i have a new post over at modern molly mormon today, called "who am i?"
it's the latest installment in my feature surviving life's experiences.
it's a really good one, i promise it is worth the read.
our Heavenly Father is aware of each of us in our times of trial. because we are His children and He loves each of us, He rejoices with us in happy times, and weeps with us when we mourn. as we come to understand this truth we will feel his presence in our lives and be able to turn to him for comfort as we begin to heal.
if any of you have not had the joy of reading the book "no doubt about it" by sheri dew--i am telling you to. not asking, telling! it is an AMAZING book and i believe that every woman in the church should read it. my senior year of high school, when i was participating in SOLE, my counselor recommended the book to me. i normally hate reading books like that. i can't even tell you how many religious books i have started to read and never finished--with the exception of all of those lds romance novels. they don't hold my attention. i get bored. i get confused. i have major brain overload. (how funny it is that i can sit down and read macbeth beginning to end and not have that brain overload thing, but i read more than a chapter or two of a religious book and my head hurts.) anyway. my mom had a copy so i decided to read it.
it was an amazing experience for me. suddenly i was looking at myself in an entirely different way. the biggest, most far-reaching affect of the abuse i've experienced is this: i have very little, and at times no, self-esteem. i will not go into details here--but i have been in the very depths of despair, as far as they can possibly go, because of the self loathing i have had. i have ups and downs, overall i am doing much better now, but i still have periods of time where i feel worthless. i am not worthless. i am a child of God, the same way each and every one of us are. one of the most vital pieces of knowledge we can have is this. and in healing from our pain, in dealing with our trials, in handling everyday life, we MUST know who we are. we MUST know where we came from and where we are going.
the following excerpts i will use are from sheri dew, in a talk she gave called "knowing who you are--and who you have always been."
sister dew, a former general relief society president, grew up painfully shy and with no self-confidence. one night her 16 year old niece and her friend had a sleep over at sister dew's. sister dew talked to them about her lack of self esteem. the girls asked how she got over feeling that way, and this was her response."i told them that the reason was a spiritual one: it wasn't until i began to understand how the Lord felt about me that my feelings about myself and my life slowly began to change."
how do we know how the Lord feels? how do we find out how He feels about us?
sister dew tells us that "there is nothing more vital to our success and our happiness here than learning to hear the voice of the Spirit. it is the Spirit who reveals to us our identity--which isn't just who we are but who we have always been. and that when we know, our lives take on a sense of purpose so stunning that we can never be the same again." (emphasis added.)
how beautiful that phrase is! "our lives take on a sense of purpose so stunning that we can never be the same again." and how true it is, as well. think about it: how often to use self-defeating language? how often to you push away compliments? how often to you get down on yourself, get discouraged, and depressed because of mistakes you make? how often do we look in the mirror and long to look differently? whether it is losing weight, a different nose, bigger (or even smaller!) boobs, a different hair color or eye color, that mole to go away? how much money do we spend a year buying expensive make-up and clothing to make ourselves look better, and ultimately to feel better about ourselves? there is nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful. but we need to recognize the fact that WE ARE BEAUTIFUL, because WE ARE DAUGHTERS OF GOD. we are His children, made in His own image. we can change the way we view ourselves from a negative to a positive image."
as a people, we talk and sing constantly about who we are. three-year-olds know the words to "i am a child of God." the proclamation on the family declares that we each have a divine destiny. the second young women's value is divine nature. and the very first words in the relief society declaration are, 'we are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction.' and yet, with all our talking, do we really believe? do we really understand? has this transcendent doctrine about who we are--meaning who we have always been and, therefore, who we may become--permeated our hearts?
our spirits long for us to remember the truth about who we are, because the way we see ourselves, our sense of identity, affects everything we do. it affects the way we behave, the way we respond to uncertainty, the way we see others, the way we feel about ourselves, and the way we make choices. it affects the very way we live our lives. so, today, i invite you to ponder in a new way not just who you are, but who you have always been."
one of the hardest things to comprehend, at least for me, is who i was before coming to earth. everyone has this loss of memory--thanks to the veil. president lorenzo snow taught that "Jesus was a God before he came into the world and yet his knowledge was taken from him. He did not know his former greatness, neither do we know what greatness we had attained to before we came here." he also taught that during the Savior's life "it was revealed unto Him who He was, and for what purpose He was in the world. the glory and power He possessed before He came into the world was made known unto Him." just as Christ was able to learn who He was and to know what His purpose on earth was, so can we.
sister dew says, "unveiling this knowledge would be easier if we could remember what happened in our premortal life. but we can't. we can't remember the glory of our former home. we have forgotten the language we spoke there and our dear companions with whom we associated. we cannot recall the 'first lessons [we learned] in the world of spirits' (d&c 138:56) or the identities of our heavenly tutors. we cannot remember what promises we made to ourselves and to others and to the Lord. nor can we remember our place in the Lord's heavenly kingdom or the spiritual maturity we achieved there."
there are some things we do know, however.
1. we know that we were there. we were part of the Lord's council, before the earth was created.
2. we were present when Heavenly Father presented His plan.
3. we saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and we supported it.
4. we were there, fighting on the side of truth, when satan rebelled against the Lord. president george q. cannon said that "we stood loyally by God and by Jesus, and did not flinch." (emphasis added)
because of our faithfulness in our premortal lives, we were chosen to be "among the elect whom the Lord has called during this 'eleventh hour' to labor in His vineyard. God, who say the 'end from the beginning' (abraham 2:8), foresaw perfectly what these times would demand. " president cannon taught that "God...reserved spirits for this dispensation who [would] have the courage and determination to face the world, and all the powers of the evil one," and who would "build up the Zion of our God, fearless of all consequences."
fearless. courageous. determined. faithful. elect. how can we not be filled with joy and purpose when we hear these words? how can we doubt ourselves? we fought without flinching, against satan. if we could do it there, we can do it here on earth."can you imagine that God, who knew us perfectly, reserved us to come now, when the stakes would be higher and the opposition more intense than ever? when He would need women who would help raise and lead a chosen generation in the most lethal spiritual environment? can you imagine that He chose us because He knew we would be fearless in building Zion?" (emphasis added)
even though we make mistakes, and in my case a lot of them, "the fact remains that we have always been women of God. we have repeatedly made righteous choices, on both sides of the veil, that demonstrate our faithfulness. We have so much more divine potential than we yet comprehend." (emphasis added)
the Lord taught abraham that he was among the "noble and great ones" chosen for his earthly mission before he was born (abraham 3:22-23). we are also among those noble and great ones. elder bruce r. mcconkie said, "a host of mighty men and equally glorious women comprised that group of the 'noble and great ones'.....can we do other than conclude that mary and eve and sarah and myriads of our faithful sisters were numbered among them? certainly these sisters...fought as valiantly in the war in heaven as did the brethren, even as they in like manner stand firm...in mortality, in the cause of truth and righteousness."
that is us he is talking about. we were there, fighting alongside our husbands, our children, our parents. alongside the prophets. alongside other courageous men and women."
noble and great. courageous and determined. faithful and fearless. that is who you are, and that is who you have always been. understanding that truth can change your life, because this knowledge carries a confidence that cannot be duplicated any other way. as we come to understand [this], we will feel a greater sense of mission and more confidence living as a woman of God in a world that doesn't necessarily celebrate women of God. we will cheer each other on rather than compete with each other, because we'll feel secure in our standing before the Lord. and we'll be eager to stand for truth even when we must stand alone--for every consecrated woman will have times when she must stand alone. we are the Lord's secret weapon."
something we need to realize is that we are constantly being attacked at every angle. we need to recognize that satan wants us to see ourselves as the world sees us, not as the Lord sees us. he tells us we are not good enough, not smart enough, not thin, cute, clever, or anything enough. "that is a big, fat, devilish lie. he wants us to believe there is no status in being a mother. that is a lie, an evil lie. he wants us to believe that the influence of women is inherently inferior. and that is a lie."
this is something i struggle with. ask my husband--one of my more common phrases is "i'm just not good enough. i just don't feel good enough. nothing i do is enough." and i am trying so hard to stop saying that. to start changing my perception of myself. because the Lord "seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 samuel 16:7). sister dew teaches that "the more clearly we understand our divine destiny, the more immune we become to satan. we will never live up to who we are as women of God until we overcome our mortal identity crisis by understanding who we are, who we have always been, and who we may become." (emphasis added)
here are some of the ways we can discover for ourselves who we are.
1. the spirit, which is key. we need to be able to hear what the Lord is telling us, through His spirit. this is how we can learn what the Lord truly thinks of us, and what His purpose for us is.
2. pray in faith, asking the Lord to show you what your purpose is.
3. repent regularly
4. forgive and seek forgiveness
5. attend temple worship
6. be obedient to the Lord in our minds and hearts
7. be honest with ourselves and with others
8. use your intellect to look at yourself objectively--as though the Lord were looking at you
9. make decisions that will make you happy. i have found that when i am happy i am able to see myself in a more positive light.
10. influence others for good. be uplifting those around you. as sister dew says, "is there anything more meaningful a mother or grandmother or any of us can do for the youth we love than help them begin to see who they really are?" this goes for everyone--not just the youth. our spouses, who are hard on themselves. our friends. sometimes even our own parents.
"women of God who know who they are have unusual and sometimes unexpected influence."
i know that when i am able to see myself more as the Lord sees me i am happier. i am stronger. i am able to deal with life's tumults better. my scars begin to heal. i recognize that although i have endured difficult trials, and am still struggling with them, i am a strong, faithful, and courageous woman. i always have been. if i can fight satan, if i can do so without flinching, of course i can fight him here on earth! of course i can make it through this! of course i can overcome my lack of self-esteem. i know that each of you can do so too. how do i know this? because i know that each of you are also counted among the "noble and great" the Lord has sent to earth. i know that each of you are His children, that He loves you, that He is there to comfort, guide, and strengthen you.we can all discover who we are, who we have always been, and who we will become.