Lately, I’ve had to do a lot of paperwork to requalify for one of my jobs and start another business with a friend. Both of these things will result in great opportunities to earn more income and dig my family out of its financial hole. It has been an agonizing process. As I start to think I’ve got all of the paperwork lined up only to discover that there’s more, or that I did something wrong and have to redo it.
It’s a thorougly frustrating activity but I’m not surprised. It seems like anything I do that is worthwhile ends up taking me far too long and is an uphill battle in the extreme. When the Lord told Adam that by the sweat of his face he would eat bread all the days of his life, as a son of Adam, I can verify that it is true.
I wish it was just the big things. I can accept that big plans call for big efforts, but it happens on little stuff too. Reaching for one thing and knocking over another. Dealing wuth stubborn, uncooperative people. Having my efforts crumble after spending a lot of time on them. Nothing ever seems easy.
I wrote about some of this in a recent essay on my own blog, “Some Things Are Bigger Than We Are.” Here, I’m exploring another aspect of it.
Along with asking why something can’t be easy for a change, I ask myself why I should keep trying to do something that seems to be too hard to do. I do know the answer, but I usually don’t think about the answer until I’ve had a good time complaining about the problem.
A long time ago and a much smaller waist, I used to hike a lot. I was in pretty good shape and loved the feeling of being in the woods and sucking in all of the clean air. Somewhere in the middle of that, I got called to be a Scoutmaster, back in the day before they told me I wasn’t eligible (See Avowed). To this day, it was the best calling I’ve ever had in the Church.
Even that was difficult and I started out wanting to give up before I really got going. The boys were uncooperative. There seemed to be too much to learn. I didn’t feel like the parents supported me. At one committee meeting, one mother asked, “Couldn’t we get some leaders the boys can look up to?” I was very discouraged.
Discouragement notwithstanding, I perservered and grew into it. After many years of being a Scoutmaster of boys, I became a district trainer and a Scoutmaster of Scoutmasters. One thing I learned training LDS and non-LDS Scouters was that a lot of LDS units try to operate what I unaffectionately refer to as Merit Badge Mills. That’s when Scouting becomes a whirlwind tour of the merit badges and boys rack them up like they mean nothing.
For those of you into Scouting, you’ll know about something called a Scoutmaster’s Minute. Basically, it’s a quick object lesson you present at some point during a Scout meeting. At a meeting for Scout leaders in my LDS Stake, I was assigned to give the Scoutmaster’s Minute.
I don’t speak from a written script, so I can’t give it to you verbatim the way I did it then, but here’s a rehash of it.
I was walking in downtown Portland this week and decided to stop into a jewelry store. After looking at a few rings like this one [here I held up a ring], I approached a clerk and said, “I’d like you to give me that ring.”
She opened the case and held out the ring. “That’ll be $1199,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t say I wanted to buy the ring. I said I wanted you to give it to me.”
“Oh,” she said. “OK!” and she handed me the ring.
At this point, people in my meeting are looking at me like I’m crazy.
I walked out onto the street holding my ring. It was pretty. I started tossing it into the air while I walked.
Here I started tossing the ring that I had in my hand.
Eventually, I missed catching it and it went down a storm drain. I shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, “Oh well.”
They say that the best things in life are free. I disagree. The best things in life are earned. There’s a reason we expect every Scout to truly earn his awards. If we just give them out, they will eventually be worth nothing to the Scout.
I’m not sure how my Scoutmaster’s Minute was received. I didn’t get any pats on the back for it later. The audience seemed stunned.
I’ve often thought about this principle in my life as it relates to my same-sex attraction experience. Choosing a life that is contrary to what people say that a man like me should choose is just not easy. It never was. At the same time, having observed a lot of marriages, I think I can safely say that an easy marriage is very rare for anyone.
Staying faithful to the Church is also not easy. There are many challenges for someone who admits to experiencing same-sex attraction. You get pulled in a lot of directions. Everyone’s got an opinion and they usually stink.
A week ago Sunday, someone blurted out the ridiculous assertion that gays and lesbians can’t ever be forgiven. Being me is like being a rope in a tug-of-war contest sometimes. On one end are the people who say I can’t possibly be happy in the life I’ve chosen. At the other end are those who say that I’m not right with God until I expunge all same-sex attraction from me. Would that it was a tug of war with just one rope. There are other ropes, all wrapped around my waist and people lining up to drag me into the mud. It’s enough to make a person like me want to give up.
I would give up if it weren’t for some things I’ve learned about struggle. I can talk about some of the things that have been hard for me to do, but mostly from a focused view. Things like raising my family only seemed hard at the time. It seemed like there were always challenges, getting along with another person, dealing with children who had their own ways of doing things, financial hardships, and health setbacks.
Yet when I pull back, it all seems pretty easy. Same thing for Scouting. It always seemed like a chore, and an unruly chore at that. Sometimes I wanted to walk away from it. Yet, notice that I said it was the best calling I ever had. It’s not a coincidence that the best calling I ever had was also the hardest calling I ever had.
Consider this scripture: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Hebrews 12:11).”
For me, the peacable fruit of righteousness is the blessings I have received by striving and choosing the more difficult paths. Like climbing a trail, you work your heart and lungs, develop your muscles, take in the view, and transform yourself.
In my life, the best things in life are the things I’ve earned by the sweat of my face, including the best wife in the world, an awesome posterity, deep friendships, and a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If these things had been handed to me like the ring over the counter, I could easily toss them around like they were worthless and not care if I lost them. Yet, I worked hard for them and they matter all the more to me because of it.