of passion, lots of things I wanted to accomplish someday. I had ten thousand things on my mind, and everything I did was moving me in some small way towards a massive, inspiring goal and dream for the future.

I don't know what it was that made that all fade.

But it has.

I have some goals, but most of them are short-term. I want to help this person come back to Church. I want to help that person have a better day. I want to learn how to be a better friend. I want to read my scriptures today.

The long-term ones are quietly sitting in the background. I want to be married someday, and raise a family of my own. I want to be an awesome dad, husband, friend, leader, follower, brother, son, and servant of God. I want to make a difference in the world of education and in the world as a whole.

So how can I step outside of the day-to-day and actually *do* something else? How can I make meaningful goals that will shape my life and the decisions that I stand to make? I could move my business and completely re-do our business model. I could open up other stores under the same model. I could franchise. 

Or I could just do the same thing I've been doing, and not have to worry about planning or making goals or anything else. 

Any changes made in my life, even minor ones, could... most likely would... introduce more stress. It's not likely that I would all-out fail; while failure is a definite possibility, I'm usually conservative enough that I don't jump into something without the tools to at least stay afloat. But changes would bring stress. Yes, they could also help me become happier, eventually improve my life, and make a difference in the world.

But there's a significant portion of myself that pushes back even on those thoughts. If I'm happy with life as it is, do I need to move forward?


Deep inside me, there's something that is shouting. Shouting that complacency is wrong, that there is always room to grow, that life is meant for change. 

It's a familiar voice. It's the voice that has always been playing in my soul, and the voice that I then share with others when they're stuck in their own lives.

But there's another part inside me that is saying, "What's wrong with taking a break? I've never been *able* to be complacent before. I've never had my needs met like I do now. I had major depression, or I didn't enjoy my day-to-day, or something else was tearing my soul apart. This is the first time that I've ever really been satisfied. Can't I just stay here and be happy?"

I never understood that mentality before. I never understood how someone could *not* want to grow and change and move.

But part of it, I guess, is that I had never had the desire to keep things the same. Change was the thing that kept me going - not because I had a perfect gospel perspective of growth, but because change was the only thing that could potentially meet my needs - one need here, another there, another there - all in an effort to make life worthwhile over the course of so much tumult.

Faced with my life today, I feel a very different set of desires, and making plans for the future feels like doing chores rather than pursuing my deepest dreams.

I still *feel* like pursuing goals and dreams are important. I feel like I need to make goals. I feel like I need to step out of the life I have today, look at the future, determine what I want, and go for it... even if it means tearing apart what I have right now. Keep the awesome things, improve on the good, and toss the bad or turn it around. And I feel like it will be good for me, in addition to being the right thing to do from a gospel or eternal perspective.

I guess, right now, I do have one dream. 

I want to be able to have both feelings in my life. I want to honestly be happy in the day-to-day of my life - truly and honestly and authentically happy with the things I do and the people I love - and also be happily and constantly working to improve and be better.

So I'll probably have to sit down and make other goals today. Dream other dreams.

I can do this.

Sunday, August 2

Choosing Sides

It feels like we are dividing. On the one hand, more and more people are devoting their lives to God. On the other, more and more are turning away. And there are fewer and fewer people in the middle.

I'm aware enough of reality that I realize this may be a microcosmic event - one that is just happening in my little world. A handful of my cousins are being married in the temple, making choices to move forward, determining how to best follow God... while others I know are just as clearly choosing to move away from God. Going from full activity in the Church, sharing heartfelt testimony, and helping people change their lives one month to actively dating the same gender the very next. But I feel like it's bigger than just my little world. It feels like all over, people are making their decision - *the* decision - to completely dedicate their lives to God or to follow their own paths.

I'm not sure why it feels so extreme. I remember not all that long ago, people's testimonies would slowly begin to struggle, atrophy, die, and then their habits would change just as slowly. It was slow, painstaking, and deceptively minute with each step. People still do that. But more and more often, people today seem to undergo that same process - one that often took years - in a matter of weeks. And people I had a powerful gospel conversations with just a few months ago have already left the Church and told everyone there is no chance of their coming back.


It's not surprising that it is happening. The world itself seems to be dividing on the topic of God - with one side pushing Him entirely out of the public sphere, and the other fighting to keep Him at the forefront. It's the topic in the news, in politics, everywhere I look.

But what can I do about it?

I'm terrible at making friends. I'm socially awkward. I don't pick up on social cues. When someone I know is struggling, I sometimes can't tell. But even when I can get to know someone, and I know they need my help, is my effort really enough to make a difference?

Today in Sacrament meeting I found myself watching people. Looking at their faces and going through the few things I know about them... and wondering what spiritual trials they face. The two men who left halfway through testimony meeting - what is happening in their lives? The people who sit quietly alone, or the people who arrive on time with honest smiles, or the people who are visibly hiding their stress for an hour or three - what are their lives like? What are the solutions to the complex circumstances that give them spiritual  pain?



And is that even the right approach?

I had a dream once where I was in a war. I've written about it before... and I don't want to take the time to explain it all or to cut it short. But, in that dream, as I thought about how to fight a war in a world full of darkness, where both sides were comprised of people I knew, and where lethal weapons were made of light, I had the prompting to turn my focus inward. To shine the light in my hand on myself. And to burn the impurities out of my own life. And, once I had, to encourage others to do the same.

Remembering that dream right now is probably not just simple coincidence. I was asking the same question then that I'm asking now... and I guess that's the answer I'm looking for. I don't have to have the answers to people's questions to make a difference. I don't have to know exactly how to address their concerns, have a silver bullet of faith, or understand exactly what they are going through to help them to find peace in their trials. I just need to be able to improve my relationship with God in my own life... and then encourage others to do the same. That's how all of us will find answers in our lives - by turning to God.

That said, it seems a hundred times easier, but still hard. How easy can it be to show up at someone's door and encourage them to turn to God? 

But how hard can it be?

Maybe I don't have all the answers. Maybe I don't know exactly what to say. Maybe I'm socially awkward... and even socially broken. But I can turn to God, and encourage someone else to do the same.

And that's enough to make a difference.