Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's Almost Magical When You Think About It

I love hearing the stories of people who converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later in life.

Maybe it's because I'm a convert myself, but I think it's fascinating how no two people have the same story of where they were before. Some were active in another religion, some were seeking a spiritual home in a lot of different places, and others were completely uninterested in anything with the word "church" in it.

Some were introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by a friend, or answered the door when two missionaries knocked on it, or had a spiritual awakening when they found a Book of Mormon in a trash can (okay, I don't know anybody who that happened to but I'll bet it's happened to someone.)

No two stories are alike, but they all involve one thing: change.

What I love about the gospel is that it makes change possible, even in the least likely circumstances.

I just finished reading Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon, a chapter that compares the House of Israel to an olive tree and the Lord to the master of the vineyard.

The master decides to take some of the main olive tree's branches and graft them all over the vineyard (i.e: scatter the tribes of Israel.) He also grafts wild branches into the original tree (i.e: adopt Gentiles.)

After a while he takes a servant around to see how the grafted branches are doing. They come to a tree in a far-flung corner that's doing great and the servant can't believe it. He asks the master why he even planted there in the first place because "it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard."

I like to picture the master kind of rolling his eyes as he points over to the left and answers, "Look hither, behold I have planted another branch of the tree also; and thou knowest that this spot of ground was poorer than the first. But, behold the tree." (Jacob 5: 21, 23; emphasis mine.) Which is, of course, bursting with fruit.

Sociology tells us that a whole lot in life is determined by the ground in which we're planted. We live out patterns experienced in childhood, which is why abused kids often grow up to be abusers and kids of alcoholic parents often struggle with substance abuse. We rarely leave the socioeconomic status we're born into. Mental illness, physical disease, and even character traits are products of both genetics and environment.

Statistically speaking, the ground where we're planted is important, but I'm not convinced it matters all that much to God.

In fact, sometimes He purposely takes an olive branch to the most barren, rocky, unfriendly place in the whole vineyard just to prove that when He's the gardener, miracles can happen.

Thank God for the miracle that change is possible, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The Bible is full of unlikely events: younger brothers supplant older brothers for the birthright (Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau.) Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt but somehow becomes one of the most powerful men in Egypt. Virgins and post-menopausal women have babies and people rise from the dead. That stuff just doesn't happen.

As a more contemporary example, I've seen firsthand the transformative power of the gospel. It can take someone who's been broken by life and give them hope. It can take someone who's been hardened by life and make them kind.

I'm continually amazed at how we all walk into church with different strengths and weaknesses, yet the same gospel somehow works like sandpaper on our souls, smoothing out the rough edges that on no two people are in the exact same places. How can something humble the rich and, at the very same time, lift up the poor?

When I joined the church at age 18, changes to my life followed. I cleaned up my language and the way I dressed and the music I listened to. My priorities shifted. Some of the changes I made in my life felt major, but at the same time I felt like I was closer than ever to the person I'd always been on the inside.

I can hardly explain what I mean by that, so maybe it's just easier to say that the gospel is like magic.

It changes us but transforms us into a truer version of ourselves than we ever were before. It's the same for everyone but somehow tempers each of us just a little in the way we need, even though no one's needs are the same! It assures us that even if we're planted in the very worst soil in all the vineyard, that doesn't preclude some very amazing growth.

Which is good because I still have a lot of growing to do. I keep opening up my scriptures and getting on my knees in prayer asking for help with old habits and character flaws that at times seem too deeply ingrained to change.

Honestly, if it weren't for the powerful nature of the gospel I'd be tempted to throw my hands in the air and say "I give up, it's too hard."

And it would be, if it weren't for God's lengthy track record of unlikely successes and beating the odds through His amazing love.

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Jenny said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

I've been thinking of this a lot lately. Talking care of my mom reminds me of the rocky soil I came from. Sometimes Dad will even say he can't believe my life now came from such a different place. I too love to hear from people who have converted or become reactivated. They are some of my favorite meeting talks. They always give me hope that i can keep making those changes and knocking off the edges!

Marilyn said...

Ah! I love this! I love the gospel and I love how it can change us. It gives me such hope!

Jenny Evans said...