It seems like I'm ALWAYS saying this, but I've had a rough month. This morning I found some encouragement. I've often been on the "take a lot of unkindness side" of a friendship from someone who was instrumental in introducing me to the gospel. I've always known he was a challenging personality, and yet my family loved him. Loved him so much in fact, that we all asked him to baptize us. We even have a child named after him. This month he decided to end his friendship with our family. He even sent me a note saying that any attempt to contact him by phone, email, letters, or ward members, will be "kindly and politely ignored". Now most people would be shaking their heads about how any of that could be considered kind or polite, but you'd have to know the person. To him it makes sense. I did say he was challenging.
This was really hard for me. I cared about him a great deal. I've put a lot of time, effort, and energy into trying to make his life better, petitioning God on his behalf for a problem he has, that has caused him great pain. I've spent countless hours praying for him, and had even been fasting one meal a day for him for over a year. Losing his friendship felt like losing a part of my body. Not to mention the pain it has brought to my children, which to be honest, causes an anger response on my part, so I have to not think about that part too much.
It is always confusing for new converts when members do hurtful things. Naturally it brings with it a flood of doubt about the gospel and thoughts in that vein. It did for me too. Now, I didn't become Mormon because of this man. He was challenging even when I was investigating. So when I converted, I had to do it despite some of his manifested challenges. Plus, I sacrificed a lot to even have the right to learn about the gospel. I had to give up an eighteen year marriage, every friend I had, and my means of support. When you do something like that, you want to make sure it is for the right reasons. So, by the time I commited myself to the gospel, even though I still had many fears, I was sure it was the right thing to do. And I still am.
It has just been an emotional and painful month. My former friend wasn't my only challenge. So I was getting worn down. I've cried a lot. I've gotten angry a lot. I've worried about my former friend a lot. I have seen him in a downward spiral for the last couple of years, and I'm scared for him. So, I threw myself on my bed and wept. I've done that a lot lately. I told my Father in Heaven how much I'm hurting. I told Him how I feel totally alone. I told him how scared I am, how I'm tired of being tossed aside by people who are supposed to care. I told him how much I was worried about my former friend, how I want to see him well and righteous. I want to see him be the man I know he is deep down.
Then my Father answered. This morning I read a passage that said a thousand things to my heart at once. It was D & C 128:22. "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren: and on, on to the victory!"
Here is what my Father said. I hope it will be as encouraging to you as it was to me.
First, "Stop worrying and fussing about your friend. Put him in My care. I'm aware of his problems and am quite capable of helping him. More capable than you, in fact. You don't have to spend any more energy on him. Trust me to love him." I know it is elementary, and I should have known this as a no-brainer kind of thing, but I didn't. Every time the subject came up, my best friend, Wally, constantly told me to trust my Heavenly Father to help him, and yet it didn't sink in. I kept taking responsibility for him. Apparently, I can be a challenging friend too. Don't you almost feel sorry for Wally having such a dense friend? Now, my former friend still comes to the forefront of my mind, and with it comes an abundance of sadness and pain for losing such a dear friend, but I can say, "Heavenly Father, he is in your hands. Please love him and help him grow. Give him a heart of repentance that truly loves you." Then, I practice being at peace. And I do mean practice. It doesn't come naturally to me.
Secondly, Father told me to move forward in the work He has for me. It goes in tandem with the first thing. Don't get so bogged down worrying about Neil that I am neglecting the work He has given me. I've got tons to do. There are incredible things Heavenly Father has given me responsibility for, and more He has planned. That is where my energy needs to be spent. And, it is SO GREAT a cause. Look at our gospel. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! There is nothing more valuable to spend our time and energy on.
Finally, He told me to have courage. I need courage right now. I'm terrified. I have so much responsibility and so few resources. I'm exhausted all the time. I never have enough money, no matter how much I work, I have four precious children to raise on my own, plus the myriad of daily stressors that are a part of anyones life. A van that feels no responsibility to work on a regular basis, constant physical pain, a rodent that has decided he likes my home, children needing training in some areas they don't find as urgent as I do, a drunk that keeps showing up at my door to tell me I'm pretty, or yell at me depending on his mood. Life. Courage is required. I felt encouraged, but I also felt inadequate. I know my faith needs to improve. I have so far to grow. So many ways I know I disappoint Him. But, I'll keep trying. I want to please Him. I want to do well. I want to have courage. And, I will go on. I love this gospel, and I love my Father. There is so much glorious work to do.