“What is to give light – must endure burning” — Victor Frankl
Never choosing wrong is always better than choosing wrong and then having to repent. That’s not because the Atonement isn’t real, or because any sin we’ve committed or ommitted is beyond it’s efficacy, or that we can’t be clean again — but mostly it’s because of the time lost and the progress we could have achieved had we just stayed on track.
Pam Reed, the great women’s ultra runner, was superior to all her competitors (including men) because of one factor: she never (or rarely) stopped to rest. She once ran 300 miles without sleep. She said resting in a race just didn’t make sense to her because not only did you lose the time you spent resting, but you also lost the ground you would have covered had you just kept going.
That’s pretty insightful – and it’s applicable to living the Gospel, not just distance running.
To her observation about ground not covered, add how utterly stupid it would it be for us to just keep running if we were on the wrong road, or on the right road running the wrong direction! In either case, we’d be expending the same effort, but we’d constantly be getting farther and farther away from our destination. That’s what we do when we continue to sin, especially willfully and rebelliously.
CS Lewis taught it this way:
“We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil, but from other good.
I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound bit by bit.“
A speaker in church one Sunday told a story about a man who worked hard and amassed a large fortune. It came time for him to pass his wealth along to his son, but he wanted to make sure the son would be a good steward and not waste the fortune. So the father called the son in and asked him to go out and work and bring him $500. When the father left the room, the mother took the son aside and said his father’s request was unnecessary – that there was no need for him to go through the process. She handed him $500 and told him to give it to his father. The son took the money and gave it to his father, who immediately threw it in the fire and told him to go out and earn it as requested. Again the mother overheard the conversation. She told the son he’d done it incorrectly — she gave him another $500 and told him to go out and dirty his clothes and hands and then give it to his father. He followed her instructions. Again the father threw the money into the fire and told the son to go earn $500 and bring it to him. This time the son decided to do what his father asked. He worked hard at all sorts of jobs and returned with the money. He gave it to his father and the father immediately threw it into the fire again. This time the son reached into the fire to pull the money out. At that, the father said that now he knew the son had indeed earned the money, because he saw what he was willing to do to retain it.
All that ties into this familiar quote from Thomas Paine: “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”
We typically only appreciate what we’ve had to sacrifice for. That’s why parenting teaches us how to truly love. It’s also why it’s no accident that living the Gospel is difficult and demanding. Not living it and having to repent is demanding, too. Either way, when we are converted, we will likely spend some time getting dirty, scarred, beaten up, and with our hand in the fire.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women General President said:
“We often refer to the scripture that ‘where much is given, much is required.’ (Luke 12:48) I believe that a close corollary to this is that ‘where much is required, much more will be given.’
“In other words, if we expect more of our youth, they will step up to the challenge, and I do believe that we need to require more of them. We need to step up our teaching so that our youth do more on their own to understand the doctrines of Christ and the reality of the Restoration, and we need to find a way to motivate them to write these things on the ‘tablets of their hearts.’ ”
I think Sister Oscarson was onto something. And I think it’s application is universal, not specific to youth only. I also think regardless of the fires we’ve encountered in the past, more frequent and more intense ‘refining‘ awaits us all. And so do greater blessings.