Twice a year in the LDS Faith, we gather all over the world and listen to a broadcast out of Salt Lake City, UT where the leaders of our church speak to the general assembly of the church. April 6 & 7 was the most recent one. I would like to share a concept that one of these men spoke of and discuss it for a moment.
I have a cherished painting in my office that is titled Entrance to Enlightenment. It was created by a friend of mine, the Danish artist Johan Benthin, who was the first stake president in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The painting shows a dark room with an open door from which light is shining. It is interesting to me that the light coming through the door does not illuminate the entire room—only the space immediately in front of the door.
To me, the darkness and light in this painting are a metaphor for life. It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved.
But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances, God promises the hope of His light—He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.
I’d like to tell you about a woman who grew up in a room filled with darkness—I’ll call her Jane.
From the time Jane was three years old, she was repeatedly beaten, belittled, and abused. She was threatened and mocked. She awoke each morning not knowing if she would survive until the next day. The people who should have protected her were those who tortured her or allowed the abuse to continue.
In order to protect herself, Jane learned to stop feeling. She had no hope of rescue, so she hardened herself to the horror of her reality. There was no light in her world, so she became resigned to the darkness. With a numbness that can come only from constant and unrelenting contact with evil, she accepted the fact that any moment might be her last.
Then, at age 18, Jane discovered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The joy and hope of the restored gospel penetrated her heart, and she accepted the invitation to be baptized. For the first time, light entered her life, and she saw a bright path before her. She left the darkness of her world and decided to attend school a great distance away from her abuser. At last she felt liberated from an environment of darkness and evil—free to enjoy the Savior’s sweet peace and miraculous healing.
However, years later, after her abuser had died, Jane was again troubled by the horrible events of her youth. Profound sadness and anger threatened to destroy the wonderful light she had found in the gospel. She realized that if she allowed that darkness to consume her, her tormentor would have a final victory.
She sought counseling and medical help and began to realize that, for her, the best path for healing was to understand and accept that darkness exists—but not to dwell there. For, as she now knew, light also exists—and that is where she chose to dwell.
Given her dark past, Jane could easily have become vindictive, venomous, or violent. But she didn’t. She resisted the temptation to spread the darkness, refusing to lash out in anger, hurt, or cynicism. Instead, she held fast to the hope that with God’s help she could be healed. She chose to radiate light and devote her life to helping others. This decision enabled her to leave the past behind and to step into a glorious, bright future.
She became a schoolteacher, and today, decades later, her love has influenced the lives of hundreds of children, helping them to know that they have worth, that they are important. She has become a tireless defender of the weak, the victimized, and the discouraged. She builds, strengthens, and inspires everyone around her.
Jane learned that healing comes when we move away from the darkness and walk toward the hope of a brighter light. It was in the practical application of faith, hope, and charity that she not only transformed her own life but forever blessed the lives of many, many others.
– Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The story of “Jane” is an extreme one, to be sure, but therein lies a lesson for all of us. When we are faced with darkness in our lives, both of the external kind, and the darkness that comes from confusion, we can follow the same process as Jane. We educate ourselves on the situation, we make a choice, and then we DO. There is great power in doing. Doing has the power to lift our spirits. It has the power to motivate. It has the power to empower. Doing is an incredible principle. And the great thing is, it even works if we’re doing the wrong thing. Robert H. Schuller said, “Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.” Isn’t that truth? The simple act of moving helps us to feel empowered. If we are doing the wrong things, that power stays with us through the discovery of our error and can help motivate us to correction.
There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. There is nothing wrong with preparing for adverse consequences. But ultimately, nothing happens unless we DO. I challenge you to look at your life, and find that thing on the surface that you have been holding back on. You’ve worried about it. You’ve anticipated possible negative consequences to it and planned how to avoid them. There is, however, a lingering fear that something will go wrong…that you’ll fail.
Find that thing. Then go and DO something. Fail. Don’t fail. It doesn’t matter. Simply DO. If you fail, there is something to be learned that can help you in the future. Learn it, then try again by making a different move. If you succeed, you are that much farther along your path. Either way, you have become better, smarter, wiser. No one can ask for more than that. No one.
Don’t stay in the darkness simply because the light only stretches a few inches in front of you. Trust that the light will be there when you need it and walk. You’ll be glad you did.
– Josh Walles
The Mindful Life Coach