Daily Discipleship

In her thoughtful and enlightening book Leaving Eden, Amber Esplin tells the story of a young girl named Judith. Near the end of the novel, Judith’s brother dies and she confronts the chasm that opens in his absence. Though Judith must at first face the bitter sadness that inevitably accompanies death, she finds some catharsis in the Gospel and eventually settles into a tenuous peace. She finds, in fact, that her brother’s death gives substance to the spiritual forms that had formerly seemed, to her, quite unreal. This epiphany grants Judith a new perspective on life; in the novel’s closing pages, Esplin gives voice to some of Judith’s resulting thoughts:

“Judith had reached the edge of the park now. A white gazebo stood a little way off, in the center, and a few lights glowed mistily through the trees. A fine, cold rain tingled against her face. She inhaled deeply. On a night like this, it was easy to believe in eternity, easy to think of herself as a wanderer on this planet, a lonely traveler yearning for a home that was nowhere on this earth. She had all sorts of maps and compasses to get her back where she belonged, is she’d just be patient and stay on the path. But it was such a long journey. What if her mind wandered, just for a little while? She thought of the ladies gathered at the Church last fall, those women gluing dried plants while they talked about Gabriel’s imminent death. Some of them probably knew what it meant to grieve; Judith understood now, especially since her conversation with her mother, that people’s outward persona was only a fraction of their true selves. Perhaps many of them had experienced a night like this, a time when they stood alone beneath the misty lights and glittering stars and whispered to themselves, ‘I’ll make it home. I see the path clearly now, and I’ll get there.’ Had they managed to stay on the path ever since, or had there been detours? Where were they on that very night? Judith almost wished she could have asked them, though she couldn’t think how she would have phrased the question. ‘How did you stay true to your moment of truth?’ She might have said. ‘When times had passed and you had to do all the usual things just to keep life moving along, when your days became filled again with household chores or school or work, how did you remember what was important? How did you clear a view through all those distractions so you could keep your eyes fixed on eternity?’�?Many (or most?) who belong to the Church have some deeply spiritual reason for so doing. For some, death and a night alone amidst the stars give birth to a brilliant epiphany. For others, the knowledge comes more gradually—accumulating like age—but is still just as profound. For still others, missionaries bring a spirit and testimony that open up new spiritual vistas.

For me, the knowing occurred most dramatically when I was fourteen. I went, that summer, to the sacred grove and knelt to ask for knowledge—none came. Four months later, however, I was preparing a home-teaching lesson when, while reading in JSH, I came across these words: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me….�? Without any other noticeable impetus (I had largely forgotten my experience in the woods from a few months before), testimony burned “like fire in my bones�? and the spirit cascaded upon me—a waterfall of warmth, knowledge, and assurance.

As Esplin points out, however, the knowing itself is not enough—it is the nurturing of testimony that requires lifelong devotion. Indeed, beyond just caring for testimony, we are asked to be daily disciples; we are asked to take up the cross and seek—whether at work, school, recreation, or home—to strive to be more like Jesus.

And so, I ask: how do we keep our eyes fixed on eternity while we are engaged in temporalities? How do we keep testimony, fragile as a moonbeam, burning brightly? How do we, with crying children, or pressing deadlines, or a belligerent boss, or clueless co-workers, or abusive parents, or unfaithful spouses, or departing parents, or intellectual doubts, or any other of life’s myriad concerns, seek to be more like Jesus? How do we, despite and because of what befalls us, keep becoming the people God wants us to be?

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Published in: on December 8, 2006 at 12:15 pm  Comments (9)  

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  1. It’s a matter of consciously placing our focus. If we allow those temporalities to consume our every minute, they will, by virtue of mere clocktime, consume our entire mind. If we take but a small amount of time (the specific amount is unique to every person) each day to think on heavenly things, to study ponder and pray, to delight in celestial things, to add to the mix of our day some voice for that which is holy and true, if we take the time to feed, to nourish our spiritual selves as dilligently as our physical bodies, then our testimony cannot help but sustain us through it all.

  2. Naiah–

    I agree. Daily discipleship makes us into different people. It is, I believe, through the small acts you mention that we allow Christ’s grace to work in us, changing our hearts one cell at a time.

  3. It is hard to know if people really want you to be as open as I am about to be. However, you posed questions that apply to me. Of course, I know living the Gospel in this day to day world applies to everyone.

    Yet, I have had experience of living the Gospel while being in an abusive environment. I will spare you the details. I will say though that times could be so hard when one of my parents would go into rages that were usually involving screaming and sometimes breaking things. Physical violence was probably just isolated incidents through the years. I will qualify this by saying that this person was a good parent for my first several years and even when there were bad times, they were fleeting between a lot of good times. There were times though when it was so traumatic to me and the scariest times were often free of physical violence.

    I am the only member in my immediate family. When I told them that I was going on a mission, they were opposed. I was of a passive and obedient nature at the time. Trying to be a good example as a LDS person, I was what I would consider an ideal daughter to both parents at the time. My mom is a very loving and kind woman and often has had much spunk and light.

    When I did not relent, my family supported me. I remember telling my dad initially and how many days it took to work up the courage and how hard it was to get my lips to move. He just said softly not to go. He did not go into a rage.

    I remember the time before my mission as being the days when I was fed the most spiritually by God. I felt God’s love to an overwhelming degree and felt I could never repay what He did for me. I really felt like I was being prepared for my mission. During this time my home environment could be terrible with rages by my dad. Of course, it was hard at the time. However, I was so happy in those days and had so many burdens lifted from me. That is not to say that I did not have times when tears came easy probably due to the emotional stress. I was so blessed.

    Following my mission, ocd manifest itself in a way that sent me into the darkest place that I have ever been. I did not even know if I could hope to hope. It is like have your reality out of kilter and not knowing really what is what. So many have helped me and I cope at a higher level. However, there are times when the memory of what I once had and knew is so dimm or even when I think on it, I can still contemplate some terrible things. I have had a lot of experiences beyond preparing for a mission where God has testified to me of the truth of the Restoration. And last year, I took the challenge to read the Book of Mormon and felt so blessed and also saw Joseph Smith’s Birthday commemoration on my computer and felt so blessed.

    And yet, not being able to go to Church and as a result of that and other ocd issues not feeling I can live up to what is required of me, I can get pretty upset. Also, there are other issues regarding my home situation that really upset me. There have been days in years past when I so desperately wanted out of my home but due to ocd and not being able to function or take care of myself that it was not an easy option.

    So at times, I have to work hard to remember what it is that I love about the Gospel. And I am so grateful to have more hope than I did at one time.

    I am probably going to lose my job this week, which is in large measure related to ocd. Yet, I felt a great peace this morning. It is so scary to know if I am going to be able to hold another job. I have worked here for six years plus despite being at times much worse with ocd. I worked another job for five years while having much more severe ocd at periods. And there was a job in between for nine months that I was laid off from. I hope to land on my feet.

    I may have lot my point somewhere along the way. Things are usually good in my home these days and I am thankful for that.

    I like being able to work and hope I get a job that I like and that the hours will work for me and that I can function in the environment and all will be safe.

    When I was at my most spiritual, there really was not a separation between my Church activities and my more temporal activities. I would feel so much peace much of the time regardless of the setting.

    Once I went to FHE and there was a young woman who I did not know was a member who was working at my company over the Summer. This was when I was preparing to go on a mission. We had an activity where youwere suppose to say who the one person you would allow to be save out of the group and why. I do not like that activity too much as some are not named and their feelings are hurt. She told that I would be the one. She said that she saw me at work and thought that I was the happiest person on the face of the Earth. I think she mentioned that I glowed, when she saw me at FHE, she realized I was a member at that what she saw was the Church. I should add that I felt she was special at work and wanted to make a good impression on her. I had shared the lesson either that night or recently but I had nothing to do with the activity. Another person said that they would save me as I had such a special Spirit as I shared the lesson which was on having a testimony of the basics.

    Years later when this lesson was shared, people wanted to save me for reasons that I was friendly. That really told me that I had sunk from where I was.

    When I walked into what is called the Distrubution center next to the Temple, the lady working there said she could tell I had the Holy Spirit and would be a great missionary if I could just get along with my companion.

    I know that I have felt the Holy Spirit much in days gone by. It helps me to know that others could tell the difference in my life as well.

    Well, life has been humbling indeed.

  4. I worked tonight and was told at the end of the night that I still have my job! It is a miracle. I have my supervisor to thank for getting me a couple of people’s hours to work so I could bring up my average. I was so focused. I know this is digressing, but I didn’t want to think I lost my job when I did not. I digress a lot. Sorry! I tend to write about things I have thought about even if they are not too applicable. It is a good thing I have been guest blogging on a friend’s blog so I can say a lot there rather than take blogs on irrevelant twists. 🙂

  5. I hate it when I reflect and realize how off topic I was. I do want to say that I do have moments from time to time that are Spiritual and I feel so blessed. And it makes me so upset when I fall short in my relation to others when I have felt so much mercy from God. I think that the more a person sacrifices and also tries to be in the world and not of the world such as going to the temple and being careful what they read and watch on television, the more that you are able to be close to God even while doing temporal activities.

    I did want to say that whether you get to go home or are with friends, I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas!

  6. Tyler, I hope you are having a nice break from all your responsibilities. Well, I know how your Gravity series ends from Times and Seasons. It was so great. As you can probably tell, I have some issues to work out. I probably will not be able to be back to this site. I wish you well. You are a very interesting young man. I wish I was as together as you when I was your age. Although I will not be able to be here to read or make comments, I hope you keep up all the good you have started. God be with you always.

  7. Barb–

    I regret I had neglected to read this comment until now. I hope you’ve found some comfort on this site–if my writing’s ever been of help, I’d consider that a great blessing. I listened today to Elder Holland’s talk “Broken Things to Mend:” please know I have a testimony that the Savior can heal and mend anything, including our hearts and souls.

    God bless.

  8. Tyler, I had not been to your site for some time. I think it was about a week ago when I felt that I should come by and check things out. I am pretty sure it was your word press site and not another. There was a comment on the side bar that is no longer there beside a post of yours where you gave a Mother’s Day talk. That was excellent!

    I hope that I did not appear to be in a crises when I was here last. I appreciate your comments. and your testimonyl. Yes, I have gained a lot through reading here. I appreciate someone with your gift for words and also your wisdom. I was rather embarassed by sharing so much here and wondering if you might be upset. I can be a little over-sensitve. I actually have felt like I have been on the brink of being well for some time with some lapses here and there. I avoid going most places and doing a lot of things and that helps me a lot. I feel pretty happy much of the time. Fortunately, I love to study and don’t require a lot of socialization. When I found your site, I thought it was a good place to read insightful posts and also have a bit of human interaction as you are pretty good at responding to people. I told myself that I would not share anything personal. I get mad at myself when I draw attention to myself. I like to have healthy friendships that don’t delve into things. I have a lot of interests. I used to have a lot of interesting friends like yourself. Many of them were attending Graduate school where I live to become dentists, occupational therapist, and a few were doctors. Well, we had a pretty inclusive YSA group. Although your comments are brief to what I say, it is like having a friend. I hope that doesn’t seem to strange. I hate it when people think I am too strange. Yes, I like to be unique in my own way. I don’t think I am too out there in left field though. 🙂 I know you must be super busy and do enjoy the thought in your posts when you get a chance. Well, I will be quiet for the moment until I go and post on your newest thread. Seriously, I think you will find me acting much more normal.

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