Ahhh, the heat of the refiner’s fire once again. Do I really need to be so refined? Don’t the rough edges add character? (More on that later.) As I have sought wisdom and understanding over the past few years (off and on, you know. I mean I have to spend some time keeping current on Survivor and going to the gym) the Lord has answered my prayers as He always will, giving me just what I can handle, and that, frequently, in very painful ways. Don’t worry—I am not yet as Job, any more than the rest of y’all are. But I have had my dark nights of the soul, serious cries, and have felt at times that my very spirit was bleeding. (A real problem, since those wounds are invisible, and therefore hard to staunch.) As I wade through these times, and especially as lessons are repeated, I learn a little more and see a smidge farther with each strain than I did the stretch before.
One thing I know in this dark night: He is not only the Master Healer; He is the only healer. Every kind word or act from stranger or friend that gives me just that little nudge is a hug from my Father. Every spiritual connection I experience with a sister or brother on this earth, fleeting though it may seem, is a bond with and through our Savior. “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7:13)
Another thing I know: Sometimes people suck, even the good ones, but God is perfect and sees us perfectly. Many of the unjust trials we must sit through and pain we must endure (since there is no alternative) are caused by our hurting each other--through thoughtlessness, unrighteous judgments, pettiness, fear, selfishness, pride, misunderstanding (this list gets really long). Unless you are God, you who are reading this and have been injured and misunderstood have also caused injury to others. Me too. A recent occurrence in my mortal probation has been people thinking very badly of me. Even those I have called friends, loved as family, have revealed some nasty things ranging from unflattering opinions of my personality and character to actual accusations of wrongdoing. Though these harsh criticisms are untrue and unjust, it hurts me so deeply to know that people whose judgment I once respected, whose good opinions I once valued see me in these awful ways. It is a difficult lesson for me to learn, but as I cry to the Lord and seek comfort I know in my heart and mind through His spirit what the truth is. Moreover, He knows what the truth about me is. “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Being misunderstood is part of being human. These bodies of flesh and the natural man make us focus, like toddlers, on ourselves. Add to this a lesson we may learn from Babel, that we all do, it seems, speak different languages. Combine our vague feelings, unconscious fears and unrelated experiences with imprecise vocabulary and divergent connotations, then add Satan’s whispering furiously at us to take and give offense, and it is a wonder we ever understand a tenth of what others around us so long to communicate. We do not see each other or ourselves as we truly are. We tend to minimize our faults and maximize our positives, underestimating the strengths of others and exaggerating their faux pas. That is, except when we are kicking ourselves irrationally and demeaning our own accomplishments, while giving undeserved praise to some slick kid with a nicer car.
This is why it is so important to remember those first two things I know. (You remember—He is the healer, and people suck but He doesn’t.) And why it is so important to extend the compassion and love we wish we’d receive, even if the person before us obviously doesn’t deserve it. (I suck a little too, don’t forget.) What a gift, then, that I can be forgiven, and what a blessing to hand the burden of judgment over to Him and forgive others.
It may be that I will never be understood or valued in this life. My pride may be wounded, my ego bashed--maybe irreparably. And maybe this wounding and bashing is a good thing. The only one I ever need to be right with is the Lord. So back to my clever observation at the beginning that rough edges add character—here is another thing I know: The character I desperately need to acquire is Father’s. My flaws and weaknesses are not who I am, they are the façade that hides my true self. Oh yes, God made us all unique, and our quirks and strengths, silliness and individuality delight Him, but there is no virtue in clinging to anything unchristlike in our character.
Nor does my pain, or the wounds that caused it define me. As I release the burden of judging myself and others I may release also the searing coals in this refining fire that are not a part of my self. As I allow the purification to occur, the delightful parts of my individuality will flourish, my soul thrive, and, oh yes, I know that if I can let go of my pride and stop fighting against the process I will become just what I ought to be. “I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” (Alma 5:19)
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)
This night is very dark for me. My heart has felt broken for weeks, and I could swear my spirit bleeds. I have sat here over the last hour crying as I make my sad little quips, and shaking with every nonchalant shrug of my shoulders. Lately I have felt profoundly alone in this world, but never really alone, as I have my husband beside me, catching as many lashes on his own back as he can, and My Father and Savior with me and my family, encircling and protecting us, lending us each breath moment by moment. (Mosiah 2:21-22—seriously, look it up). Right now there is not one other soul besides these I can count on. So I’ve clacked away at this keyboard, reminding myself of the things that are true, that I would like someone to say to me. In case this is a dark night for you too, let me help you remember them, and say how honored I am to share this fleeting connection through our Savior with you. Who the Lord loves, He tests. You are loved. You are His. I love my Heavenly Father. I really hope someday I can be a little like Him.
Take a deep breath and some courage, too. These are some things I know, and I am so grateful for the knowing.