I shared this story on Facebook the other day and my friend Ashley insisted I blog about it. (Ashley is one of those bloggers who have touched me. I have never met her IRL but I truly consider her a close friend. Love blogging!)
Perhaps this story will inspire others as it has apparently inspired Ashley.
Excellent book. You can read it in 30 minutes.
This story was told by Carlfred Broderick in his book The Uses of Adversity. He was my mom's cousin. We always just called him Uncle Carlfred. He attended Harvard and got his Ph.D from Cornell. He was a relationship and child development therapist and expert. He was a renowned professor at several universities throughout his career and was the executive director of the Marriage and Family Training Program at USC. He was renowned writer and authored everything from college textbooks to scientific journal articles to religious books. He was a bishop, a stake president, and a stake patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My uncle Carlfred
My memories of Uncle Carlfred are very old and faded, but I remember him being an excellent story teller. As such, I will let "him" tell this story and just retype it verbatim. Here he is talking about how much he learned by administering blessings to others as part of his religious callings. (And the woman he is referring to here is actually a family member, so he is actually closer to the situation than he implies).
...A sister whom I'd known for many years...who, in my judgment, had made some very poor life choices. She had married a handsome, charming man who...joined the Church for her. She waited a year to marry him and went to the temple. It was the last time he ever went to the temple. I knew he was a flake from the beginning. Out of my wisdom it didn't surprise me that he soon returned to his pre-Church habits....
There was great pain for this woman. A good, good woman, she kept in the Church; she kept in the kingdom; she suffered enormous pain because her husband went back to gambling and drinking and other things that were unhappy and unwholesome. But the greater pain came when her children, having these two models before them, began to follow him....They gradually seemed to adopt his lifestyle, values, and attitude toward the Church and toward sacred things. Although the mother never wavered from her own faith and faithfulness and her own commitment to Heavenly Father, her family was slipping away from her.
As she asked me for a blessing to sustain her in what to do in this awful situation in which she found herself, my thoughts were, "Didn't you ask for this? You married a guy who didn't really have any depth to him and raised your kids too permissively. You should have fought harder to keep them in church rather than letting them run off to the racetracks."
I had all those judgments in my head. I laid my hands on her head, and the Lord told her of his love and his tender concern for her. He acknowledged that he had given her (and she had volunteered for) a far, far harder task than he would have liked. (And, as he put in my mind, a harder task than I had had. I have eight good kids, all of whom went to the temple. All of whom would have been good if they were orphans.) She, however, had signed up for hard children, for children who had rebellious spirits but were valuable; for a hard husband who had a rebellious spirit but who was valuable.
The Lord alluded to events in her life that I hadn't known about, but that she confirmed afterward: Twice Heavenly Father had given her the choice between life and death, whether to come home and be relieved of her responsibilities, which weren't going very well, or to stay and see if she could work them through. Twice on death's bed she had sent the messenger away and gone back to the hard task. She stayed with it.
I repented. I realized I was in the presence of one of the Lord's great, noble spirits, one who had chosen not a safe place behind the lines pushing out the ordnance to the people in the front lines as I was doing, but somebody who chose to live out in the trenches where the Lord's work was being done, where there was risk, where you could be hurt, where you could lose, where you could be destroyed by your love. That was the way she had chosen to labor. Then I thought, "I am unworthy to lay my hands on her head..."
Like the image of the bunnies with the carrots at the top of this post, this story reminds me that life...that success...isn't always was we see. We shouldn't be too proud of our accomplishments, we are often given much help. We shouldn't be too hard on ourselves for our "failings"...our battles are not equal. And while this truth was revealed to the woman in the story, I fear that many of us go through our hard, hard tasks without this divine knowledge, compare ourselves to others, and consider ourselves failures.
I guess the moral of the story is don't judge. Don't judge others...don't judge ourselves. Success is ill-defined by what we see. The Lord has great plans for all his children...including you.