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*Note: This essay is the third of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Unless you've been living under a rock these past few weeks, you've probably noticed that the world is going crazy right now. As a former journalist I try to stay current on the happenings in the news and the more I watch or read, the more I think of the Lord's warning that "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." (Matthew 24:7-8).
As Paul so succinctly said, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." (2 Timothy 3:1). Indeed, as I study what is happening in current events, I would have to say: perilous times (have) come.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been warned for generations now that the world is going to go one way while the Lord leads his people in another. I shake my head when church members are surprised that the prophet and apostles who guide the church today under Christ's direction (D&C 1:38) give counsel and policies that contradict the world's opinion. Jesus really did not say or do what was popular in his day (and if you think he accepted everyone's behavior/lifestyles, you might want to reread the Gospels). The Lord's doctrine was very unpopular with the leadership in his day (in case you missed it, they killed him for it) and upset what was culturally accepted. He even said quite clearly that he came to "to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household." (Matthew 10:35-36). This is not a division brought about by hate or bigotry or judgement (which seems to be what Satan is inspiring in worldly movements today), but rather the "variance" the Lord spoke of will come down to a simple choice: will we "do all things whatsoever the Lord (our) God shall command (us)..." (Abraham 3:25) or will we be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive..." (Ephesians 4:14)?
As the world's opinion of what is acceptable behavior continues to grow more and more liberal (that's a description, not a political statement), the greater will grow the distance between God's law and mortal approval. And that is where the "variance" the Lord spoke of will become starkly apparent. One side will say that everything is permitted legally (man's laws) and the other will say, "God has declared some things are not permitted according to His laws."
*Note: This essay is the second of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
As a published author/writer you quickly learn that 1. your written words carry tremendous power and 2. not everyone will agree with what you have to say.
I'm pretty sure Jesus was well aware of both facts; he knew that every word he spoke would guide the future generations of the faithful and that a lot of people would disagree with or twist his words to their own benefit. When I look at the world today, from a Christian perspective, sometimes it seems like the words of Christ have less and less impact in the hearts of men. "Spiritualism", without religion, is the new thing and we have ISIS/IS/IL (whatever the crap we call them, terrorists is the right term) doing more than just persecuting Christians in the Middle East; they are murdering them in ways that would make Rome's Emperor Nero blush (well, probably not).
By the media accounts it almost seems like those who want Christ and his commandments to "go away" are winning. Look at the battles over public prayer, the Ten Commandments displayed in public, the "offensive" phrase Merry Christmas, using "under God" in the pledge of allegiance", the disorganization of Christianity and on and on. While I am extremely optimistic about the future of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if I had to put on a cranky-face I would say that a lot of people in this world seem more worried about the latest iPhone release than they are about their standing before God.
I don't think that's the case with the average LDS midsingle, however. While statistics show that we have the highest inactivity rate for our demographic in the Church, I could never categorize us as non-caring when it comes to Christ. I'd almost say the problem is that we care deeply, but that sensitivity of soul leaves us exposed to deep wounds as well as exquisite joys.
I think it is our hurts that lead midsingles away from the Lord's kingdom on earth, not wickedness.
*Note: This essay is the first of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
In his piece, "O Me! O Life!", American poet What Whitman wrote in 1892, "That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
As I recently reread those words I couldn't help but feel like those two lines aptly describe the state of most LDS midsingles I know: that the powerful play of life is going on and we deeply desire the opportunity to contribute a verse. Shakespeare tells us that "life is a story" and "all the world's a stage"; it is on that stage that we as midsingles have passed through some of life's greatest joys and experienced much of its deepest sorrows. By definition as midSINGLES we are trying to write the story of our lives, with all its ups and downs, without a mortal co-author, a spouse with whom we can share the burdens and the pleasures, the brightest of days and the darkest of nights.
While we would never admit it on social media (because Heaven forbid we share our hurts and struggles online), a high percentage of us battle loneliness; we ache for the companionship that far too many married couples blindly take for granted. Some of us (hand raised) don't even have the joys of parenthood and all the incredible memories (and yes, heartbreaks) that it brings. How many of us are striving to find the "be happy single first, then you'll be happy with someone" mixture in our lives? How many nights do we reach across to the pillow next to us, wishing someone was there snoring away blissfully or cooked a meal over the stove, wishing the table was set for just one more?
Oh, yes, Mr. Whitman; the play of life is going on and while we do our best to not let it get to us, the weight of charging forward without a fellow Thespian (actor/actress) is enough to weigh down even the most faithful heart. As the mighty Job asked, "though I forbear, what am I eased?" (Job 16:6). The original Hebrew word translated here to "forbear" is damam, which means "to sigh, but not aloud." How many of us as midsingles are sighing in our hearts (but not aloud) as we strive to keep our chins up and be faithful, no matter how hard the struggle becomes?
After attending several midsingle functions over the past few weeks, I felt a desire in my heart because of my own damam-ing, if you will, to know what I could personally do to help those inner aches and how I could "contribute a verse" to this play of LDS midsingle life. The answer to my prayers came in the form of an idea to write 7 Essays for LDS Midsingles, of which this one is the first. These essays, while far from all-encompassing, will strive to cover various pertinent topics for our demographic from the standpoint of, What Would Jesus Tell LDS Midsingles if He Were Here Today? As precocious as that sounds, I should clarify that I will not attempt to speak for the Savior, but rather to use his words as recorded in holy scriptures to expound upon each topic. In doing so, I pray my thoughts and His words will alleviate some of your own heartache and inner burdens.
Ready? Let's begin.
Now, before you start laughing, it's not what you think. This isn't one of those "How to get your man/woman" articles that you see on the grocery store racks, nor will I patronize you with ridiculous promises like, "They'll fall for you in five minutes!" While I have been asked to give dating advice seminars in the past (hilariously ironic), this is more of a "find the best you"-type post.
You see, I get it. We all get "sick of dating" and need to "take a break from dating" because we get burned out or fear that we'll "never find someone." I've played the "what's wrong with me" game while looking in the mirror and come up with lists of things I can improve, from more chiseled abs to being more well-read, getting my mental "stuff" together to working on my personal faith, there is always "one more thing" on the list that could explain my singledom.
And you know what? That's exhausting. I try to remain pretty optimistic, but I'll be the first to say that I some days I struggle with being jaded about dating, wondering when I'll have to stop putting myself out there and when I can, as one ward bishopric member explained, "go out on a nice date and then go home...together only to wake up...together."
I've tried to maintain a good job, do some good things with my time and talents (bobsled, speaking, charity work and books count, right?) and overall lead a life that a future wife could be proud of (honey, let's both agree to ignore our 20's). I even try to keep up my physical appearance and not to dress like a slob (Saturday mornings don't count).
A friend and I once did some mental math about how much I've spent on dating over the years. If you take 2002-2015 = 13 years. If we low-balled an average date at $40 and low-end estimated 50 dates a year, that's ($40x50) x 13 = $26,000. By the math, dating has been a horrible investment; I've spent $26k on other men's future wives!
The concept of love is a fluid notion, and yet it remains one of mankind's most powerful emotions. There is love from parent to child, between siblings, with friends, for grandparents, even love for teammates, comrades in arms, neighbors, mentors and religious leaders. And let's not forget a love for God in all his glory.
And yet, not to sound blasphemous, perhaps there is nothing more glorious than love between spouses.
We have all seen (or even experienced) bad marriages where anger, jealousy, bitterness and contention ruled the day. Some of us have built up nigh-impenetrable barriers around our own hearts because we fear getting hurt (again), walls so thick that we actually begin to give up on love, to wave at it like a passing stranger when it brings two others together because at the end of the day, true love can't possibly exist for us, can it?
I want to tell you about the validity of love, the true nature of love, the undeniable power of love, and show you what it looks like...at 97 years of age.
Having written two books now with a third on it's way, I am intimately familiar with that wonderful demon of creative souls everywhere: writer's block.
Oh yes, one day you are cranking out pages and pages of good stuff and the next....blank. Blank mind, blank screen, blank page. You're stuck and the more you try to force something out of the stuckedness the more stuck you become. Stuckity-stuck-stuck in Stuckville. I can just imagine Brian Reagan saying that, by the way.
But being "stuck" isn't just a mental state; sometimes it is a state of being stuck financially, romantically, spiritually, physically, etc.
I think we've all had times in our lives when the road seems closed, the Heavens shut, the way barred and the horizon darkened. We look at the seemingly-never ending path leading up the mountainside and we wonder how do we get passed the obstacles currently in our way. Whether those obstacles be fears, disappointments, heartaches, adversities, loneliness, or what appears to be a complete lack of viable options, our journey seems to be halted and we silently (or verbally...sometimes loudly) ask as Joseph Smith did in Liberty Jail, "Oh God, where art thou?" (D&C 121:1).
I don't think you or I are the first to ever ask that question (nor was Joseph). I wonder if Adam struggled when Cain killed Abel or if Jacob, or Israel, cried out when his sons brought in the "lost" Joseph's coat of many colors . I'm sure that Job did when all those awful calamities came crashing into his life. The scriptures are full of countless stories from the lives of God's greatest who faced what must have at the time looked like impossible odds at the time. When the weight of your current trials gets to heavy and you drop to your knees to plead for Heaven's intervention, take comfort in the fact that millions of souls have sought such help throughout the millennia.
Several Summers ago a dear friend of mine who I have known for a long time returned from what should have been a fun-filled adventure to Lake Powell with a rather large group of single adults. I know she had been looking forward to it for months and to see her so crest-fallen caused me to feel both sad and angry at the same time.
What had gone so wrong?
She then proceed to tell me what was eating her up inside: the trip, while filled with well-meaning people, had been full of what she described as "shallow socialness." She related being surrounded by shaved chests, chiseled abs, bleached white teeth, perfect hair, impeccable swimsuits, implants, toned arms, and so on. I'm not saying all that is bad, but the next part irked me. When she talked of the "cliques" and "groups" who (while they would never admit it before God) secretly treated themselves as if they were better than others, as if their looks or popularity gave them some advantage over the "less" physically attractive ones, well, I felt it in the pit of my stomach. She had been marginalized by those who were so focused on having fun that they pushed a dear soul to the sidelines.
One morning while eating breakfast (because over breakfast or in the shower are when the best ideas come to mind) I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks. It was a question that we all think we know the answer to, but the truth is I'm not so sure that we really do. And the more I thought about it, the stronger the significance of the question became.
Here it goes: what is God's job?
Now, I don't mean the whole creating worlds, organizing universes, forming stars, and so on. We know all that and those are the typical Sunday School answers that most people can recite in their sleep. But that's not personal to me, that's galactic management. No, what I wanted to know as I finished off my orange juice was, "What is God's job in regards to my life and my eternal salvation?"
Someone recently asked me if I had any words of advice for this year's graduating high school seniors. While the inquiry was hardly a surprise (not saying that about me, I'm referring to the fact that Facebook has become "I'm proud of my grad!" central lately), it really got me thinking. What do I wish someone had told me upon graduation? What would I go back, if I could, and tell that newly-minted young 18 year-old Skyline High School (Go Eagles!) alumni?
Here are Five Lessons for the Class of 2015 (and 2016, 2017, etc.):
First off, congratulations! I know that graduating high school may not feel like a huge accomplishment, but it really is and you should feel proud of yourself for reaching the finish line! So pat yourself on the back, enjoy a great graduation trip or party with your friends and be sure to thank your parents and every teacher who go you to this point in your life, even the ones you didn't like!
Now, for some advice. Most people who experience what I'm about to describe don't know when it happens, but somewhere between Junior High School and perhaps the mid- to late-twenties, their most powerful dreams and aspirations for life begin to slowly dim (although I won't say fade away entirely). I always say that everyone has a story so it is up to us to make it a good one! The problem, however, is that once you are out of high school the freedom that you have been arguing for with your parents is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. Sure, some of you may still be financially supported by Mom and/or Dad for a few more years, but eventually your life becomes 100% your own...and with the demands of a career, of family, of bills, health management, and even just putting food on the table, that is scarier than you can imagine.
But those challenges in life are wonderful things and there is no reason that they need to stand in the way of your biggest aspirations. You are the author of your life, and the editor. You will make mistakes, you will fail and you will fall flat on your face, and that's ok. No matter what happens, hold on to your dreams. Modify them if you have to, adjust when needs be, but keep aiming for the stars. That freedom that you have worked so hard to have, the one built upon your life so far and your educational accomplishments (and athletic, musical, social, artistic, etc.), it puts the power to create a good life squarely in your hands. Bad things will happen, they happen to all of us, but so will amazingly incredible and beautiful things. Be optimistic, be hopeful, be bold, be dashing, but most of all, be a dreamer.
Several years ago (1997 to be exact) I found myself staring down the brand new Park City, UT 2002 Winter Olympic bobsled track, about to take a ride in a four-man bobsled that would change my life. It was perfect timing, too, since I was an active high school sophomore who, like so many teens, was struggling to figure out who he was in the world. And while I would absolutely categorize myself as a good kid, I also battled the hidden burdens of anxiety and depression and probably a lower self-esteem than everyone (including myself) thought I had, so bobsled was a Heaven-sent way for me to gain confidence, direction, aspirations, motivation and much more.
But let's be honest, high school is a period of our lives that most of us are glad to be past. And yet, those formative years were crucial in our personal development and where we often gain an inaccurate perspective on one aspect of life: failure.
That's right, I used the F-word: failure. F-a-i-l-u-r-e. I could even unleash my inner child: failurefailurefailurefailurefailurefailure. FAILURE.
When we think of "failure" we often conjure up negative words and connotations like loser, mistake, unable, defeated, fiasco, messy, unsuccessful, and worst of all, not good enough. I hate that one. And while I spoke of high school, even elementary school kids have developed the mental picture that failure = bad, success = good.
But what if, just what if a bad failure could be seen as a good success?
"Did he just Jedi-mind trick me?", you may ask. Not exactly, but the question you should really ask is "What if everything I know about failure is wrong?"
Answer: I think it is. Let me introduce you to The Art of Failing Forward.