Aloha Brothers and Sisters,
It is a common trope to begin a talk with some joke about receiving a call, often from an unknown number, that results in you reluctantly accepting a invitation to speak in sacrament meeting (the sermon portion of our services). I on the other hand was thrilled to receive that call last week because exactly a year ago it was a sacrament talk (preaching) that caught me my handsome, wonderful, brilliant husband.
Last fall I was attending a singles ward (college congregation) in Buena Vista and I was asked to speak. Steven and I had connected online (we met on an online dating app) about a month before and had quickly become good friends but it wasn’t more than that and me dropping hints about how sexy I thought it was that he was PhD student who was also in a band.
One fateful night I stayed up late on one of my creative binges and wrote my 20 minute speech in a few hours, complete with a Shakespeare sonnet, Victor Frankl quotes, and crazy mission stories. It addressed the concept that questions do not equate doubt and are an essential part of our relationship with God, if we allow them to push us to grow. I texted Steven asking him to proof read it, he agreed, I emailed him a copy, and I went to bed.
Now keep in mind at this point we had only facetimed and had never actually met in person. I woke up the next morning to a slew of love stricken messages, an email containing plane tickets, an invitation to spend Christmas break with him, and a fresh bouquet of flowers in my favorite colors. We were married seven months and one day later. (It would have been sooner if there wasn’t most of a continent between us.)
This morning I have been asked to speak on a talk of my selection from General Conference (a biannual worldwide religious conference hosted by our church). I have selected “Divine Discontent” by Michelle D. Craig from the Women’s Session. I was drawn to this topic because it is something I have struggled with throughout my life especially in recent years and I hope that today I can effectively share the guidance and clarity I found in Sister Craig’s talk.
In defining her topic Sister Craig stated, “Divine discontent comes when we compare “what we are [to] what we have the power to become.” Each of us, if we are honest, feels a gap between where and who we are, and where and who we want to become. We yearn for greater personal capacity.” (end quote) The reason every one of us, myself included, has felt this gap, is not because we all are mediocre, under-achieving, or ungifted, it is because we are quite the opposite. She continues by saying, “We have these feelings because we are daughters and sons of God, born with the Light of Christ yet living in a fallen world. These feelings are God given and create an urgency to act.” (end quote) It is this this “urgency to act” that separates constructive“divine discontent” from “Satan’s [extremely effective and destructive] counterfeit - paralyzing discouragement.”
So what must we do to harness our divine discouragement and allow it to drive our lives towards the divine love of God and the divine potential within each of us?
First we must Act in faith. As James 2:17 states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” Going back to the story about my husband and I that I shared at the beginning of this talk. Steven obviously acted in great faith, or love struck oblivion, I’ll let you decide, and the ball was left in my court. After waking up to a barrage of amorous tokens from a man who I liked but had only known for a month I was a little overwhelmed, especially considering I had very recently gotten out of a fairly serious relationship. So much to Steven’s concern I basically ignored him and spent the day in the woods pondering my life and praying. The heavens didn’t open, I was not visited by an angel, but I knew I couldn’t hide in the woods indefinitely. So I returned to my house and wrote Steven an email in which I said, “I have a choice to make. To have faith or live in fear. I can live in the fear of you proving to be no different [than every other man I have dated], or the fear of the reality that a potential relationship would have most of a continent and two unfinished graduate degrees sitting in the middle of it. Or I can have faith that with time and patience we will both see where this can lead, I can have faith in your good character and integrity.” It was only a matter of weeks before I saw that step of faith transform the deep discontentment I had struggled with in regards to dating and relationships into the most joyful experience of my life.
Our choice to act in faith becomes a life altering lifestyle as we learn not to hesitate when we feel prompted to do good, even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step...requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” (end quote) Sister Craig argues, “Whether they are direct promptings or just impulses to help, a good deed is never wasted, for “charity never faileth”—and is never the wrong response.”
I often find myself discouraged when I recognize all the ways I am far from my divine potential because I realize that to progress on the path towards that potential I must sacrifice more and stretch farther than I already am. Or in some cases I need to reorganize my priorities which is often a sacrifice of its own. But as Victor Frankl wrote, “That which giveth light must endure burning” What we must remember though is that this does not have to be the kind of burning that scars, toughens, and destroys, because through Christ’s grace and power it can be the kind of burning that purifies, warms, and enlightens. Not only ourselves but others.
Sister Craig reminds us “The surprising truth is that our weaknesses can be a blessing when they humble us and turn us to Christ. Discontent becomes divine when we humbly approach Jesus Christ with our want, rather than hold back in self-pity... Jesus’s miracles often begin with a recognition of want, need, failure, or inadequacy.” (End quote) It is essential to humbly recognize these inadequacies and seek transformation through Christ because the very definition of damnation is a halt in our progress on the path to exaltation. To use a C.S. Lewis analogy, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (end quote)
Sister Craig concluded her remarks by saying, “Because of our Savior’s atoning sacrifice, we can be made equal to the tasks that lie ahead...Divine discontent can move us to act in faith, follow the Savior’s invitations to do good, and give our lives humbly to Him.” (end quote) I would like to echo that as well as personally interpret the words of the discouraged father who presented his inadequacies to our Savior, and say “I believe, but help thou my unbelief in myself”. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(You can find the original talk by Sister Michelle D. Craig here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2018/10/divine-discontent?lang=eng )