Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting out of a pit

When I was a kid we decided to build a pool in our backyard.  For hours we dug and dug, ending up with a big round not very deep hole before we gave up.  We often joked during the process that we were going to dig to China.  A deep dark hole that could go through the whole world would definitely be an accomplishment.  As a child we thought it was totally possible.

As an adult I have been in a hole that big....a pit even.  It would have been better if I stuck with digging a simple rut, but instead I dug myself into that pit. For me it started with one thought.  One negative thought that spiraled into two and then three.  It's been almost two years since I was stuck in that negative thought pit, but I can still remember very distinctly how I felt. My internal world was as dark and dirty as a pit to the earth's core would have been.  I would cry almost every day and I felt like I was a horrible person.  My thoughts were always negative; mostly about myself.  I didn't matter and no one cared about me, I did everything wrong, etc.  Man was it a hard place to be because it felt like there was no way I could get out of this pit and I would forever be unhappy.  Everyday I would pray and read my scriptures, but still couldn't find my way out of that pit.  Through time my begging and pleading with the Lord to overcome this negativity worked and I was able to get a rope and pull myself up and out of that pit.  It was a slow and hard process.  I had to build a lot of spiritual muscles to get out of that pit.

Getting into that pit was just like digging that hole as a child.  It took one shovel full of dirt at a time.  One negative thought added to another negative thought without adding any good positive thoughts.  It was a time of my life where I was experiencing trials.  We had recently moved leaving behind many wonderful friends, a house, and a place where I felt like I belonged.  It was also probably not the best time in my life to begin potty training my youngest.  Yet I told myself that I had overcome difficulties in the past and never gotten quite this low.  What was different this time and what is the lesson that I needed to learn?  I believe very firmly that all of life's experiences are filled with lessons that we need to learn.  We can either choose to grow and become better people from them or we can do the opposite.  

Putting the dirt back into that pit and hoping that I never dig one again has been a gradual process that I am still working on day to day.  A little less than a year after the pit incident, I found myself in another super stressful life experience with yet another move looming in my near future. I was digging myself back into that pit when I came to a realization as I was reading a Teaching No Greater Call.  Negative never lifts up.  When we want to teach ourselves and others about the gospel, negative thoughts, feelings, and actions are counterproductive.  My negative thoughts were not helping me to become closer to my Heavenly Father.  They were the pit that I kept digging and that pit was taking me away from him.  The further I was from Him the further I was from peace. Peace that I wanted and needed desperately.  That same peace that satan wants to keep us from feeling because if we don't remember how good the peace is then we won't work for it.

However, I am a fighter (evidenced by my pink punching bag) and I do not give up easily on something I want.  What I wanted was peace and a close relationship with my Lord.  So I kept fighting with prayer, scripture study, and going to church.  I kept trying to release the negative thoughts and instead replace them with gratitude.  President Dieter F. Utchdorf recently said, "Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift."  The last few years I have had that experience quite a few times.  President Utchdorf went on to say "When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation."  The second time I found myself digging that pit, it really was a rut.  Simply finding the pearl of knowledge that the sooner I changed my thoughts from negative to positive gratitude changed things for me.  I was no longer digging a pit, but filling it up and building a mountain of strength with the Lord's help.  This strength brought that gentle peace and a knowledge that things would work out. They did.

Today as I read about Moses and the Israelites I realized for the first time why they struggled so much.  Here was a people who had prayed for years to be released from the bondage of slavery.  People who wanted to be free and then as soon as they get it, started to complain and wanted to go back to a life of slavery.  They complained so much that the Lord refused to bless them.  At times I have read that wondering if the Lord was hard on them.  I love food and it would really hard for me to eat the same thing every day and I wonder if I would complain about eating manna all the time as well.  Complaining did not however add variety to their diet and it did not help them go out and find something different.  No, they were stuck in that negative thought pit.  It was one that they had dug so deep and so long that they no longer knew they were in a pit. The Israelites were so used to the dark negative thoughts that they could or would not change them.  In Egypt it was the Egyptians fault that their life was miserable and when they left it was the Lord and Moses fault that their life was miserable.  Always blaming someone else for their problems and what was wrong in their life. They never stopped the negative thoughts, but continued to be unhappy in all the circumstances life gave them.  When you compare them to Job who was grateful to the Lord no matter what happened to him, you can understand why the Lord punished the grumbling Israelites and rewarded Job.   

I don't want to be punished because I can't stop complaining.  Honestly living in a state of constant complaining is miserable enough for yourself and anyone around you. From now on I vow to actively change my negative thoughts and remember that there is so much to be grateful for in this world.  As President Utchdorf said, "True gratitude in our circumstances is an act of faith in God.....True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony."  My hope is that my Heavenly Father can see and know of my faith, hope, and love of Him by being grateful everyday no matter what is going on in my life.  If we look past our current trials and think of the eternal perspective, then we will see that light from the bottom of the pit.  The light that will show us where the rope is so that we can pull ourselves up and out of that pit and then cover it up with the love and peace we can and will feel from our Heavenly Father.  We all have different pits in life, mine is negative thoughts. Whatever your pit is in life, I hope that you will fight it because in the end nobody wants to stay in a dark and dirty place.  Having the light of the Lord in your life by changing your bad behavior to good is well worth the pain in your spiritual muscles.  Eventually when the Lord brings you to your eternal home He will tell you that you fought the good fight and you will forever bask in His light.  That will be true joy and peace and will be worth all that life threw at you.

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