More than one person (two to be exact) has asked asked me a question along the lines of, "Max, how is it that you have held on for so long?" This post is going to be a feeble attempt at answering that question.
First of all, I think I need to let everyone know what a bumpy ride it has been. If you've read my previous posts about the whole situation that I've been through with John, you'll nod your head in the affirmative. I've had bumps, bruises, bloody knuckles/noses, sprains, aches, wounds, compound fractures, and athletes foot. Some of the injuries you receive while traveling down this path can take a very, very long time to heal. Some of them may never fully heal - just like Frodo's shoulder wound that he received on Weathertop from the Nazgul.... Sorry, I nerded out there for a second.
Anyway, what I'm getting at is that I don't want anyone to think that I've lived some sort of charmed life, and haven't had it just as bad as the rest of you - because I have. In fact, I look at a lot of you who live so close to each other and socialize and support each other, and I view you guys as living the charmed existence. It's us loners that have it really tough. But, that is neither here nor there, I don't want to get into a discussion of who has it worse. Suffice to say, it sucks ass for ALL of us. Agreed?
So what is it that has "kept me going" for so long? In a recent IM chat with another MoHo I made these points:
1) Seeking Spiritual Experiences
You need spiritual experiences in your life to constantly reaffirm your testimony. One of the best ways to seek spiritual experiences (if you're an Elder) is to give blessings to your home teachees. Visit them every month and don't just offer, but ask them if you can give them one. If you ask, "May we give you a priesthood blessing before we leave?" at the end of your visit, most people won't say no. When you put your hands on their head to give them a blessing, just wait in silence for a few moments. Stop and listen. Wait for the Spirit to come into the room. Don't say what you think you should say, say what the Spirit directs you to say. The more you do this, the better you will get at it. Honestly, giving quality blessings is very much like training for a sport, the more you do it and the more attention you give it, the better you become at it. The better you become at it, the more spiritual those experiences become (as long as you don't get cocky about it).
2) Daily Prayer
Sunday School answers are great. If you can't do anything else that you learned in Sunday School, you must pray. Morning and night. Even if your prayers are sometimes bland and a repeat of what you said yesterday, just putting yourself in the habit of praying helps you keep a certain mindset so that when times are really tough, you think to pray for help.
Just as a side note, I've prayed in Spanish since my mission. Because of that, I still speak Spanish fairly well. For all of you learned a language on your mission, it's a good way to keep that skill up.
3) Pay A Full Tithe
Paying tithing has saved my bacon more than once in this life. I've had a lot of experiences where I have been financially/occupationally blessed, and I attribute it all to being a full tithe payer. This couples back into my first comment of seeking spiritual experiences as testimony builders. Paying tithing will offer you this.
4) Patriarchal Blessing
Read it over and over again - weekly if you can remember to. It is direct revelation for you in your life. I just reread mine on Sunday and received new insight into it. I thought that I had it all understood, but in the light of what's happend in my life over the last 6 months, there is a certain passage that has now taken on a whole new meaning for me. It has given me some much needed hope this week.
5) My Generally Cheery Disposition
I am sarcastic. I am a joker. I laugh a lot (John can attest to that, it's what makes me so charming). Laughter is the best way to relieve stress and to turn a bad situation into a good one. It's amazing what it can do for you. Try it sometime.
So, that's just a few of the random things I came up with on the spot in my conversation on Sunday night. Maybe someone will find it useful. Maybe not. As you can see, there is nothing really magical that I have done to keep on the path. It's mostly just a lot of hard work and determination.
If I come up with some more, I'll make an addendum post.