Today in church I saw one of my sweet friends who is pregnant. I had three thoughts—thoughts I've had every time I've seen her recently.
- Why didn't they make such cute maternity clothes when I was in the pregnant phase? (Because believe me, that phase is over!)
- Why is it that my pregnant belly (even with only one baby) was twice as big as almost everyone else's?
- She looks tired.
And then I had a new (for me) understanding. I've recently started a new exercise program. It would probably be a little challenging except that so much of the movement is done while holding a 5 lb weight in each hand. As I lunge and lift, or squat and curl, (fabulous mental images, I know!) I am very aware that it is precisely the pain and muscle fatigue I am experiencing that is going to create the muscle growth that I want. I remind myself that without the "challenge" added by the weights the benefit I experience would be much less.
I'm sure that in the same way that my exercise program uses added resistance to maximize the physical benefit, our loving and wise Heavenly Father uses added resistance (fatigue or chronic illness are two that come to mind immediately) to facilitate and maximize our growth in this test that we call life. Maybe if I hadn't been so tired all of the time being a mother of a new baby would have been a piece of cake for me and I would have missed important opportunities for learning. Maybe it would have been like going in for a calculus final and being given only simple addition questions--relaxing, but hardly helpful if personal growth is the true objective.
This afternoon I picked up last winter's BYU Magazine to read again Elder Holland's excellent talk Lessons from Liberty Jail. I didn't turn back to the beginning but started reading on the page it was already opened to. Almost immediately I realized that what Elder Holland was saying was testifying of and adding to the thoughts I'd had earlier.
And then from President Joseph Fielding Smith:
But tonight’s message is that when you have to, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
Now let’s talk about those propositions for a moment. Every one of us, in one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not have been our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord....But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through that difficulty. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.
As I have read the history of those days, the days that went before and days that came after, I have reached the conclusion that the hardships, the persecution, the almost universal opposition [toward the Church at that time] were necessary. At any rate they became school teachers to our people. They helped to make [them] strong.-------
I didn't go to Sister's Nite Out the year after my triplets were born—we were in the middle of trying to sell our house and leaving three nine month old babies didn't seem like an option. The next year when I went two of my sisters made comments about how much I'd changed and grown from the experiences (trials) of the last two years. I didn't know what they were talking about and still don't—life rarely comes packaged with neat little exams that report back to you that you've now moved into the 85 percentile in faith and are in the top third of your class in patience. But their comments give me hope that I really did experience important growth as a result of the preceeding two years. Hope that even when I don't see it (which is most of the time) these experiences are moving me imperceptibly towards becoming the person Heavenly Father knows that I can become.
I just have to keep remembering that when I'm exhausted, when my muscles are quivering and I think I can't lift those weights one more time—that's when the real growth occurs.