Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All Trials can be Blessings

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

~ John Heywood
Over the past couple years, I have had a few experiences. There were times when I thought they would break me beyond my ability to recover. In fact, I haven't all-together relieved myself of that thought. The journey through life is not supposed to be a stroll in the park, without bumps or bruises.

I am not nearly as amused as I should be when I consider some of the thoughts in my heart that have preceded difficulty.

Just after I was engaged to be married, I had thought I had it all. I had a good job, a beautiful wife-to-be, a new car and I was on my way to fulfilling more than one pretty significant life goal. In fact, I remember talking with a close friend about how lucky we were to be blessed with so much. It was not a month later that I had lost my job. The direction I thought I was going had abruptly changed. I continued through the troubles, we got married and I refocused my attention in an effort to maintain what I thought would make my new family comfortable and happy.

When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I considered what I had to be a little less than what I thought was perfect but we were in good order. I had a job - not the best job but it was an income - we were living in a nice townhouse and had a pretty good life. I remember thinking about what was going on and how blessed I was at the time. Only weeks later, I was faced with a pregnant wife and no job. I made a blunder that I should probably have not made, calling my boss childish. Well, he was no longer my boss after that experience. I thought I would have a new job quickly. My time of unemployment lasted a bit longer than I thought it would. I took nearly three months to find a new job.

There were probably a couple more times in my life that I considered everything in my life to be pretty perfect only to have the rug pulled out from under me but nothing compared to what happened just a couple years ago. I had my house and we had just finished putting in the fence around the backyard. The family was very much pleased with not having to go out and walk the dog every hour or so. With the fence, we just opened the back door and she was out on her own. This sounds rather lazy but I guess that is the way we are. Things were going pretty peachy, to say the least. I remember thinking to myself how blessed the family had truly been.

January 13, 2006, I was layed-off from the position I had held for nearly 10 years. I honestly thought the new job would be just around the corner. The severance pay would certainly be more like a bonus than something on which I would need to live. Six months later, we were out of time and I still hadn't found a new job. I was blessed to get through this in one piece, without loosing anything of significance. We had our house and the car still. A year later, I started a new job with a company in Elgin, IL. I thought the job was the answer to all my prayers but life didn't start to get easier. In fact, it was harder to live this life than it was to be unemployed. I was living away from my family during the week and only seeing them on weekends. The weekends were obviously too short and the weeks were likewise too long. Only a month into the new job and I was confronted with something that had never been a part of my career - pornography. Someone is going to print it. It had always been someone else. Part of what we did in this place was certain aspects of the Playboy marketing campaigns. Part of what made my job was to ensure the quality aspect of the projects before the jobs were released out on proof or sent out to the presses. I started really dreading my job. Not only was I living three hours from my family during the week but I was having to deal with the side of the printing industry that I truly loathed. Our trials were not over or even at their worse.

My wife was sick. She had been sick for a very long time but we hadn't thought of a way to address the problems. Three months into employment with the new organization, insurance kicked in and She was off to the doctor. Oh my but life seemed to get worse when I thought it could not possibly take such a turn. I worried about many things during those months. I worried about my family and each of the girls individually. I worried about my wife as she was dealing with her health problems nearly alone. Except for the telephone and email, we were not there for each other during the week. Weekends were times of spending together and neither of us were too terribly interested in spending that time worried about the health or financial problems that were mounting. Medical bills were not something we were going to let ourselves think about. It was all about getting through the health problems and not about anything else.

After a hospital stay and recovery, we were informed that my wife was on the mend. This was a blessing. What could have been a whole lot worse, wasn't. However, I was still traveling to Chicago during the week and only home on the weekends. While in Chicago I was forced to look at and approve art that did not treat sacred those gifts our God endowed on us. I started looking for an alternative.

I was called to California for a job interview. We thought this was an answer to a terribly difficult situation. And upon returning to work the next week, I gave notice to my employer. I could not continue working with the circumstances as they were. Only two days after giving notice, I was offered the position in California. It was going to be hard to get my family out to California but we were going to be together again.

Selling the house was not easy and what equity I thought we had was sucked away by an ailing economy and housing market. Months after starting the new job, the house finally sold at a loss and my family was on their way to California and we were to be reunited for the first time in over a year.

Experiences. When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed... Experiences.
“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

“If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

Doctrine & Covenants 122:5-8
Experiences. Trials. Blessings. You've heard it said, "if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." I've felt that I was about to be broken more than once over the past two years. I haven't broken yet. I will not break. I will not give up. I'd think we're close to overcoming these the more difficult years of my life but I do not wish to have such hopes dashed. I can see that we're on the cusp of change. I can see that my experiences over the past few years have changed me, made me a different man. I am certain that I am different. Am I better for it? Am I stronger?
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