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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

15. Spiritual Land Mine #3b: The REAL Heroes in Your Midst

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 15th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21; Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 19:10, 19:14; Ezekiel 8:3, 36:5-6, 39:25; Nahum 1:2).  He is saddened when we praise, honor and glorify his creations, not the Creator:
"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood" (Isaiah 10:15)
Conversely, He delights in those who delight in Him, praise His name and add glory to Him (Jeremiah 9:24; D&C 41:1, 76:5).  Indeed, It's been my experience that my ability to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Him is enhanced when I praise Him, and not others.

So, in my last post, we discussed our predilection to praise -- or to be praised by -- other mortals.  We do it by [1] seeking praise and the honors of men, [2] not openly seeking praise, but never turning it down when it's given, and [3] never redirecting that praise to the Father.  Those who consistently display such behaviors can be found in all walks of life -- even in places where you’d least expect them.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a different kind of personality -- those who typically display none of these behaviors. They shun praise and are quick to deflect it to God when they do receive it.

Interestingly, these “praise shunning” people often differ from the “praise embracing” people in another way: They have lived through some truly hellish experiences, and afterwards, they can be found quietly praising God.  And in most cases, you'd never know what they've gone through.

Rocky Balboa, Profound Philosopher
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"Rocky Balboa" was the last of the Rocky series (well...so far; I don't discount the possibility there could be a future one where he battles Clubber Lang in a nursing home).  In it, Rocky is coaxed from retirement into an exhibition match against the heavyweight champ, Mason 'The Line' Dixon.  Before the match, Rocky has a little chit chat with his son, who is floundering in life. Rocky says:
"Let me tell you something you already know:
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life.
It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done!
Now, if you know what you're worth, then go and get what you're worth, but you have to be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t who you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t YOU.  You're better than that."
I repeat: "It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward."

The Heroes Who Really Aren't


I recently noticed that an anonymous LDS bookstore carries quite a few biographies.  Practically all of these mortal biographical subjects (who have been called a "hero" at some point or another) had impressive titles and/or sports stats, and brought about good works which were highly touted...chapter after chapter.

Yet, to a one, these people lacked an essential element most (fictitious and real) heroes exemplify: They never really were dealt some serious hits in their lives.  Accomplishments?  Ohhhh yes, they had oodles of those.  But true, devastatingly horrible, nightmarish events that impacted them to the very core?  Nope, not a one.  They either didn't experience such an event[s] or didn't share that (potentially inspiring) portion of their biography.

The Real Heroes


I think the time has come for us to "get real" and reevaluate who we consider to be true heroes.  In my opinion, heroism isn't about titles or biographies or awards or number of wins or anything even close to any of that "stuff."  Because that's all it is -- stuff!  Rocky was right: it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Try comparing those world-defined "heroes" with these friends of mine:
  • The woman who grew up so abused (in ways too horrific to mention), that she should have died long ago.  Yet she not only lives, but shines with a spiritual radiance that your soul can perceive it, even from a distance.
  • Another woman was raped in college one night after Family Home Evening by one of her FHE brothers.  After meeting with a college bishop, she was not consoled, but instead, instructed on the proper repentance steps she needed to take.  She was also denied the ability to take the sacrament for a year after her rape.  Today, she's still getting arrows slung at her...for showing unwavering, unashamed compassion to those who are also shunned.
  • One good (anonymous) man has been repeatedly, viciously, publicly, unjustly ridiculed, mocked, judged and condemned for his spiritual experiences, yet leads a very quiet, unassuming life dedicated to helping those in pain.
  • A man who followed his mother's example and led a drug-induced lifestyle as a teenager, and because of it, now suffers from a rare, highly debilitating form of manic depression.  Yet today, he spends his life trying to edify others and bring them to the feet of the Master.
  • Another woman told never to participate in church meetings because "she knows the scriptures too well."
  • A husband and wife who used to be drug dealers, but converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Shortly after their conversion, they were shunned by ward members.  Still, they would give their last dollar to someone in need, without hesitation or reservation.
  • A woman was raped repeatedly as a teenager by her stepfather.  Today, she is raising her sons in the gospel with so much enthusiasm, that they are truly modern-day stripling warriors.
  • Another woman who was violently beaten and raped by her (now ex-) husband, and now wonders each day if he will come to do more harm to her and her child.  She, too, is raising her son as a modern-day stripling warrior.

In all the church-based biographies I read the other day, not one of them even came close to describing the absolute hell that these real people went through (who came out the other side of the event[s] praising God and leading quiet, humble, unassuming lives).

Common Denominators


I've found that these friends of mine have some common denominators which have both inspired and humbled me:

Hold the praise: They don't seek praise, honors or awards.  They don't want them - at all.  In fact, they tend to shun spotlights and stages.  Any praise which does come their way is not met with silence or nice words, but instead, immediate, natural deflection to Heavenly Father.  They simply want you to honor and know He who has sustained them through all their years, and perhaps decades, of hell.

When they look hell in the eyes, hell blinks: They have walked (most often, on several occasions) the fiery hot coals of trial, tribulation and (in some cases) torture.  These experiences have been balanced with a quiet, sweet, serene, personal knowledge of (not belief in) the Savior, who has personally comforted them in a way that no mortal ever could.  They sometimes exhibit a soft-spoken, meek demeanor and voice.  But don't let their softness fool you; they also have a toughness, a rigidity, that not even the powers of hell can bend or break.

Genuineness:  They don't talk about humility.  They don't have a feigned, fakey humility. They ARE humble. They commonly don't have the biggest homes, the nicest cars, the fanciest clothes, the highest titles or offices.  They have little or no jewelry, motorcycles, ATVs or motor homes.  They often struggle to make ends meet.  Yet even in their less-than-prosperous circumstances, they share what little currency and coins they have on hand with a beggar.  They're prone to say, ”Hey, its not my money, its God's.  He tells me how to spend it.”  When they witness any degree of suffering, they expend a tremendous amount of compassion and sensitivity.

They're not of this world: They are commonly despised by others -- even church leaders/members and their extended families.  Those who are acquainted with them often falsely accuse them of sin, call them names behind their backs and look for ways not to include them in...well, anything - even family and church activities.  Those who don't know them are even more harsh, spewing judgment upon them in self-righteous superiority.  Yet these victims return the ugliness with forgiveness and prayers on their tormentor's behalf.

They have the right perspective: They know they must "go the distance" and "be strong," facing the harms of the world while traveling "down an unknown road."   They know it might take a lifetime, but they won't accept defeat.  Despite life's uphill slopes, they don't give up hope -- especially of one thing: a hero's welcome in their Heavenly Father's loving arms.

Perfection: Are they perfect in these behaviors?  No.  They struggle with consistency, and have as many imperfections as anybody else.  They are keenly aware of their inadequacies, and it bothers them to the core that they aren't more Christlike.

The Lord's Definition of a True Hero


It's an eternal principle (and the central theme of the Book of Isaiah): He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. I think Rabbi Nachman put it best:
“Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent:
When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt.” (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, “Restore My Soul” [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17).
The ultimate exemplar of this is Jesus Christ, who descended below all things.  He was born in the lowliest of circumstances.  He went among the sinners, was despised, betrayed and ultimately killed.  "He comprehended all things" by suffering every individual act of frustration, sadness and pain ever experienced in the history of earth so He could know how to help us rise above our daily difficulties (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8).

In so doing, a magnificent outcome emerged: he ascended above all things...to the right hand of the Father.
"Therefore, let us not resent those tutoring experiences which can develop our own empathy further (see Alma 7:11-12).  So being admitted fully to 'the fellowship of his sufferings' requires the full dues of discipleship (Philip. 3:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:9)." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope", April 2001 General Conference)
So it is with us.

True, we don’t seek out tests, trials and tribulations.  Life provides us with just the right amount for our needs.

But those who are dealt the severest tests, trials and tribulations -- yet overcome them with their faith intact, praising God and seeking His will -- qualify them as "more than conquerors" with "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" with He who overcame all:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"These things remain to overcome through patience, that such may receive a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, otherwise, a greater condemnation. Amen." (D&C 63:66)
I love the words of Paul:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:35,37; emphasis mine)

An Invitation


Man has always defined praiseworthiness by those who get the most awards, the most honors, the most touchdowns/rebounds/home runs, give the most philanthropic donations or get a building named after them.  We count these people as our examples.

But somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of who the true heroes are.

Tonight, before you go to bed, I'd like to invite you to ponder true heroes.  Then thank Heavenly Father for bringing them -- the people who really take some (spiritual) body blows in life, yet keep moving forward -- into your life.

Then, from that moment on, commit to always keep in mind who true heroes praise and glorify: God.

As you do that, in that moment where mortality meets eternity, where there are no cheering fans nor autographs, your light -- and the light of that hero -- will burn even brighter before He who is the source of all light.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent things to ponder and consider. I of recent have really stopped to think about what it means to "Abase" oneself. In that we choose to avoid the honor of men. We reach out to help others without thought of praise or glory to ourselves. We seek for ways to serve and give all the glory to God. It reminds me of what Charity is:

    4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

    5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

    6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

    7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8

    It is a matter of choice to abase ourselves and seek to have Charity towards others. I was thinking as I read about the sufferings of many of your friends and the things they endured and humility they have shown.... How can any of us expect to be in Heaven with those who have suffered, unless we ourselves are willing to suffer and "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father"? (See Mosiah 3:19)

    We cannot expect to receive of this wonderful gift of Eternal Life from our Father, if we are not willing to serve and suffer; we would feel unworthy to be in the presence of these True Heroes, if we ourselves glide by without challenges and without doing everything we can to serve others.

    More on Charity in Moroni 7:45-48:

    45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

    47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

    48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

    I think that true heroes have endlessly sought for and found Charity. Are we praying for Charity like Moroni admonishes "with all the energy of heart"? If we have not, how can we think we will feel comfortable in Heaven amongst those who did? It is time to renew our desires to find it that God may grant it unto us. He will guide us to find it, if we ask Him. I found an amazing Movie on Netflix that I would like to share here. It is called Encounter and it is about 5 people privileged enough to have Jesus appear to them and speak with them face to face. I found it here on YouTube too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgI0f1xeffo

    AMAZING! May God Bless you always. :) Thanks for sharing this blog post with us.

    Anon

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  2. Timing is everything and as I have read your series this topic has come to the for front the last few weeks. Praise of the world seems to be a evident all round us. Something I have been think on as to my motives to my thoughts and actions.

    I am always humbled by those that have received the worst of humanity and not been overcome by it. I know many that have had similar experiences at the hands of those that should have succored them. We can all use more empathy as we try to perfect charity through Christ.

    We all are going to have to be of the "fellowship of the suffering of Christ" even if its only through charity we can fully empathize by wiping of the tears of those who suffer more. I think you can tell the heart of a man or woman by how they succor those traumatized by degradation of man, war and natural disasters.

    Good post. I have enjoyed all the them on this blog.

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