One of my ballet teachers at BYU often said, “the lessons you don’t learn the first time, you will be forced to repeat.” You have to learn to point your toes before you can move on to jumps and leaps. Proper body alignment has to become second nature before you can hope to execute a double pirouette. We have to learn the simple foundational movements before we can be successful in the more complicated ones.
One of the things I love about BYU is that ballet teachers can double as great gospel teachers. My wise teacher was talking about more than just ballet. What she was really saying and what she was trying to instill in us is that every experience in life is a lesson that we have to internalize. That is why we’re here on this earth; to learn.
SIMPLE LESSONS AND HARD QUESTIONS
Specifically talking about the gospel, we start small. We learn the basics. We learn that we are children of God. We learn that God is our Heavenly Father who loves us. We learn that there is such a thing as right and wrong-that there are commandments that we must obey. If we obey them, we receive blessings. We learn that Jesus Christ came to this earth to provide a perfect example for us to follow. He suffered and died for our sins so that we could receive forgiveness when we make wrong choices. We learn that the purpose of this life is to find joy and happiness as we prepare to return to our loving Father in Heaven. Our Heavenly Father has put a plan in place so that we can do this. God’s entire purpose revolves around this plan of helping and saving his children. These are the basics.
As life goes on, the lessons get harder. We learn that life isn’t always fair. That sometimes, often-times, bad things happen to good people. That we don’t always get what we want, even if it’s something good. And the lesson that I have lately been learning- that good decisions are often met with opposition.
It is during these times when we’re learning the hard lessons that people can get lost in their search for answers. The beauty of the gospel is that we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept.” Meaning that knowing the basics of the gospel provides a foundation for finding answers to the harder questions that come up throughout our lives. Yes, it is true that this life is unfair. Tragedies and hardships happen and it’s difficult to accept. But that does not change the simple truth that God loves each of His children, and he takes care of every one. Every injustice in this life is made up for in the next, because of the atoning sacrifice of our Savior. Trusting in the simple lessons keep us grounded while we confront hard things.
GOING ON A MISSION
Surprisingly, at least to me, the aftermath of deciding to go on a mission was one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to go through. Going on a mission was a good thing! It was a good decision, but almost instantly I had to face some emotional challenges that made this decision really hard.
I didn’t always want to serve a mission. I was never one of those girls who knew practically from birth that they wanted to do this. I thought about it off and on, and I wasn’t necessarily against it, but a mission never really felt like part of my plan. When they first changed the mission age, my best friend called our bishop that very day and started her papers. Thousands of sisters were right there with her. I prayed about it, and my answer was no. Obviously, some things have changed…but it was not an easy transition. I was having a great time at BYU. I loved my major, my friends, the things I was learning-I was all set to graduate next year. I had a great plan full of lots of good, worthwhile things. But about a year ago I started feeling like it was time to pray about a mission again. I pushed against this feeling for a long time, but I couldn’t shake it. I finally decided to stop ignoring the spirit and start my papers. My answer was no a year ago, but now was the right time for me.
One of my return missionary friends kind of warned me that the second you get your mission call it’s like walking around with a huge fiery darts of the adversary dartboard on your face. I am here to testify that that is true. It’s true any time one of God’s children decides to do something in line with Heavenly Father’s will. Satan is just as real as Heavenly Father, and he really will do everything in his power to subtly distract you from doing the right thing. But a simple truth that I had been taught was that, with the help of my Savior, I was stronger than my doubts. I was stronger than the adversary who was trying to make me believe these awful things about myself. One of my favorite scriptures is:
“God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
Because I knew this, I knew that these thoughts were not from God and that I could find the strength to move past them.
GOD’S PLAN OVER MY PLAN
It was during this time that I really had to rely on the simple truths that I had been taught since childhood. There were times when it honestly felt like I would be happier if I just continued with my previous plan, stayed in Utah and graduated, moved to New York…all of those good things. However, I had been taught-and I knew-that Heavenly Father has a far larger perspective on my life than I do, and that He has a plan for my happiness. When we are discouraged or lost, the Lord counsels us to:
“Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”
So, I put my faith in my Heavenly Father, trusting His plan over my own, knowing that he would never lead me astray.
HOW THE SPIRIT SPEAKS
I think it’s so interesting that the Spirit answers prayers not through a loud, easily distinguished voice commanding us what to do, but through quiet feelings of peace. Quiet, unobtrusive voices can be easily dismissed and hard to hear. So why does Heavenly Father speak to his children in this way? But you know, think about how you feel whenever you are trying to make a decision. Where to move, what job to take, how to speak about a difficult topic with a family member. There are a thousand voices going in your head all at once. Opinions of experts, parents, friends, family, your own pro and con list; it’s loud! How, in the middle of all of these opinions which demand our consideration, can we discern the correct choice? We can know because the right choice, the choice that our Heavenly Father knows will lead us to the greatest happiness and fulfillment, will be accompanied by a quiet feeling of calm-which completely contrasts with the loud clamor going on everywhere else.
In cases like this, the peace of the Spirit is not easily dismissed. The peace of the Spirit-the answer from Heavenly Father-is so obviously different from the previous confusion that it is unmistakable. It reminds me of the famous story from the Savior’s life found in Matthew:
“And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”
When we call on our Savior to guide us through life, when we actively seek his guidance and pay attention to his answers, the peace that he brings is undeniable. The storms come, and they will come again, but we have to remember that Christ has the ability to calm the storms.
“Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build yoru foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
There truly is no greater witness than the peace that comes from following the Savior.
STICK WITH IT
So now, once I really felt this peace and felt like I had my answer, the challenge was sticking to it. Enduring. This quote by Elder Holland helped me a lot. He said:
Beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.
There is opposition in all things. Doing the right thing is never easy, but it is always worth it. It requires courage and faith.
CHICK-FIL-A IS TRUE
For me, maintaining that faith and courage came from recognizing the little everyday blessings; the times when I could tell that Heavenly Father was aware of me in my daily life. This story happened before I decided to serve, but it applies, I promise. There was this one day when I found out that a huge performance project I thought we were presenting in eight days was actually due in three, and I was SO overwhelmed and blindsided by this. I went into the student center to lay everything out and figure out how in the world we were going to get everything done in less than half the time we thought we had. I was hungry, but being me-I had left my wallet at home so I couldn’t buy lunch. I had only been sitting there a few minutes when a guy I didn’t know asked if he could share my table. I said sure and kept working. After a couple of minutes he asked me how my day was going. I was obviously frazzled, so not really in a position to lie and say that I was fine, so I told him that I was feeling a little stressed. He asked if I had eaten lunch yet, and I said no. He had Chick-fil-A, which is hands down the best food the Wilk has to offer. To my surprise, he pulled out an extra chicken sandwich and said, “I don’t know why, but when I was in line I just felt like I should buy another sandwich. Do you want it? … … and then I married him. No. But I was so grateful. His random act of kindness completely turned my day around. We still had to present in three days instead of eight, but I felt so uplifted and more able to face that challenge.
It might seem silly, but if we look for them, little things like that happen every day. That is the beauty of life Elder Holland was talking about. The problems at hand don’t go away, but sometimes Heavenly Father lets you know he loves you in the form of a kind stranger with an extra sandwich.
As I developed the habit of looking for the blessings: the good friends in my life, the kind gestures, hikes in the mountains, the proximity of the Provo temple; they completely overshadowed any negativity I was feeling. I was able to look at my life from a more optimistic and resilient place.
HEAVENLY FATHER HAS YOUR BACK
We can put our full confidence and trust in God. There is nothing that brings greater peace to my heart than that knowledge. I am so grateful for those simple lessons I learned to rely on so young in my life. What a great blessing it is to know without a doubt that every person on this earth is loved beyond human comprehension. I can’t wait to share that message of hope with the people I will meet in Denmark. I know that Heavenly Father sent me down this path for a reason. He sends us all down our own separate paths for reasons that we don’t always understand right away, but if we follow Him, we will discover our full potential in this life. The prophet Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace.”