Thursday, February 9, 2017

Who are you..?

A few years ago I was asked to give a fireside to a group of Relief Society sisters in Tooele. Sharing music in fireside-settings is one of my favorite things, so I was thrilled and said,"Of course! What's the theme you'd like me to present on?"

"Wonderful! We'd like you to speak on 'Remembering who you are'," came the answer.

"Ooh...ok...great!" I responded...while I silently screamed,"NOOOOO!" inside.

My mind immediately started churning: 'What on earth am I going to say to this group of women that they haven't already heard a MILLION times? How is anyone going to stay awake?? How am I going to stay awake?!' (This was back during the dark days of Violet only sleeping 45 minutes at a time...and I was defying all the laws of nature by somehow staying alive.)

Photo from the 'dark days'
I remember beginning my preparation for that fireside with a prayer that I would somehow be able to approach the topic of being daughters of God in a new way...that whoever needed to be touched and impacted, would be.

Preparing for that fireside ended up being one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.

You know who needed to be touched and impacted..? Me.

I want to share a few things I learned while preparing to speak on that subject.

First, let me say that I grew up in the LDS church. I can't even begin to imagine the number of times I've heard that I'm a child of God. From hearing and singing the beloved primary song "I am a Child of God" in nursery as a toddler and junior and senior primary, to repeating it in the Young Women's Theme each week between the ages 12-18, to graduating to Relief Society and hearing it spoken weekly there. Sacrament meetings, youth conferences, girls' camps, EFY's, every time I left the house as a teenager hearing,"Remember who you are!" being shouted at me from somewhere in my home, any and all meetings with any leader, the frequent message printed on adorable handouts and bookmarks...I get the picture. There comes a point at which you kind of go,"ALRIGHT ALREADY. I GOT IT. I GOT IT!! I'M A CHILD OF GOD, OK? CALM DOWN."

When I came across this quote by Marion G Romney while studying for that fireside, though, it stopped me in my tracks:

"Man is a child of God - a god in embryo. That man is a child of God is the most important knowledge available to mankind." (see here)

"The MOST IMPORTANT knowledge available to mankind..??" I thought, "If it's the most important knowledge available to mankind, why have I never studied this before..? have I never fasted and prayed about it..? How have I gotten to THIS age and I've never sought out a specific witness from God that I'm His child..??"

I think there are probably many reading this blog right now who are in the same boat. Have YOU ever studied being a child of God? Fasted and prayed about it..?

Why not?

I think the likely reason is that we've heard it so often - from the time we were tiny babes until now - that we just take it for granted. Sure, we think, I'm a child of God. Sure, I believe that.

But do we REALLY believe it..? Have we internalized that knowledge through study and prayer?

**Some of you might be wondering,"But WHY is it the most important knowledge..?" The quick answer is - because it affects EVERYTHING. Who we believe we are/positive self-image is the foundation and framework for our everyday reality. Many scientific studies have been conducted where the truth of that statement has been verified. Don't believe me? Google it.**

Let me walk you through an exercise that will help illustrate what I'm talking about...

Let's imagine we're walking down the street, and I stop you (in a super non-creepy way) and ask,"Hey! I recognize you! What's your name..? Who are you?"

I want you to think of the first ten things you'd tell me about yourself. Go on. We all have our favorite things we tell new people we meet! Maybe you'd start with your name, where you're from, the ward you're in, or what you do for work. You might continue with your hobbies, what your favorite Calee Reed song is (naturally), or what you're up to that day. At ANY point...would you throw in,"Oh! And I'm a child of God."


Would you??

No?? Why not!

Because it's a little socially awkward to lead with your faith? Ok, fine. Fair answer.

BUT would you at least THINK it..?

Would being a child of God be on your list of the top ten descriptors of yourself in your mind...? What about the top twenty? Is it anywhere on your radar..?

I've posed this question to hundreds of people at firesides since preparing for that initial fireside, and I've had maybe three people total say that they thought it. Everyone else? Not even on their mental list, let alone what they'd say out loud.


Let's say you were to walk into church this Sunday, and in Sunday school there's a question written up on the board, "Who are you?" with a big plate of brownies underneath it.


Not only your first answer...your ONLY answer.

It's "I am a child of God", right..?

YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE A FIRST NAME ANYMORE, PEOPLE (...let alone hobbies or kids).

You are STRICTLY "child of God (now hand me my brownie, please)."

Isn't that interesting..? Why is that? What magical thing happens when we're out in the world that being a child of God isn't even on the list of things we would use to describe ourselves, but as soon as we walk through the doors of a church building it's literally THE ONLY phrase we'd use to describe ourselves?

I think this is indicative of an incredibly important disconnect that many members of the church experience when it comes to the doctrine of our divine heritage: we know that we're children of God in our minds...we've heard it so often that the message has been ingrained in our minds, but we don't know it in our hearts. We forget to internalize the knowledge through sincere study and prayer, fasting, focused asking.

Why does any of that matter? For starters, we open ourselves up to being defined by the Adversary in our every day lives - giving in to critical self-talk, comparing, judging, negativity - when we don't have that true, deep, abiding conviction of who we are. We lose the benefit of having an actual testimony of that most precious truth, and set ourselves up for failure with shallow understanding.

The promised blessings that come with a conviction of knowing who we truly are are countless; in my studying, I've found that those blessings include things like confidence, freedom from fear, freedom from peer-pressure, peace during times of intense struggle and heartache, self-forgiveness, a natural increase in daily discipleship, loving others, forgiving others, perspective in challenges, and more. The blessings are so useful in real life, so powerful and life-changing.

As I began to study and pray to God to receive a personal witness that I am, in fact, His child...amazing things started happening to my testimony and heart. I started to see evidences of His love for me all around. I started to see myself as more than simply what I look like, how 'good' a person I am, as more than a Mom, more than what I do or how I do it. The process has been incredible - and I'm so, so thankful now I was asked to give that I could realize all that I DIDN'T know about being a child of God.

If you feel like you've received a witness that you are His, then maybe it's time to reconnect with that knowledge. After all, President Henry B Eyring said,"Faith has a short shelf life." (see here)  If you're like I was a few years ago, however, and have never studied or asked God to tell you that you're His...there's no better time to start studying to gain a testimony of the most important knowledge available to mankind than now! Speaking from experience, doing so will change your life.

So, what are you waiting for?? Get to studying!

(PS I hope that if I ever meet you on the street, the first thing out of your mouth will be - "Hi, I'm a child of God.")

(Obligatory photo of myself and my offspring)


Melissa Zilcosky said...

Thank you for this. I was baptized almost two years ago. I am a Child of God is still my favorite hymn. I was hiding from God because I did not think I was good enough. The missionaries were teaching my daughter and I. One day they brought one of the Brothers from Church and he made me realize that God loves me and that I am and always will be a child of God. There's a little more to that story, but you made me realize I need to do more to hold on to that part of my testimony. Thank you.
Melissa Zilcosky

Melissa Sutton said...

♡♡♡ i love this ♡♡♡

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