Sitting on campus and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations is sometimes an enlightening experience. Odd that I heard just this part of the conversation and then the conversation moved somewhere else and now I am left with a lot of quiet to reflect on what I heard.
A young man was expressing a couple of difficult ‘transfers’ with one of his companions on his mission (an LDS mission is split into 6-week segments known as transfers). Apparently, they weren’t having the success of conversion and baptism that all missionaries hunger for. His companion laments, “Why are we doing this? What’s the point?” The person upon whom I am dropping eaves recounts a story about a man who was counseled by his teacher to push against a large boulder. Thinking that the point is to move the bolder, the student strains to push, heave and pull the boulder, but it doesn’t move. This effort continues for some time day in and day out for many weeks.
Others notice the student’s efforts and ask him, “What are you doing? There’s no way you can move that boulder. It’s too big. You’re not strong enough.” The student continues anyway until one day his resolve crumbles and he is ready to give up.
It is at this point that the teacher comes back and finds his student on the ground leaning against the boulder with frustration clearly marked on his face. “Why did you ask me to move this boulder? I have tried every day to think of some way to fulfil your wish, but the boulder remains unmoved.” “Ah, but it was not my wish that you move the boulder. I asked you to push it, pull, it, to do whatever you could to move it, but I never actually expected the boulder to move.
“Look at your arms and your legs and how much more definition has been added to your muscles. You have demonstrated your resolve by continuing to try every day to do what you thought I asked. My only desire was for you to become strong, and in that, you have proven successful.”
The recounting of this story reminded me that yesterday my brother who is preparing to go through the temple to be sealed to his wife came and visited me. It is an interesting turn since for the longest time, it was me who was the stalwart one. I went on a mission, he did not. He is getting married in the temple while I have not been to church more than a hand full of times in the last couple of years. He asked me the simple question, “Why?”
My answers were, “It is nothing but a cliché. I am bored with it.” He didn’t probe much beyond that, but the truth is that those are my artificial answers. There are much deeper reasons that may or may not have been uncovered with the right line of questioning.
It’s an odd conundrum to be an independent person that sometimes craves interdependence. To be cliché, it has been said that no man is an island. I don’t mind being alone, but my tendency to isolate myself makes others think that I don’t care, when the truth lies that I care deeply, but am also afraid of being hurt, so that leads me to probably be more withdrawn than I need and/or want to be. I find a great deal of solace in solitude, but there are moments when I want somebody to talk to, to share my thoughts with, to have as a part of my life.
When it comes to doctrine, so many things have become stale and hollow. I remember times in the past kneeling in prayer and truly feeling like there was somebody there listening, even comforting me in times of trouble and need. But any recent attempts to connect to the unseen has left me feeling like talking to an empty room.
My independence also makes me resist the idea that I would want or need somebody to make an intercession for the mistakes I make. My pride tells me that I should be able to do things on my own and that any mistakes I make are mine to endure, to learn from, and to suffer for if needs be. People speak of the changing power of Christ’s atonement, but in trying to employ its power in my life, I have seen no miraculous change, no burning in my bosom, or any other such thing. I simply felt the same as I always did, prone to the same weaknesses that I’ve always been prone to.
I know this doesn’t make me a bad person. I am simply me just like every other person alive. I have things I am good at and things I struggle with. I do my best to walk forward and try to make each day of my life better than it was the day before. There are highs and lows, and all I can hope is that whatever is supposed to happen will happen. One day, perhaps I can reconnect with my faith, but for now, that path is barred from me and so I will seek to make my way elsewhere.