Meaningful Love

“Love one another; as I have loved you … By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 

John 13:34-35

My 10-year-old daughter has been looking forward to participating in the school play for the second year in a row. Last year only those who wanted a lead role were asked to audition, this was a huge relief for my daughter because it meant she could still be a part of the play without having to audition. The idea of auditioning was so scary to her that she most likely would have passed up the opportunity to be in the play. 

This year, however, all students interested in participating in the school play were required to audition. Having had such a good experience the previous year, and wanting to be in the play again, she was determined to face her fear and go through with the auditions. She chose one of the audition songs and began practicing over and over and over, committing the words and tune to memory. And then the day came for the auditions. 

I watched her as she walked down the hall, with four other students, into the audition room where she would stand before three judges. When she came out of the room, the look of defeat on her face nearly broke my heart. She buried her face into my side, trying to hide her tears from others. 

Later that day I thought I could hear some muffled crying behind her closed door. I walked into her room and found her on her bed, her face buried in her pillow with tears streaming down her face. When I sat down beside her, she kept telling me that she had it nailed down, but she just got so nervous that she couldn’t do what she had practiced. She felt defeated because she wasn’t able to perform the way she knew she could. For her it wasn’t about getting a lead role, it was about not being able to do what she felt she could do in the moment that it counted. 

Diana Bowler, one of the judges who also happens to be our neighbor, was aware of my daughter’s nervousness with auditioning. She knew this was a big deal for my daughter to get up in front of the judges to sing her part, and she knew that Madison was heartbroken over her performance. So she arranged for her to come and audition again the next day to give it another shot. She simply wanted to provide her with an opportunity so that she could feel successful, feel proud of her efforts, and a sense of accomplishment. 

The next day, when my daughter walked out of the audition room, she had a big smile across her face and said, “I did mom. I did as good as I knew I could.” 

This experience, and others like it that I’ve had with my children, have brought a deeper understanding of the significance of what Christ taught when He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This small act of kindness towards my daughter touched my heart even though it wasn’t done for me. To see someone care for and love my daughter meant a lot to me. To see someone else invested in creating an opportunity for her to have a successful experience brought tears to my eyes. Likewise, when we reach out in love and kindness to others, it touches the heart of our Father in Heaven. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one…, ye have done it unto me.”

to min·is·ter
Is to attend to the physical, spiritual, temporal, and/or emotional needs of someone. The power of meaningful ministering is that as we attend to someone’s physical needs, for example, it often strengthens them spiritually as well. Or attending to someone’s spiritual needs may also impact their temporal needs.  In other words, to minister is to love meaningfully.

Within each of us lies a divine desire to help others in meaningful ways. That desire to make a difference and have a positive impact in the world around us by using our gifts and talents and our unique desires and interests, increases as we grow closer to God. 

When I was in college I had the opportunity to spend three months in Ecuador working in an orphanage. I was drawn to this particular experience because of the opportunity to do something meaningful but also because it was unique and adventurous. When I came home I felt empty, I felt a longing to do more with my life. I wanted to continue to find ways to help others in meaningful ways, but those opportunities weren’t as obvious to me. Logically I knew that the only people in need weren’t in orphanages in Ecuador, but sometimes it is easier to see the meaningful experiences that are novel and unique and to become blind to the meaningful experiences that are ordinary and mundane. 

At times in our lives we may have felt a similar longing, a longing to do something more with our life, a longing to create more meaning and purpose with our lives. When this longing enters the heart of someone who loves God it awakens and increases their desire to make a difference in the lives of others and to help others in meaningful ways. 

That desire to make a difference in the lives of others in meaningful ways is the same feelings that the people of Alma felt when they stood on the banks of the waters of Mormon and declared, “This is the desire of our hearts!” We have moments in our lives when we metaphorically stand on the banks of the water of Mormon reflecting on the way we are living our life and feel a desire to love others the way that Christ loves us. 

Elder Neil L. Andersen encouraged us to “Pray that these opportunities will come to [us].” He also encouraged us to “listen, write down [our] thoughts, and then be ready to take action as people are put in [our] way.”  He insightfully points out that in “following the pattern of the Savior, most of our ministering will be from one person to another…Jesus ministered to the one…”

Sometimes we will see these moments to love someone because we know them, because we live across the street from them, because we have taken the time to talk with them. Or maybe we know someone because we have served primary as their teacher, or served with them in a calling. We can increase our capacity of seeing meaningful opportunities to love when we first take the time to know someone.  

And sometimes, as Neil L. Andersen points out, “Not all of those you help will be people you know. When Jesus ministered to the widow of Nain, He was on His way to somewhere else. However, while on His way, Christ saw her and had compassion for her, and it changed her life.”

In Doctrine and Covenants we are told that “if we desire, [we] shall be the means of doing much good.” How do we go about being the means of doing much good? We won’t make much of a difference if we just stand around waiting for God to tell us what to do. Too often we limit our potential to impact the lives of others because we are hesitant to move forward unless God first tells us what to do. We are to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson pleaded with us “to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.” Reminding us that “God will not live our lives for us nor control us as if we were His puppets.” 

Neil L. Andersen promised us “that as [we] love God with all [our] heart, pray to be an instrument in His hands, minister to individuals, build [our] capacity to receive revelation, and trust in the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will put His special sons and daughters in [our] path, and [we] will become their ministering angels, blessing their lives eternally.

November 2, 2019

Time spent writing: Lost track, maybe 6 hours maybe more

Total time spent writing: 150 hours