Friday, August 13, 2010

A Single Word

After a particularly difficult day in the mission field, all I wanted to do was withdraw, retreat. It wasn’t just the lack of progressing investigators, I was struggling with my companion. And, even though the language was coming along, the intense fire and desire to shout the gospel from the rooftops I had when I first came to the field was cooling, requiring constant effort to stoke the dying coals. I had a year left on my mission, and I didn’t know if I was going to make it through that week.

I dropped my backpack, heavy with pamphlets, books, and defeat, just inside the front door. I didn’t say anything to my companion. The slightest wrong tone could lead to another argument. In my state of mind, I could not trust my tone. I kept my coat on, the chill of a foggy February day still present in our little apartment. I burrowed out of my oversized boots and wriggled up on my little bed. I lay there, hugging my knees, wanting to give up, at least until sleep could offer safe cover.

As I longed for rest, I started listing all of the things that were going wrong. Like kindling, my faults caught fire and spread quickly to every aspect of my life. I was a complete failure. I was self-righteous, judgmental and a hypocrite. The road before me was too steep and unknown. I would fail. I started mumbling to myself over and over, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”

And then, a single word pressed upon my mind so quietly, I knew it came from the Holy Ghost. “Alone.”

Stubbornly, I silently shouted to my knees, “I CAN’T do it!”

Again, I heard the forceful nudging of a single word. “Alone.”

“I can’t do it,” I said, again, but with an edge of curiosity. Why was the Spirit telling me that word over and over?

“Alone. Alone. Alone.”

And then, an understanding sigh, as I put the two phrases together and understood.

“I can’t do it alone.”

There are rare moments in life when learning takes place in an unearthly way. Where a principle taught is of such an eternal nature that it can only come directly from the Spirit. Such was this moment. I felt at once both the desire to jolt up out of my bed alive with new insight and the need to lay still, letting eternal knowledge etch its way into my spiritual DNA. The hot tears of frustration that were building up fell freely now, but they were tears of understanding, outlined in hope.

What a difference a single word can make! “I can’t do it” was the fruit of despair and discouragement, failure and forfeit. As I spoke those words, I was giving in to depression and defeat. However, “I can’t do it alone” represented humility and teachableness. “I can’t do it alone” implied that I could do it with help; that a solution was very possible. And it filled me with a desire to try.

I thought again of my current situation and realized not only that I couldn’t make it better alone, but also that I shouldn’t even try to do it alone. I needed the constant help of the Spirit. I needed the strength of my companion. I needed the power of prayer, always. I was completely dependent on others for any success. And, they were dependent on me. The Lord needed me to be His mouthpiece there. And I needed His help to want to be just that. I could not overcome my bitter feelings towards my companion without the help of the Spirit. But, with the help of the Spirit, that was entirely possible and achievable. The lessons and implications from that single word kept pouring in, and my soul opened up to receive them.

The very next morning, before the sun had even made an appearance, I apologized to my companion and, with a prayer in my heart, planted seeds of forgiveness. To this day, we are still close friends. And, not only did I make it through that week, I went on to enjoy my mission more than I ever thought possible.

Since that foggy February day so long ago, I have relied on the lessons learned dozens of times. Depending on the situation, I have cherry-picked the application of the difference that single word made. It has come as an impression to involve my husband in a particular decision. It has prompted me to teach my children household chores, knowing I do not have the time or energy to do it all alone. It has gently reminded me ‘they are called counselors for a reason’. And, more times than I remember, it has caused me to fall to my knees for a third or fourth prayer for help with a specific trial.

We were never meant to be alone in this life. We came as a part of family, immediately outnumbered by those watching out for us. Two parents for one child. We have siblings, friends, parents, and teachers. We are given the gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion as long as we are worthy. We have the light of Christ in us from birth to help direct our decisions. We have scriptures to teach us everything we ever needed to know. We have modern-day prophets to guide us with their advantageous viewpoints and insight. And, always, always, we have prayer and the atonement. Two reasons we are never, ever, truly alone. And, with those powerful tools, we can do anything that is right, anything.

A single word. Just five short letters. And, a lonely word at that. Yet, when coupled with the eternal knowledge of the Spirit, that single word has made worlds of difference.


VikiViki said...

Nice post have a great writing style and a great understanding of the importance of the gospel and the Holy Ghost in our lives. I think you should submit that article to the Ensign! Love ya'.

Melissa said...

Ah, winter in Slovenia! I think we were all suffering from winter depression. I think around the same time I remember crying so hard that I could hear my tear drops splashing on the floor as they fell. That's about the time that I finally invited God to be on my team. Beautifully written Jennie.

Marilyn said...

I agree with Viki, this needs to be published for others to read. It is well thought out and beautifully written. I saw one typo - change that to than in the last sentence of the 3rd to last paragaph. Looking forward to reading more about your mission.

Bojana said...

Jennie, I remember this story! (OK, it's funny that I mixed the beginning of this story with another one you told:-))You don't know how many times during these past 15 years I have thought of I can't do it. Alone. And it has helped me.

ducklips said...

What a beautiful story! It's amazing what the Spirit can teach us when we are open to it. There are so many lessons I learned, while serving, that I still look back on. Thanks for sharing that lesson with the rest of us.

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