It probably won't surprise you that I have a guilt complex about an exceedingly large number of things. We're going to allow "Ridiculous Liz" to speak for a moment.
This morning I went to our stake Relief Society activity. We had workshops on providing, nourishing, and beautifying. In the "provide" workshop, I chose a lovely little seat in the middle, next to some sisters I didn't know. We spoke about getting a higher education, managing finances, food storage, and all the wonders of self-reliance (shout out to ProvidentLiving.org, one of my work projects). As we neared the end of the lesson, the instructor said that one lucky person had a yellow ribbon tied to her chair and would win a bottle of raspberry jam. The air was filled with the usual bustle of giggles and hopeful expressions as each sister hoped to see the sign that they won. Alas, you guessed it! (the picture gives it away). I won the jam.
Two feelings simultaneously crossed my mind.
|The Jam Parable|
Rational Liz: Wow! That's great! I love homemade jam!
Ridiculous Liz: Oh man, that means that someone else didn't win the jam. I shouldn't have gotten it. Other people deserve it more than I do. I have jam at home; I'm sure someone else needs this more. In fact, I was just at the Food Bank packing up food boxes for people in need...maybe they should have it....etc., etc., etc.
Writer Liz (wait, where did she come from?): I've got to blog about this.
I know what you're thinking right now. "Seriously, Liz?"
But this time the Ridiculous Liz thought passed quickly, because she is learning.
Several months ago, I went through a time when I was just feeling exceedingly blessed. I was getting close to finishing my master's; I was getting a handle on some things at work. I was just feeling good about life. But in my work, I often deal with heavy spiritual, social and emotional matters. I learn of poverty, of families destroyed through addictions, of pains that don't make sense in this life. As I contemplated all that I had and that others seemingly did not have, it didn't seem fair to me. I didn't see why I should be so blessed when I felt others were not as equally blessed. And I got angry with myself for even thinking that my own trials and struggles are hard, when they seem like nothing compared to others. My thoughts turned heavenward, expressing why I didn't deserve the blessings I have and how I am not worthy of them and how much other people need them more than I do.
In that moment of reflection, I felt an impression very strongly that said, "Liz, why won't you let me bless you? I want to bless you. Let me bless you."
It was an expression of love as well as a soft rebuke.
It is not difficult to recognize how blessed I am. I have the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have family and friends. Employment. A warm home.
But it is difficult for me to ever feel I deserve it. Why? Because none of us really do. That is the miracle of God's love for us. In fact, that is the "paradox of man" as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf says, "Compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God." This understanding has taught me a few principles:
Our Father wants to bless us. Think of how much parents love to give their children presents and shower them with the best things in life, just because the children exist, and just because they are their own. Likewise, the Savior said in Matthew 7:11:
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
The Lord does not operate on a quid pro quo status. It is not always a "You did this, so you deserve this" way of meting out blessings. On the reverse side, that isn't to say there aren't consequences for our actions. But it is to say that sometimes we are blessed just because He wants to bless us. And He always blesses us more than we have offered Him on our humble altar. He offers the "windows of heaven" and "all that the Father hath".
The Lord does not operate a zero sum game. If He blesses me with something, that doesn't mean He won't bless others as well. Ridiculous Liz has often felt sad--even guilty--for having a blessings others don't have. She feels sad if she goes on a date because she knows so many who don't. She feels sad when she gets a promotion because she knows others are struggling to find a good job. She feels like she doesn't deserve her life in so many ways. But it's NOT a zero sum game. There is no shortage of blessings the Father can give out. He blesses all His children, in His time, in His way, and according to the individual needs of those He so dearly loves.
Lest ye forget, trials are blessings. I hear this all the time, I tell people this all the time, yet I fail to internalize it all the time. In no way do I minimize deep struggles or make light of situations that are heart-wrenching and downright difficult, but sometimes when we don't feel blessed, it may just be the very moment we are being blessed the most. In my life, break-ups have taught me empathy, failure at finding employment has helped me learn frugality and compassion, illness has taught me about God's eternal plan for us, and death has taught me the depth of my ability to love. A more thorough look into others' lives may reveal far more blessings than I can realize. Who am I to decide what is actually a blessing and what is not in others' lives?
It is a paradox that God blesses us when we don't deserve it. It is a paradox that trials can be blessings. But I am learning to listen to that voice that whispers, "Let me bless you." Even if it's just a bottle of raspberry jam.
Labels: blessings, let me bless you, raspberry jam