photo credit: garlandcannon
Sometimes I find myself feeling stuck in life; feeling that no matter what I do I have no real meaningful choices. I have described it as having, in any decision, a choice that is blatantly obvious (like deciding whether or not to wreck my car), or a choice that is meaningless (like deciding between Cheerios and Rice Krispies for breakfast).
Laura has asked me before if I have ever prayed for options and the answer is that I have with the result that I have still never felt like I had a real choice. Either the way was clear or the choice was inconsequential. As I thought about the feeling of impotence that comes with seeing no alternatives, no options to choose from, I realized that I was wrong about never having any options – especially in times that I have prayed for options. There have been plenty of instances where the choices really were black and white such that I would never take one of the options presented (wrecking my car for instance). The other times that I have felt stifled I realize that there are two different types of situations. First is when I have desired something only to be guided away from it. The second is when I have desired to do something and the answer from the spirit when I ask about pursuing it has essentially been “what are you willing to give for it?” The answer has virtually always been “not enough” or at least “not enough for the price that would likely be required.”
Anytime I am called upon to do something I am willing to do do whatever is necessary to complete the task but whenever I am left to choose my own direction I am unwilling to take significant risks for something I feel is entirely of my own choosing. That makes it sound like I don’t trust my own judgment, or that I don’t trust that I will be supported in my own choices.
There have been times when I have been willing to give enough but in the two cases that I can clearly recall – one resulted in me getting what I worked for on something that, so far as I can see, is transitory and unimportant while the other resulted in me putting in a lot of effort and making a lot of progress before I was instructed to abandon the pursuit (at least temporarily – maybe I have not seen the end of that yet).
Now I find myself again wandering in a wilderness of aimless discontent, feeling that everything I am working on is not bearing fruit and that I am unable to work on anything that would bear good fruit.
Pondering on the problem leads me back to the doctrine related to desire taught by Elder Maxwell in October Conference of 1996 that “what we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity.” What is more condemning to me is when I consider the implication of that doctrine which is that as we navigate the vicissitudes of life, the ups and downs of the refiners fire shake loose from us the passive preferences or fleeting feelings that we think we want which are not really desires of our hearts as described by Elder Maxwell here:
Desire denotes a real longing or craving. Hence righteous desires are much more than passive preferences or fleeting feelings. Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability. (emphasis original)
If I cannot articulate any desires that must mean that either I have already shaken loose those passive preferences, or else (more likely) I have abdicated to some degree that inner zone where I am meant to be sovereign. And I realize that simply saying, “I’ll do anything the church asks of me” does not qualify as exercising my sovereignty within that inner zone.