Wednesday, November 1, 2017

It Could Happen to You

In the last 12 years I have seen and experienced things most people either only dream of and want more than anything or swear on their life (or at least hope) that it will never happen to them.

I have been in both of those situations myself, never thinking something will happen but wanting it and never believing something will happen, being sure that it won't.  Then I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was married for 8 years as of June 12th this year and much of what I never thought would happen did, for better and for worse.

I can't go into as much detail on the positive side because of the sacred nature of many of my experiences, especially in my marriage, so I'll save what I can say about that for later in this entry and this will be more than a list or a matter of 'look what I've been through'.  I just want to use this one to illustrate from my experience why we should never think "oh that will never happen to me in this life."  Believe me, whatever it is, it can, it can definitely happen to you.

For a brief recap, I grew up in a small 'podunk USA' town in western Colorado.  I had a relatively wonderful childhood, went to church every week, had loving parents who did everything they could to provide me with positive experiences and help me learn from the negative ones.  I had plenty of opportunities to build my faith, make good friends, achieve big things, travel, learn, etc.  Before September 2006 (when I got to Canada for the first time) I never had any idea what kinds of things my heart would or could feel as a result of what would happen to me.  I grew up in a good Christian bubble of a community where everyone was generally nice to everyone else, nothing ever changed much and I was mostly protected from more serious life problems like a life altering accident, terminal illness or extensive criminal activity.  So when I started to see the world the way it really was outside of that life, it shocked me.  I've been living a life very very far outside of that one for the last 12 years and if there's one thing I've learned more than anything else, it might be that you can never say that "that one thing" will never happen to you.

I've seen some of the people who I grew up around who's faith seemed rock solid all but abandon their faith (or for some, completely abandon it). I've felt the heartache of family making harrowing choices and/or turning to lifestyles that will only bring them misery forever if they don't repent.  I've had friends and family die of suicide and cancer, felt the agony of the effects of addiction, in myself and others, seen people I love suffer in indescribably ways at the hands of experts, professionals and even clergy.  I've been stabbed by the hurt of total betrayal, depression, and anxiety in ways that cannot be adequately described by human tongue.  I've seen missionaries who we love like family go home and revert to old unrighteous and impure standards, go inactive or even completely abandon their the church, even after they've so adamantly determined "Oh I'll go never let that happen to me", and then it happens.  I've known what it's like to feel trapped in a mental, spiritual and emotional hell, to be oppressed by people and circumstances out of my control and so complex and complicated that no one else could possibly understand.  I have watched my wife suffer a fate worse than death for years now and most of the time there's not a thing I can do about it.

All of this and more were things I was certain would never happen to me and what a horrible prideful attitude that was.  If I had the chance to go back and talk to my younger self I'd say "How dare you be so arrogant as to assume that you and loves ones are so impervious and 'protected' from hardship that such unimaginable trials could never happen to you?  You have no idea.  You think living the gospel gives you some taboo against that kind of thing?  You've got a huge shock coming.  Righteous living isn't supposed to prevent suffering.  It's supposed give you the spiritual power to go through that suffering like Jesus would." It's like the Ancient One said in Dr. Strange, "We never loose our demons. We only learn to live above them."

Eventually Satan will be cast into outer darkness with the rest of his followers, but the spirits of the children of God, including Satan, can never be destroyed.  Those of us in the three Kingdoms of Glory will simply be living out of his reach forever.

Since I don't want to make this only about all the bad things that could happen I'll include a link to this article I wrote in April 2015 to point out that some pretty amazing things can happen to you as well that you never thought possible.

Every time I catch up with an old friend these days I find out something that would normally be shocking, whether great and wonderful or dismal, and then realize 'That's right, the devil's hard at work.'  Don't get me wrong.  I don't think I've ever exactly been callous towards things like that or "used to it".  I don't look at anyone's deeply personal experiences for good or bad and think 'Oh I've read all that before.  It's nothing new. No big deal.'  I still empathize and have that feeling of "Oh wow! That is amazing and awesome!" or "Whoa that sucks. I feel awful for them. That's horrible."  I just don't allow myself to get the point where I think "Okay this goes too far, I never thought in a million years that that would ever happen to them."  Because believe me, if there's anything I've learned in the last 12 years about probability and circumstance, it's that I should NEVER assume that it can't get worse... or better!

Besides, the whole purpose of eternal progression is to always be stretched beyond our limits. As Elder Richard G. Scott said, "To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done."