You're Better Than You Think

"Be peaceful.  Believe in God and yourself.  You are doing better than you think you are."
- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Behold Thy Mother"

"Some of us who would not chastise a neighbor for his frailties have a field day with our own. Some of us stand before no more harsh a judge than ourselves... Fortunately, the Lord loves us more than we love ourselves."
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Notwithstanding My Weakness"

A few days ago when listening to the backstory of how a beautiful song called "Unfinished" was written, the artist, Mandisa, made a remark that really stuck with me.  She said, in paraphrase, "You are not broken, unworthy of God's love, bad, or anything like that.  You're merely unfinished.  You may be tired of falling and getting back up, but what matters is the number of times you rise up - not the number of times you fall down.  Like a masterpiece, God is NOT finished with you yet! You're unfinished, but when God is finished with you, you will transform into something beautiful."

I love that.  I just love that.  Why?  It calls to remembrance a time when I was having a discussion on repentance with a born-again Christian preacher, one who was somewhat antagonistic towards the Mormons.  He challenged me with, "If repentance is not a one-time deal where Jesus takes our sin away, then what is it?  Jesus took away all our sins on the cross, young man."  With the Spirit in my heart, I replied, "Telling me that repentance is only a one-time deal is like saying a soccer team has won simply because the other team just scored a goal!  The game isn't over yet, and any fouls, mistakes, or other dynamics of the game must be accounted for.  Similarly, we must account to God each day for the sins we commit.  It isn't true repentance if you don't have the opportunity to be sorry for it.  That's the easy way out.  God isn't a God of easy solutions - He tries our faith, my friend."

The lesson, then?  Bringing ourselves down in any way for mistakes made, sins committed - it's like telling ourselves that repentance only happens once, or only to a certain extent - then we have "fallen from grace" or it's "too late".  Nope.  The Atonement of Jesus Christ, as is taught in the Book of Mormon, is an infinite Atonement.  It isn't limited by the severity of our sins - it is limited by our unwillingness, pride, and bitterness against the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Why else would Satan try to get you to condemn, shame, guilt-trip, or otherwise feel negatively towards yourself about sin?  He gets this concept and twists it to his advantage - that these chosen emotions put a barrier between ourselves and the Atonement of Christ.  Heavenly Father designed us with a conscience - the light of Christ - as well as the Holy Spirit for the Saints to create feelings of remorse, guilt, and so on when we violate our inner eternal natures of virtue.  And yet, what purpose is there in indulgence of self-contempt, self-shaming, or personal feelings of inadequacy?!  Is it not solely for Satan to laugh at our choice to be unnecessarily miserable about our spiritual journey, and to use those feelings to try and push us into deeper pig-mires of the same crap???  Of course it is!  So...what can you and I do it - especially those of us LGBT Mormons who screw up/have screwed up with the Law of Chastity (raising hand), deal with porn addiction or compulsion, and generally are struggling to have worthy thoughts, and to stay away from dangerous situations with the same gender.  Or perhaps it's something else!  We all struggle in some way here... 

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My answers are but a few, but have been very powerful for me:

1.  Love yourself.  It IS a legit commandment (Matthew 22:39, see also 35-40).  Even Jesus took time to take care of Himself, and therefore, to love Himself.  I am quite certain that as our perfect example, He also loved Himself perfectly.  Additionally - I think it foolish to suppose that Christ loved Himself perfectly because of all the glory, power, dominion, and so on He had.  No... He loved Himself perfectly because He was Love Itself.  He immersed Himself in that Love, our Father's Love, until during His formative time as a mortal man (taught by President McKay), He discovered the foundations for self-love without it becoming vanity and pride.  If you need a place to start, look for ways in the scriptures Christ took care of and loved Himself... I promise you, they are there.

2.  Remember & embrace this quote - "Comparison is the thief of joy, but self-acceptance makes joy blossom."  Focus on who YOU are - a child of our Father-God.  He created you, and I am sure He weeps upon seeing those who refuse to accept themselves as they are, to come to Christ as they are for healing, comfort, and the like.  Take a little piece of yourself at a time, and affirm its value or progression towards greater value (like a weakness you're working on).  If you take a mosaic or a rug, examining it too closely, what will you see?  Nothing of much beauty or significance.  But when you take several steps back, observing it as a whole, it is a masterful piece of art.  Similarly, if you nit-pick and examine your own good qualities or flaws as compared to the same-ish ones in another, you'll never find the full amount of joy the Savior has waiting for you.  I validate the struggles some may have in terms of mental illness, but as one who has victories over his mental illness daily, please know that you are not a victim to your mental illness, or your sexual orientation.  Ultimately, you have at least some choice.  Milk that amount of choice you have, for ALL it is worth. :)

3.  Seek out the Savior's love often.  He can show you beauty in yourself that you never supposed was there, and He can do the same for other desirable traits, such as strength, wisdom, grace, and fortitude against sin and weakness.  Our Savior holds the keys of resurrection, my friends.  If you feel practically dead inside spiritually, emotionally, or mentally, I promise you that the Savior can give life where you are lacking it.  Being a gay Mormon man, I understand that it is SO damn hard sometimes! It's probably all some of you can do to keep reading this, thinking that I do not understand or maybe that I'm some stupid naive Mormon dude who lives in the Mormon Utopia of Utah.  But I promise you, I have seen my fair share of trials and adversity with my sexuality, especially in terms of my faith in Jesus Christ and my membership in the Church.  It is difficult.  But, I emphasize this point because when all else seems to be failing us for a time, I know with all my heart that the infinite, pursuing, all-encompassing love of our Savior, Jesus Christ will meet us where we are - sinful, faithful, and in-between.  We just have to reach out in prayer to Him.  He does love us, individually and intimately and personally.  I know that, even when I think I know nothing else on rare occasion.

You are better than you think, and accomplishing more in the Kingdom than you might suppose. Take heart in your trials and tribulations, and know that our Second Comforter will not leave us, nor forsake us.  (Deut. 31:6 & 8, John 14:18).  I love you guys.  Until next month... <3 

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