“If I tell you, you’ll forget; if I show you, you’ll remember; if I let you do it; you’ll understand” — Confucius
Hello, wonderful people! Happy bodacious bonza bottler day! (Look it up. If one of the Elders isn’t pulling my leg, it’s a real holiday.)
I can’t believe I’ve been a missionary for a whole month! It’s exciting to see how much I’ve grown in just 4 weeks but also a teensy bit depressing to know that I only have 17 months left. I never want my mission to end! And I haven’t even started the REAL work yet!
TO clear up some confusion about our “investigators,” they ARE played but MTC teachers, but are real people they taught on their missions who progressed but were never baptized. During “Demonstrate Teaching” (when a teacher demonstrates a full-length lesson) or “Practice Teaching” (when we give a lesson to another missionary) I’ve played people I know from back home. Hope that makes sense.
So. The above quote by Confucius sums up my week in multiple ways. I was starting to get distressed early in the week because I wasn’t feeling the Spirit lifting me to a higher plane of being like I have the first 3 weeks here. Having tons of love and empathy for others wasn’t a natural, easy thing anymore. I wasn’t hit over the head with the principles of our activities here in the MTC; rather I was focusing on the applications. I didn’t have the bird’s-eye perspective that I did before. Add overall the Spirit just felt dimmed. And I was stressed out because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I was giving every ounce of effort 100% of the time, using my time wisely, and really striving to come closer to the Lord. So what happened? Why don’t I feel the Spirit guiding my every step? After a lot of studying, pleading with the Lord, and a few tears, a principle of God’s manner of teaching was brought to my remembrance:
Before we came to this earth we lived with God. He taught us everything. We knew His gospel and we loved it. But then He sent us down to earth (and we accepted this plan), saying “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” So we were born with a veil of forgetfulness of our past life with Him, and we’re here to walk by faith. He will help us, but we have to experience it ourselves.
God operates by the same principle with us as we learn and grow here. As we decide we want to become more like Him, He sends us His Spirit to bring us a few steps closer to God. It shows us what we need to do. And then when we “get it” God removes that extra measure of the Spirit and says “Okay, show me how it’s done. I want you to learn and grow and become as I am, but you have to do it for yourself.” That doesn’t mean that He won’t help us, but He doesn’t use us as puppets. That’s the opposite of agency. When we do take that step and bring ourselves to the level the Spirit showed to us, the whole process starts again, and we keep climbing the stairway to Heaven, one step at a time.
So now I have to learn the principles of charity, perspective, etc. for myself. That requires a ton of effort. I have to work for it and work for the Spirit. But I know that it is so worth it and that through the Atonement I can do it.
On a completely different note, I’ve been pondering a lot of what I can do to help investigators cross the bridge from knowledge to understanding, from “getting it” in their head to “getting it” in their heart, from testimony to conversion. And I think that quote from Confucius really applies here, too. I don’t want them to remember; I want them to understand. Our teacher, Hermana Thomas, really gets teaching for understanding. She truly is the best teacher I’ve ever had in school, church, or anywhere. When we have a question, she guides us to figure it out for ourselves and then teach it back to her. She’s amazing at helping us liken scriptures, principles, or the missionary fundamentals to ourselves and our situations, and this manner of teaching is 10x more effective. She’s a wonderful example of how I need to teach investigators, and I’m striving to apply teaching for understanding in our lessons.
So yup. Life is good here. It snowed Saturday and Sunday so it’s really pretty. I’m getting to the point with the language where I can have a conversation with someone and then a minute later not remember if it was in Spanish or English. The BYU Men’s Chorus performed for us on Sunday, which was tons of fun. And yup, I’m still drinking barley grass juice, still singing Scripture Mastery songs (holler, Sister Carter!) and still ragging on Casey in my sleep. So maybe nothing has changed after all.
Thanks for all your Christmas cards! I love seeing your families and am so immensely grateful for your thoughts! I love every single one of you so much and pray for you all! Go serve somebody today!
XO Hermana Ball