Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moments of Growth

There are moments in life that you wonder what you did to become such a vessel of wrath. These times come and cause you to quiver, to ache, to see the very gaping mouth of Hell before you, which causes you to cower and to shrink. Moments such as these cause you to stretch forth your arm and question the very God of Heaven and Earth, to call out in anguish for answers, demanding that He hear you and give you vindication. There are moments in life when you see this Hell coming, and you blanch with dismay at the coming sorrow.

But then there are moments when nothing at all happens in your life and you don't even realize that such a Hell exists. There are moments when you look up over the din of your life and see that you have grown from those times. Although we don't like going through hell, it nevertheless makes us gain something we did not have before. These moments help us realize that having nothing happen at all isn't so bad.

And then there are moments when you do nothing at all, yet you ultimately grow as if put through a dozen crucibles. It is my belief that the majority of growth we receive does not come until after we have pondered on an experience we have had. My life here in Provo has seen its ups and its downs, and I have certainly gone through moments of Hell where I sat shivering in the dark loneliness of despair one experiences at such times. But I have also had moments where nothing happens and I just live my life.

Yet despite what moment I am having in my life, I am always perplexed by the idea that we must grow so we can survive ever greater trials. What is the point in growing if it just to allow us to fight an even bigger Hell ahead? I have never fully given credence to the idea that we suffer so we can grow.

Let me tell you of an experience of real growth that I have had just recently. This moment was truly a growing moment, and yet it is my strong belief that it was not meant to prepare me for some future event. Indeed, it is my strong belief that this moment occurred to make me understand an aspect of growth I did not understand: the capacity to live a joyful life.

To begin, let me give a little background. Recently I have been interviewing for jobs that will help launch my career after I graduate next April. From this search I have landed an interim job with a company named Axciom that could turn into a full-time career after graduation . Though I am not sure that I intend to stay with Axciom long term, I am definitely interested in working for them in the near future on some exciting new projects. This fact is crucial in leading me to the moment I am about to relate.

The particular moment I wish to describe played out much like a Hollywood nostalgia scene, where the main character arrives upon a place to perform an act when suddenly he enters a trance and the world around him changes. In this trance he sees himself, but many years younger and much more anxious and excited about his endeavor. Much like in those movie settings, our character watches as his younger self bumbles through the learning curve of life, striving to understand how to accomplish this pivotal moment that will set him on a path that leads he knows not where. He is filled with such hope, such brightness, and such conviction that what is ahead will be wonderful.

This moment, this scene from a movie that I so vividly lived, occurred the other day when I went to the library to print off and send in some papers for my new job with Axciom. I decided to go to the main floor's computer lab because it has a nifty machine that allows for sending scanned documents directly via-email. Because I don't go into this room often nor have I spent much if any time in this room during my time at BYU, I was not expecting to have waves of nostalgia rush over me. Nevertheless, what I experienced was nothing short of trip down memory lane.

As I signed and scanned my papers into the machine (all 32 pages, which is a whole other topic of discussion) I looked up over the computer aisles filled with students. While viewing these desks, each with a student, each busy with the matters of their lives, I suddenly saw before my eyes the unfolding of the aforementioned movie scene, complete with slow-motion editing and blur effects to add tear-jerking sobriety. It was altogether beautiful, and yet somehow wistful, almost sad.

What I saw in this film scene was the first day that Paul and I came to live in Utah after our missions. I remember quite vividly the feeling I had at the time. Neither of us had any idea what lay ahead, having just left behind our family home for what was probably the last time of claiming it as our residence. We were fresh and anxious to move on, and I know Paul was excited to get past an incident with one of his recent converts (a story for another time). In this particular scene we had come down to BYU to begin searching for jobs wherever we could find them. Having had little success, but undeterred, we made for the BYU library.

It was this moment that I saw in my mind's eye, that day when we came into the library to search the internet for jobs. Paul was sitting next to me and was searching for jobs around Provo; I was looking at the job listings on the online BYU jobs board . I remember the warm ray of sunlight coming through the window, being mid-afternoon in August, and thanking God for the invention of air conditioning. I remember that I clicked on a link to apply for a position in the Admissions Office at BYU; and I remember thinking that the 50 cents above minimum wage was a pretty sweet deal.

But what I remember more than anything is the feeling, that inexplicable, wonderful feeling of hope, of joy, of knowing that I was here with my best friend and that we were going to have a multitude of awesome adventures. I remember looking at Paul and laughing because he was having no success finding a job, and I laughed because he was just so frustrated. He had applied to so many jobs, and so many of them had been duds, or scams, or just downright insulting in their compensation. The sounds of others around me seemed so dull as we sat there, encapsulated in our little world, laughing as Paul and I talked and joked while we searched for jobs in the computer lab of the BYU library. We were so free, so lighthearted, and we looked forward to what may come.

As I sat there, scanning my documents and reminiscing about the bygone era, my mind started to wander past that scene. Suddenly the setting turned into one scene after another, as though a video montage was being viewed in my head.

I saw Paul coming home and telling me about a job he got at some Google ad-word agency. Later he came in and told me about how much he hated working there, how they were crooked, and how he wish he didn't work there. Then came the next scene where he walked in to tell me about this girl he had met at this job whose name was Amanda, and he told me how he sat and talked with her for hours. From there I saw the time when I first met this girl and thought "she is too good for Paul, what on earth did he say to trick her to come here?" I remember seeing me, looking incredulous, and thinking that it wouldn't last.

Then I saw my brother Dan, sleeping on his bed in the apartment next to ours. I remember going into his room to wake him up so he could go job hunting. I saw him turn around and give me a dumb smile, playing the fool because he was too tired and didn't want to go. Then the scene flashed forward several months to a new apartment, a new scene. I see Daniel sitting on the couch bathed in a soft glow of green from the rope lights lined above our apartment. He is sitting there, cuddled next to a little girl under our dingy-blue comforter. I remember thinking how cute it was that Dan was talking with this girl, and that I hoped something would come of it. From there I skipped forward to a scene that occurred in Manti, where Dan and that same little girl knelt facing each other across an alter. I recalled the feelings of joy I felt that Dan was happy, and that he had finally decided to get out of bed.

Suddenly a dark cloud came over my vision, and John walked into my apartment... No, just kidding, it wasn't dark. But I did see before me a vision of walking into John's room and finding him with his roommates playing video games. I saw multiple times where John and I were sitting and discussing things, him at his computer and me standing next to him. I saw the times when John and I sat there and discussed the state of the ward, of the family, and just about anything else. I saw that John and I actually had a relationship now, something we did not have before.

And that is about when the visions of my life in Provo stopped. I sat there for a minute and pondered on the things that had been laid before. I noticed that they were not filled with the sorrow, the pain, the utter disappointment I had felt over the years here. There was no mention of the awful hell I had at times felt. I noticed that I did not see any of the times I spent studying, or the times I spent programming, or complaining to my classmates about the ridiculousness of the workload we were given. I noticed that none of the jobs I had been given were even mentioned in my vision. Indeed, the only thing I even noticed about my life is the last vision I saw before I woke from my revelry.

To take a step back a minute, I want to say a few things about the self-wroth of a man. Every man wants to think that what he is doing is important, that there is some underlying purpose behind the design of his actions. What man wakes in the morning and says "I'm going to be utterly conspicuous today in both word and deed!"?

What I saw at the end of my vision was probably among the most poignant of all my visions, for it was not just about me. What I saw was me, surrounded by my family, holding some documents in my hand. These documents were similar to the documents I had come to scan, for they were an acceptance letter for my career. I saw in my hand what my time in Provo had done for me, the culmination of my efforts and struggles here in Provo; the capstone of the investment of my talents. Next to me stood my brothers, holding what their time had given them. That girl Paul told me about, Amanda, was now standing next to him, and in her arms was my beautiful niece Lily. Amanda then walked over and handed her to me, and I gladly took her and began to throw her up into the air as she gleefully quacked with joy. All my family laughed as we watched the wonderful blessing God had given us here in Provo; and as she laughed and smiled she filled the room with the merriment of innocent love.

I handed Lily back to Amanda and turned to face my family. I looked at my paper and saw the significant difference in the number for my pay from that first job I was so happy to get those years ago. I looked, and I saw the growth that I had achieved. My grasp around my paper tightened as I looked back up again to my family, and I saw tears in their eyes as they waved to me while I turned and walked away.

Then the scene faded, and I pondered about what I had seen. Though I had not achieved my goal of finding a wife; and though the path I thought I was going to take that day in August was vastly different than the path I have ultimately walked; and though I did not end up where I thought I would or ought to be, I nevertheless have ended up where I need to be. I look back at that closing scene and I realize that what I had accomplished was establishing a stepping stone to something greater. What I achieved was realizing that I needed to be here to appreciate what I have moving forward.

I look at that closing scene, and all the scenes leading to it, and realize that my time here in Provo was for two reasons only - to get a degree, and to learn to love my family. All my life I had figured my main purpose was to get married and raise a family, and that the degree was simply meant to support that family. But my time here has taught me differently, it has taught me that my degree is meant for me to do good, and that my family is there to be my support.

When Amanda handed me Lily in that final scene my heart was filled with joy, joy so inexplicable that only those who have experienced it understand. Lily has been the capstone to my learning here in Provo, and it has given me more reason to look forward to the future than anything other thing in my life. She has brought a happiness to my world that I didn't even know existed. Her existence has made my relationships with all my family even sweeter. And now that she has arrived, I know that I am ready to go face the world with my family ever there to have my back, regardless of whether I stay or go.

And that is a real moment of growth, that moment when you realize that come hell or high water, everything will be alright. That moment is where true growth occurs, when you realize you are not alone, that you are not ever alone, and that hell has not the fury you supposed. These moments of growth teach you to enjoy life, to love what you have, and to never let go.

Then, one day, when the innocuous events of life occur and you find yourself wandering into a library to scan some trivial documents, you will realize that, indeed, hell hath come; and it was not very frightening after all.