Friday, August 11, 2017

A Matter of Faith

We live in a crazy time. Everywhere we look there is so much going on, in every direction. The news is filled with stories that tear at our hearts. Disasters are taking place all over the world. Evil is rampant. And in our own lives, emotional, physical, and mental chaos seems to reign supreme. How can we survive when all we know appears to be turning inside out and upside down?

I’ve asked this question before. This isn’t the first time things appeared to be going less than well. In one year (1983 to be exact) several things hit the fan at approximately the same time. For example, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Finally. After months of not knowing why I felt like walking death, I finally had a diagnosis. During months of frustration I had been told things like: “You possibly have a brain tumor.” Then there was the theory, “Wait, we now think you have a form of epilepsy.”

To be fair,Type 1 diabetes is a difficult condition to pin down. Until it fully dies, the pancreas still functions enough to disguise what is really going on. It didn’t help that by then, my husband and I were expecting our first child. Everything they presented for us to try, would affect our unborn child. It was a perilous time. One of the things that kept me going was the promise I was given during a priesthood blessing that all would be well. I clung to that hope. But there was a catch, I was told that all would be well, according to my faith.

There was that word again. It was a word that would haunt me for several years. Faith. It bothered me at first because I had no idea what it meant. The first time I heard it, I was a mixed up teen. Things were bad at home, and questions of who I was, and what this life was all about really bothered me. It wasn’t always easy for me to attend church meetings, but I often found that I felt peace inside whenever I did. So I risked the lectures I would later receive from a father who was going through his own personal hades to try to figure out for myself what was true.

That is and always has been a key to developing faith. And it is an uphill battle. I believe it was meant to be that way. If something is easily attained, it doesn’t mean as much to us. But because it took everything I had to give and then some to gain my own personal testimony of what is true, it means more to me than I will ever be able to share. I did not lean on anyone else’s beliefs. My testimony had come at such a personal cost, it was something I treasured. I had slogged through the mire of doubt, persecution, and heartache to learn for myself what this life is all about. 

I ache for those who are going through a similar quest, and yet, I also find myself secretly cheering, because I know in the end, after all of the questions have been asked, after a perilous journey across a jagged desert of unbelief, inner pain, and turmoil that is difficult to put into words, the sweet relief of living water will make up for any discomfort, trial or pain.

I will never forget what I felt the night all of the pieces of the puzzle that was my life finally came together. The witness I experienced was so strong, it has held me together through countless trials. Case in point—it helped me survive the turmoil of 1983. As I already mentioned, it was a difficult time. I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic and was told that I would be giving shots of insulin the rest of my life. Alrighty then—that was a bit of a challenge, but knowing I was a daughter of God with unlimited access to His help would see me through.

My father’s mental state at that time wasn’t good. Daily I received heart-wrenching phone calls from him as he assured me I was a terrible person if I didn’t give up my current church calling and focus on my health and the health of my unborn child. These phone calls took a toll, and eventually, toward the end of that challenging pregnancy, I went to my bishop and explained the situation. He decided to temporarily release me from teaching my Primary class, and though I felt horrible about that for a long time, it did ease a bit of what I was going through.

The promise I had been given came through, and our first child was born healthy and strong. It had been a rough delivery. He was a high breech baby and after one day of trying to turn him around, the doctors gave up and did an emergency c-section. We learned the hard way that I didn’t react well to the pain medication I was given before the surgery. I felt the entire thing. But once they start a c-section, there is a short window of time to deliver the baby, so they continued. My mother later told me how grey I looked when they brought me back to my hospital room. She was afraid I wasn’t going to make it.

Things continued to go horribly wrong. I developed a series of blood clots in one leg, and my baby boy was sent home without me a few days later. I would remain in the hospital for at least 10 more days on blood thinner IV’s as they tried to save my life. It was a scary time. The thing that got me through was my faith in God. My faith in the testimony I had worked so hard to secure. I knew my life was in the hands of my Heavenly Father. I knew I was His daughter and that He loved me. I trusted in Him to help me endure.

That first night, as I lay quietly in my hospital bed doing my best to remain in mortal mode, I was given a priesthood blessing by two young LDS men who didn’t know me. I stress that in part because of a promise I was given. Not only was I promised I would survive, but I was also told my Father in heaven knew what was going on with my parents and all would be well. I didn’t need to worry about them. This was such a relief since my mother and younger sisters were busy taking care of my newborn son while my husband returned to work, and my brother was miles away trying to help our father through each difficult day.

That blessing hit me hard. I was in a large hospital far from my Idaho home and had just been given peace of mind concerning the very thing I was worrying about by two young men who had no idea what was going on in my life. It was a witness to me that my Father in heaven knew and understood my concerns. 

So I endured 10 very difficult days with as much courage as I could muster. Among other challenges, the nurses had to do everything for me. I joked that I couldn’t even blow my own nose, but it was true. They were fighting to save my life. A lady in similar circumstances had died right outside my hospital room as a clot hit her heart. They were determined not to lose me, too. So I was handled with kid gloves until I was well enough to return home.

It was still a challenging time as I tried to care for a newborn while on crutches. It would take a couple of months for me to be able to walk around without their help as my leg healed. And just as I was getting back on my feet, my father took his own life.
I felt so betrayed! Hadn’t I been promised that all would be well? All was not well!!! All was horrible and hard and a nightmare!!! And yet, when I pushed the pain aside, in my heart of hearts, I still knew what was true. On my knees, enduring inner turmoil that ripped me apart, my testimony still lay . . . in tatters . . . but it was there all the same. It would prove to be the glimmer of hope that would hold me together despite all we were enduring.

It would take a long time for me to realize how truly watched over our family had been. In Dad’s confused state, it would have been very easy for him to have taken other family members out with him. But it didn’t happen. We were watched over and protected in ways we’re still figuring out. Miracles transpired that kept us all going. I will never be able to say that we were ignored by heaven. We were surrounded by angels who eased our way and helped us through. Some were of the mortal variety like the couple who offered to pay for my brother’s mission a few months later. Some were on the other side of the veil, very possibly loved ones who watched over us in a myriad of ways.

Through it all, my testimony survived. The faith I had worked so hard to attain kept me going. Sometimes it was minute by minute, but it glimmered with hope for a better day.

So back to this current time. Things are difficult. All is not well, and yet, if we’ll dig down deep to the roots of the tree of life as my mother once saw in a very vivid dream, we will survive. Ask your questions. Rant and rave and throw yourselves.Then hit your knees in sincere prayer. Pray to know what is really true and remain on your knees until the answers come. They will come. I know that with everything that I am. Remember always the importance of nourishing that testimony once it flickers into existence. Never allow it to wither and die.

My heart contains many scars, but it also holds tight to a shining diamond of truth that keeps me going on even the most difficult day. To paraphrase Joseph Smith, “How can I deny what God knows that I know?” I can’t. It’s everything I am. Despite difficulties, human nature, and the uncertainty of the future, I still cling to truth, faith, and hope. When it’s all said and done, I know that climbing this particular mountain is worth all of the effort it takes to reach the summit. And the view will be worth the sacrifice it took to make the climb.