The last two years have been filled with sorrow and disappointment; work and struggle; peace and hope. We have cried a lot, prayed a lot, and loved more deeply because of our loss. We have hoped for more children and endured difficult setbacks. We have served in new ways, met new people, and found a new kind of happiness to hold onto.
Today I have been reflecting on how my heart has been changed by the experience of losing my son. My thoughts keep returning to the way I pray to my Heavenly Father. My approach, my practice, and my purpose have shifted.
I used to be a negotiator. When life became challenging, or I wanted something deeply I would begin the process of bargaining with God. My prayers went something like this.
Dear Heavenly Father, I really want (to ace this test, to buy this house, to get this job, etc.)
If you give me this I will (read my scriptures, say my prayers, serve others, etc.)
Or, I would promise to give something up (swearing, skipping church, lying, drinking coke, etc.) It was a naive exchange of efforts and blessings. The amazing thing is, that although I often fell short on the promises I made, my prayers were answered, and I felt like God knew me and loved me. Looking back, I feel like even though my prayers were imperfect, and sometimes selfish, they came from a place of sincerity and represented my simple yet imperfect understanding of God and his ways. This is a testament to me that life is not about perfection, but about learning.
When Jonah died, my prayers changed.
I began asking God to give me understanding, to bless me with patience, to help me feel strong again. The thing is I felt like I had nothing to offer in return. I was weak, broken, and struggling. I had to abandon my previous technique, because I couldn't even get out of bed. How could I promise to do my visiting teaching? So I just asked God to bless me, not because of my works or my promises, but because He loved me. And He did. In the past two years He has blessed me with all of the things I have asked for; with love and patience and strength and incredible peace -- a peace that surpasses understanding.
Now after two years of learning how to pray, I find myself wanting something so badly. I want to be a mother again. I want to see Jordan be a father again; He is such a good father. I want another chance. I find myself praying earnestly and fervently for God to grant us the opportunity to be parents again. But something has changed in me.
I no longer negotiate with God; I trust Him. I no longer use the covenants and promises I have made as a bargaining chip. As I pray to my Heavenly Father, I ask for the things I desire most, and then I promise Him that no matter what the outcome I will do my best to keep my covenants. And I mean it. I will mourn with those that mourn. I will comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I will be faithful and loyal to my husband. I will care for my parents and siblings. I will clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick. I will give everything I have to Him, not because He is a genie that grants wishes. Although, I believe all good gifts come from Him. Not because I'm afraid of everlasting punishment or damnation for falling short. But because I love Him, and because I am His daughter.
On this two year anniversary I am astounded that my heart feels whole again. My life has not been restored to what it once was. It has been transformed. I don't have everything I hope for, but I find myself genuinely laughing, and smiling. The day Jonah died I feared that Jordan would stop loving me and that our relationship would crumble. And yet we are stronger and more in love than we have ever been.
As we left the hospital on September 29, 2011 I was sure I would never feel true happiness again. Life would only be an exercise in endurance and pain. And yet happiness is here. It is in my home and in my heart.
My dear sisters, the Lord allows us to be tried and tested, sometimes to our maximum capacity. We have seen the lives of loved ones, and maybe our own, figuratively burned to the ground and have wondered why a loving and caring Heavenly Father would allow such things to happen. But he doesn't leave us in the ashes; he stands with open arms, eagerly inviting us to come to him. He is building our lives into magnificent temples where his spirit can dwell eternally. Linda S. Reeves
P.S. This was all on my mind before watching the General Relief Society broadcast last night. I was so inspired by their messages about making a keeping covenants, and so grateful for the incredible spirit I felt as they shared their messages. If you missed it, watch it here.