I remember seminary fondly, despite the sleep that filled my eyes from years of going to bed so late and still having to awake so early. I’ve always loved memorizing things and though it would take some review to remember each scripture mastery verse now, I’ve appreciated having their teachings available for recall inside of me.
Anytime I sing a hymn or participate in a ramshackle YSA choir, Doctrine & Covenants 25:12 is there in my heart to remind me that the “song of the righteous is a prayer unto [the Lord]” (even if none of the harmonies come together). When I am making decisions about the use of my time and whether to choose a little more scripture study or a little more TV, John 14:15 is there to gently remind me that it is love of Jesus Christ that should motivate my decision-making.
Yes, most of the references have left me now, but the words of “immortality and eternal life” and especially, “I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them” have remained with me. But it was with surprise that I recently discovered that there is one scripture mastery verse that I had gladly memorized and never really believed to be true:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
It’s not that I have consciously thought that in the midst of this book of scripture that I believe to be from God, there was one verse that was included in error. It’s just that, despite having read this and committed each word to memory, there are still things about myself that I would consider weaknesses that I assumed would just always be that way.
Despite striving to increase my spirituality and cultivate a relationship with Deity all my life, they’d still say at my funeral, “She sure was stubborn, never could give her a compliment or a piece of friendly advice without getting you don’t know!’ shoved back at you” and everyone would laugh as they brushed away a tear because they all knew it was true.
We tend to do that, don’t we; believe in the scriptures, but refuse to see their application for ourselves? We think, “Yes, God’s grace is sufficient, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master my eating habits or conquer my fear of rejection or overcome my tendency to criticize. Yes, He will make weak things strong unto them, but them’ doesn’t include me.'”
Sometimes there is a certain habit or tendency that you don’t admire in yourself. You wish you could approach a relationship or a situation differently, but then the next time the situation comes around, you act exactly as you always have, responding like you always do—even as you scream from inside yourself “Don’t! No, don’t say that to him!” or “Why aren’t you saying that to him?”
It is those moments of personal dissonance that always make me feel as though I’m a victim to myself. Sure, some deeper, smarter part of me would like to behave better, but here I am doing that same old thing again. Most likely, it’s beyond my control or ability to change.
Maybe it is beyond my ability to change, but the verse doesn’t say that I have to depend on myself to make weak things become strong. If we had only ourselves to depend on, we’d all shortly fail. It says that God’s grace is the safe harbor where we can turn for help. If we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, then we won’t have to do one thing while we wish we had done another. Our weak things will become strong through Him.
I have scribbled “lose 15-20 lbs” on my list of New Years resolutions every year for probably the past 9 years. Each year I write it, with some vague plan of how I’ll do it, but the predominant feeling inside of me especially as each year passed and the resolution remained to mock me, was that I would just never be any different. It has become a source of frustration and disappointment, not because of my body image, but because of my mind image. I didn’t care so much about a trimmer frame as I did about being capable of self-mastery and setting a goal that I would actually accomplish.
It occurred to me this week that this year I will reach New Year’s Day having finally met my goal-having lost that impossible 15-20 lbs. The funny thing is, I didn’t do it to serve the judgmental baby new year and I haven’t been working since January 1. There was just a day in the middle of August that seemed as good as day as any to start being something different than I was. It wasn’t as easy as that, it took work and it took rethinking what was an acceptable sacrifice to get what I wanted and it took prayer. I’m still working, but watching this unchangeable fact of my life change opened my eyes to see that no unworkable, inadequate part of your person is beyond remedy.
My weight isn’t like the end-all, be-all of my self-improvement desires, but it has become symbolic to me of the ways I had limited the scope of my thinking and the room my faith still has to grow. No weakness of yours, no matter how permanent it seems to you, is beyond the Lord’s ken.
Even if you are in the August of your year and it seems useless to start now when January through July were a bust, you can change. If you think you have failed at every romantic relationship, that doesn’t mean you will always be destined to fail. If you think your kids are too old to have the mother or father you think you should’ve been when they were younger, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to improve. What an example that sets for them to see their parents continually being more than they were before. If you’ve repeatedly relapsed in your efforts to rid yourself of addiction, don’t relegate it to a permanent fact of life’ status.
At no point do you have to settle with being something you don’t want to be. The Lord gives us weaknesses so that we will come to Him. The permanent fixtures in my life that have recently become moving parts have taught me to believe in the words of Ether 12:27.
If you want to believe Ether 12:27, but still tuck away that one shortcoming of yours that you truly believe has no solution, I’d remind you that the Children of Israel stood between the armies of the Pharaoh and a great body of water seeing no solution. We know how the story ends, but in that moment they didn’t.
They learned as you will that, “The Lord shall fight for you” (Exodus 14:14) and where you see a wall of water, he will show you dry ground.