Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons

When I was twenty-years-old, I went to a state-wide YSA conference at the Oakland Interstake Center.  As a general rule, I really hate these kinds of things but I went because all of my friends were going and I knew I would get an earful about being an anti-social, party-pooper if I didn't attend.  So I sat and listened attentively to all of the workshops on marriage and dating, even laughing at some of the jokes that were said because I was young and idealistic and thought that I would, of course, be married by the time I turned 22.

Around 4:00, things started to go a little downhill.  There was a meeting in the large auditorium in the Interstake Center.  I was sitting in a row with all of my friends when a guy came up, sat in the row in front of us, and turned around and smiled.  Being the naive girl that I was at the time, I returned his smile to be nice but realized too late that I was the only girl in my row who had; everyone else was ignoring him. 

I soon learned that a small act of kindness can, unfortunately, have bleak consequences.  The guy followed me around for the rest of the day.  He didn't speak English very well and I found myself involved in a lot of awkward conversations which, if you know me at all, I do not excel at. I have a hard enough time with native English speakers as it is.  I tried to avoid him but he somehow kept on finding me, eventually handing me a handwritten note that read, "I'm an accountant.  I make lots of money.  Give me a call sometime."  Being young and inexperienced, I wasn't sure what to do so I crumpled up the note and threw it away.  All of my friends said I should have kept the note as a souvenir.  By this point, I was regretting my choice to come to this activity.

Of course, the conference had to end with a dance.  I've never understood why people love dances so much.  What is the appeal of dancing around in a circle for a few hours, occasionally being asked to dance by a stranger who can't hear you over the music anyway?  But apparently I'm the odd-one-out with this opinion, so I reluctantly stepped onto the dimly lit gym floor and spent the next thirty minutes trying to avoid "my accountant friend."  As it turns out, he wasn't the only one I should have been avoiding. Another boy randomly came into our circle of friends, singled me out for some reason, and tried to freak dance with me.  This was the straw that broke the camel's back.  My friends tried to laugh it off but I had had enough.  I went outside and called my dad to ask if he would come all the way out to Oakland to pick me up and take me home.

Maybe that doesn't sound like that awful of a night and when I compare it to others that I've had since that time, it actually sounds pretty tame.  But the things that happened to me that night compounded with all the other unfortunate things that had happened to me that summer just about put me over the edge.  I went into my room, got ready for bed, and tried to sleep.  Instead I spent the next three hours crying and praying.  I had always felt like I had a testimony that God was there and he listened to my prayers but, in that moment, I wasn't really sure.  I realized that all I wanted in that moment was the assurance that someone was listening to me and knew that I was having a rough time.

At about two in the morning, I finally stopped crying.  I laid there in bed for a few minutes until the thought popped into my mind that I should read my scriptures.  I was tired and worn out from all the sobbing but I turned my light on and pulled my books out of my scripture bag.  Normally I would flip to a verse in the Book of Mormon when looking for something to sooth my soul but that day I felt like I should go to a random page.  After flipping through, I landed in the middle of the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.  After a few verses into Psalm 66, I was crying again.  "I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue...Verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me."  One of the worst summers of my life actually led me to one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had.  I knew that God was there, that he heard me, that he listened to me, that he was aware of my situation, and that he wanted me to succeed.

I am especially grateful during this Easter season that I have a Savior who not only knows of my situation but knows exactly what it is like to be in my shoes.  Christ is not a sympathetic observer of our lives; he is an empathetic participant.  If we rely on Him, He will carry us through our hard times and help us to overcome anything that stands in our way of true happiness.

The last few weeks have been rough.  Things never seem to go the way we plan.  People say bad and unfair things about us behind our backs.  People's lives are turned upside down by tragedy.  The world is a scary place.  But I know that, through it all, God is there.  Bad things will eventually turn into good.  The sour will become sweet.  Trials can be overcome and we will be better and stronger people as a result.

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