There is so much to remember. So much to organize. So much to do. There is so much that we want to become. We ask ourselves: Where do I start — and how do I keep going?
Start with small circles and work outward. Start from within. The scriptures tell us that the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21). We are told that "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
So, we begin with ourselves: our needs and desires, our strengths and weaknesses. If a man does not know himself, there is not much he can truly do to help others. If we have chaos and conflict within ourselves, how can we give peace and order to anyone else? We all know the words of counsel Shakespeare gave in “Hamlet”: "To thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day, thou can’st not then be false to any man." But how can we follow it when we are not certain of what we are — if we are not certain of our ability to be true?
Inner balance is essential. No one wrote more beautifully and more pointedly of this mortal dilemma than did Anne Morrow Lindbergh in “Gift From the Sea.”
"I want first of all to be at peace with myself," she states. "I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life. I want, in fact, to live in grace."
We need to find time for creative activity — things that will cleanse, heal and feed our spirits, which become bruised by our encounters with everyday life. Madeline L’Engle wrote in “Walking On Water,” "Creativity opens us up to revelation our capacity to see angels, to walk on water ." And taking us even further, "God is constantly creating in us, through us, with us — and to co-create with God is our human calling."
We approach this awesome co-creation process by giving of ourselves — truly giving — to others. This begins in the small circle of family and expands. We “lose ourselves” in love — and it is easy to love a newborn baby, or an ardent young wife or husband. Yet, even here we have room to grow and stretch. In “Lamb In His Bosom,” Caroline Miller wrote, "She wished that she had a dozen feet, and many hands, and tribble her natural strength, for only so could she go and do and bear for her loved ones as she wished to do."
To give out of pain, out of disappointment — to give when we feel we have nothing left to even succor our own needs. Ah, here we learn about ourselves and what we really have within. We begin to undertake to walk hand in hand with God and to understand the rich words of the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell when he said, "To help others in the midst of our own pain is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity."
We can do it. We are constituted so as to do it. As C.S. Lewis reminded us: "You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."
As we learn to understand and trust ourselves, as our powers expand, our usefulness is increased — and, therefore, our joy. This is one of the greatest secrets or truths of mortal life.
Leo Tolstoy said, "Joy can be real only if people look upon life as a service, and have a definite object outside themselves and their personal happiness."
One step at a time, from the inside outward, and the circles of our influence begin to expand. The joy, the inner harmony, the sense of purpose and pleasure — these are the blessings the journey brings.
Remember, as C.S. Lewis said, "nothing is yet in its true form." And that includes us. Have faith in the journey. Have faith in the process of creating and nurturing souls. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried."
Let us never forget this shining truth:
Each step I take will leave its mark, for each step leads me somewhere. And though the end is dim to sight, the steps I take, if true and right, will bring me exaltation. I know I do not walk alone. My footsteps are protected by one who cares to see my life shine forth in beauty and love and light — exalted and perfected (excerpt from seminary song, "Quest," lyrics by Susan Evans McCloud, 1977).
And our knowledge of “that One” helps us in our quest to gain knowledge of ourselves. And with that knowledge comes light, joy and power to become like him — because we are his — and he is most truly ours.
Brigham Young, in "Journal of Discourses," said, "There is no spirit but what was pure and holy when it came here from the celestial world. They were not produced by any being less than our Father in heaven. He is the Father of our spirits; and if we could know, understand, and do his will, every soul would be prepared to return back into his presence.
"And when they get there, they would see that they had formerly lived there for ages, that they had previously been acquainted with every nook and corner, with the palaces, walks and gardens; and they would embrace their Father, and He would embrace them and say, ‘My son, my daughter, I have you again.’ And the child would say, ‘O my Father, my Father, I am here again.’ ”
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children and blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com.