On Obstacles and Opportunities

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A few weeks ago, I made a few very stupid decisions in a row. I had been trying to get my credential to substitute teach here in California, while also getting everything together for my mission, and in the between times running kids to soccer practices and school.

So on this particular day, I was attempting to jump my way through the immense bureaucratic hoops that a certain government agency aka The US Post Office had set up in order to acquire my passport so I could get on with the process oof applying for a Visa and leaving the country. I had already been back and forth to said Post Office 3x, and was driving back after finally filing everything. I knew I was low on gas but figured I still had enough to rush my little sister to the college for her calculus class and then fill up but….I was wrong. We ran out of gas about halfway there. I felt stupid and deflated on top of the stress of resolving the current situation. This was the second time in 2 days I had tried to do something simple and felt I had completely failed.

The day before, in desperation to have a car to run around completing my errands, I jumped into the Jeep with my brother to drop him off at school. After trying to drive it out of the parking lot, I very quickly realized I really did NOT know how to drive stick(ended up driving through said parking lot in 1st and with three cars behind me.) FAIL. I had no cell phone to contact anyone. AND I was still wearing my big t shirt and leggings from the night before, no bra and no shoes. My giant hair was frizzily uncontained, and in this state I wandered up to a complete stranger and asked him if I could borrow his cell phone. I was able to get word to my brother where I would be sitting for the next two hours while he was in class, and sat myself down in the car to wait for him to drive my sorry butt home. Pretty much felt like the second batch of cupcakes here.

cookie-monster-cupcakes-nailed-it

Brought my favorite meme to mind

SO. Fast forward to the next day when I run out of gas.

Again, I feel completely dumb, and proceed to wait for my 17yo brother to come rescue me for the second time in two days. As I stood there redirecting traffic around the family van, I started to think why this would be happening to me right now. I didn’t feel intensely frustrated by the situation, more just resigned and tired. I wanted my brother to get there quickly but it ended up being over an hour before he could. Standing there though, looking a little helpless, I had someone stop every few minutes to ask if I was alright, did I need anything? Was there something they could  do to help? People from all different walks of life stopped. From a well coifed woman driving a BMW that smelled like Bath&Body from 5 feet away to a lady covered with tattoos in a rusty Subaru. I didn’t end up accepting their help, though after standing there for so long, I wondered if I should have, but I did learn something from all these people. People are still basically good. There are good hearts everywhere. I thought about whether I would have stopped if the situation were reversed. I wasn’t so sure. Yet I was the one who called myself a Christian, who was ready to take on a nametag bearing the name of Christ for 18 months.

It made me think about obstacles in general. Here I was, facing an obstacle that required help from someone else. And there they all were, people who were using my obstacle as an opportunity to serve. Just the simple act of asking was a gift of service. I thought of how we are told too often to face our obstacles on our own. Not in any obvious way, just in the values laced into our culture. The values of independence, privacy, and shame often blocking us from admitting we need help, or admitting we are wrong. Plus there’s the whole disconnection associated with the digital age. An era where we end up spending more time with our devices than investing in human connections. We live in a world where the first person you ask when you don’t know something is Siri. We have effectively reduced our obstacles. We now know the answer to our questions within seconds or minutes, and with no discussion with a living being.

I think one of the biggest reasons we are given obstacles is to teach us we can’t do it on our own. Telling ourselves we can is not only a lie, it limits our opportunities to build relationships. I’m not saying that every time we struggle we should look for someone to swoop in and save us. I just think we could use some of our obstacles as opportunities to learn what the people around us have to offer. It also offers us a unique opportunity to be humbled, to put things in perspective, and to gain patience through experience. Being stuck twice in a row definitely knocked me down a peg or two. I realized how little it mattered that I got my passport in on Wednesday instead of Thursday. What really matters right now is that I am completely committed to this decision to serve a mission. Even that, in a way, does not matter. What truly and deeply matters is that Heavenly Father loves me unconditionally and completely. He does not see my mortal failings as a reflection on my self worth. He also sends people my way to help me make it through times of great difficulty.

Every person that stopped that day boosted my faith in humanity. It was worth getting stuck on the side of the road to learn that there are still so many people willing to offer a helping hand. It was worth it to see that there are so many good people out there. People who are worth loving. People who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. People who are worth taking the time to invite into this Gospel. A Gospel that has changed me completely and wholly, and a message that is worth standing for.

It made me excited to get to know the good people in the Olangapo area very soon. Because if there’s a pervading value in Filipino culture, I would say it’s overpouring generosity. So if I can experience generosity waiting on a street corner in an American suburb, of course I am going to get to experience this in the Philippines. And I can’t wait! I can’t wait to meet people who will renew my faith in the Light of Christ by the way they touch me with their light. I can’t wait to share my faith with these people, and to believe above all else that they are Children of God who are loved beyond measure. I am sure there will be days where I feel beat down and broken, but getting the opportunity to see other’s light and to love them will be 110 percent worth it. And along every step of the way, I will have my Saviour tenderly helping me.

Whether it’s getting stuck on the side of the road, fighting through an addiction, suffering after losing a loved one, or trying to get the minimum GPA required for grad school, Heavenly Father is there for us. His love is unequivocal and irrevocable. He cheers us on even when we are rushing around too fast to hear the quiet whispers He sends us to let us know that “All of this works together for our own good.” No matter what is going on or what we have done, no matter how far away we think we have pushed away from His loving embrace, the power of the Atonement is that Christ already knows. He already knows and he has already felt every pain of our little hearts. I know this because I have been lost, confused, broken, and crushed before. And every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, Christ has lifted me up. If He does it for me, He will do it for you.

Love love love,

Sister Marissa McLean

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One thought on “On Obstacles and Opportunities

  1. Kimberlee Staking

    Wonderful, substantive reflections, Sister M. You are already providing such thoughtful and inspiring messages to us – you have truly taken D and C section 4 to heart! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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