Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning From & Letting Go of the Past

Well, here we are, smack dab in the middle of September. The leaves are starting to turn vivid colors in the canyons, and though the sun is shining here and there (between impressive rain storms) a drop in the temperature indicates we are shifting from summer into fall.

Life is like that--it moves incredibly fast and it is full of change. You just think you've adjusted to one season, and another clamors for attention. Sometimes, it is good to look back and remember important highlights from previous eras--it helps form balanced perspectives for future adventures.

Earlier this month I returned to the place I consider my hometown--Ashton, Idaho. (My family moved eight times while I was growing up, but we spent the four years I was in high school in Ashton.) It was an interesting visit to this beautiful small town. As I walked around, savoring the crisp fall air, I felt a familiar urge to snap a few photos. [Those who know me well are rolling their eyes, very much not surprised by this tendency. ;) ]

I took a picture that won't mean anything to most people . . . but the empty spot on the side of Main Street holds a special place in my heart--the high school I once attended used to sit in this location. All that remains are a few trees, a patch of dried grass, and an empty parking lot. The deserted area tugged at my heart-- then I reminded myself that a brand new high school, both bigger and better, now exists on the other side of town. Some changes are good . . . it's just a little heart-rending to shift gears and move on.

While I was tripping down memory lane, I asked my husband to drive by the house my family purchased while we were in Ashton. It's located about two blocks away from where the old high school used to exist. The house appeared to be in great shape, with nice siding and a new roof. A sign indicates that it's for sale yet again. As I stood there, tears made an appearance. I quietly snapped a couple of pictures, took a deep breath, and walked down the street.

Turning, I gazed at the park that stands between my old house, and where the high school used to be. Tears gave way to a sense of peace as I realized that a horrendous ordeal that occurred during my sophomore year has helped shape me into a stronger, more determined individual. It was also a reminder of the importance forgiveness plays in all of our lives.

Years ago, as I walked home through that same park during the winter of my sophomore year in high school, I was attacked by an unknown assailant. By heeding the promptings that came through the gift of the Holy Ghost, I was able to get away with my virtue intact--a handful of bruises were the only visible marks that remained of that nightmarish evening. The inner bruising, however, would take years to heal. To this day, if someone walks up behind me and I'm not aware of their presence, a brief sense of panic descends. It is so much better than it was, however--and I have the Savior to thank for that great gift. 

Several years after I was married, I experienced a healing moment in the temple that helped me understand I had to let go of the hatred I had developed for the person who attacked me. Tears flowed that day, too, as I gave my pain to the Savior, and though I still jump when someone approaches me from behind, the anger, the sorrow, and the fear have faded into peace. I no longer harbor ill will toward whoever was responsible for the assault.

I have learned that if we so choose, we can release pent-up anger, inner pain, and the sorrow others have caused us when we give those negative emotions to the Savior. He knows best how to heal our hearts--and He has already atoned for what others may say or do to hurt us. When we continue to hang onto grudges, we're basically turning our backs to our Elder Brother. We can't fully enjoy life and experience the peace of heart our Father and Savior wish for us to find until we forgive.

Though I will never know in this life who the culprit was who caused me so much pain (the police were never able to prove who it was who attacked me that night) I had to release the angry hatred I was carrying around inside--it was tearing me apart. I have discovered that the same is true for other moments in my life when I have been offended or hurt. We have to let go of the negativity to heal. We must forgive others, and we must forgive ourselves when mistakes are made.

As I walked through the park in Ashton a few days ago, I did so with total peace of heart. And later that day, I met up with beloved friends from my youth as we celebrated our friendship by eating pizza and enjoying huckleberry shakes in the pizzeria that now exists where my dad's drugstore used to be.

Life is change. That's part of why we're here. If everything remained the same and we weren't tested and tried, we would never learn the lessons our Father desires us to experience while on this earth. I know I will be forever grateful for the education I've received thus far in my mortal journey. Some courses have been more difficult than others, but each one has helped to shape me into who I am today.

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