Many years ago, when I was working on one of the drafts of The Last Waltz, and also suffering from bi-polar disorder, I had an experience that changed my life. I wish to share it in hopes that whoever needs to hear it will feel its calming truth.
I was writing Part II of my novel which takes place during the worst of the trench-slaughter of World War I. One of my characters dies at the battle of Verdun. He is a German, one of 336,000 Germans to die in that horrible battle. Anyone who has studied that war knows that such a death was futile, useless, and accomplished nothing. As I was doing the laundry one particular day, my heart was so heavy that my movements were all slow and dull. All I could think of were the millions of men who perished in that war in the midst of the worst sort of hell I could imagine. Then, into my heart came the words, “You cannot carry this, G.G. You were never meant to carry it. There was only One who could, and He has already done it.”
A weight lifted from me, and I took a deep breath. Then, another message came, “Death is not the ultimate tragedy. The ultimate tragedy is not doing what you were born to do.”
I do not claim to be a prophet. Perhaps this message was meant only for me. However, the more I thought about it, the greater significance it had for me. As has been said so often by so many, this life is the test, not the reward. When we lived with our Heavenly Father, I think He knew us as well, or perhaps better than our earthly fathers do. I know, from blessings given by priesthood authority, that He gave me a mission to perform for Him on earth. I do not know for certain, but I imagine every one of us had the same experience. Looking at your life through that lens, it should become clear, when the time is right, just what your loving Father expected you to accomplish. Perhaps it was to be the first member in your family, like my husband. Perhaps it was to stop a chain of negative behavior that goes back generations. Perhaps it was to teach, to train, to witness, to serve, to sing, to write music, to dance, to invent . . . the list is endless.
When we are living hand in hand with our Savior and Father in Heaven, doors will open so we can accomplish what needs to be done. Our greatest enemy will be self-doubt, which can crumble faith faster than anything.
My husband continually reminds me that the test in this life is not whether we succeed or fail, but whether we are righteous or unrighteous. If we concentrate on being personally righteous, we will not take a wrong turning. We will not “miss” performing what it is we were sent here to do. The Lord holds each of us in the palm of His hand. Even if we do not know where we are going, we can trust that He does. “Christ knows the way out and He knows the way up,” Elder Holland told us in his 2006 Conference Address, “Broken Things to Mend.”
When people ask me if I am bitter that the management of my bi-polar disorder took twenty-five years to accomplish, I can honestly reply: “No. Because I did what I came on earth to do.” Then I quote D&C 132: 24: “For this is life eternal to know God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.” Any road that takes us to that destination is the road we were meant to take.
G.G. Vandagriff is the author of thirteen books, including the award-winning epic, The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War, and her most recent novel, The Duke’s Undoing: A Regency Romance. In addition to her regular Meridian column, she also writes free-lance articles for the Deseret News. She loves to communicate with readers through her website.