Saturday, September 20, 2014

Getting A Life!

As my boys were growing up and started being interested in girls I tried to teach them to get a life first.  What I meant by that was to figure out what they were passionate about.  Was it to succeed in athletics or academics or some of both?  Which sport did they prefer?  What specific classes in school did they find they excelled in? 

But I didn’t want them to chase those things down in order to gain popularity and praise from external sources.  I wanted them to find in their hearts where they were passionate to serve and make a difference in our family, at school, at church, and in our neighborhood.

The following describes how I wanted my kids to view their service, their duty to their fellow men.  Nephi and Lehi who lived about 30 B.C. were named after honored historical figures in their society.  In these few verses their father tells them why they were thus named and what his desires of them were.

6 Behold, my sons,…I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good. 

7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.

8 And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.

Aaron chose ice hockey when he was younger and then football, academics and getting a job in high school.

Chris chose baseball when he was younger and then ice hockey, academics, and getting a job in high school.

Matthew has chosen basketball and more recently cross country as well as academics and getting a job in high school.

The job is so they can have a car.  In our family they need to assist with insurance and registration as well as pay for their own gas.

Laura just started high school.  She is a different specimen than the boys.  She prefers art, writing, interior design, baking, but like her brothers has a strong talent in academics.  Unlike them, she has been self-organized in all her school work and self-motivated in keeping up with all of her assignments.

All of them have chosen to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to pay a sufficient amount of attention to the study of it and how it applies to their individual lives.   

Matthew and Laura are still in high school—still baking in the oven.  But by Chris’ and Aaron’s senior years and into college they were a delight for me to watch among their peers.  I saw them interacting with others, interested in what they had to say and participating fully in the conversation.

On their missions they took off like EAGLES!  That was when they seriously got a life.  And it was all about losing it in service of others but also in service to a Cause they believed in with all of their heart.

This was my desire for them from when they were younger.  Find what you are most passionate about and give your life to it….even if it means giving up the girl FOR NOW.

And Aaron did just that.  He had a girlfriend before he left on his mission.  He loved her.  When he left he hoped she would still be available when he got back but who knew?  On his mission, he couldn’t focus on her (although he wrote her regularly).  He had to let her go and focus on the work he was assigned.  I can’t say how impressed I was.  He was on fire with the Cause he was engaged in.  On fire with helping others, teaching them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, finding ways to reach those who were also reaching for help but didn’t know where to turn.  WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT!

And then the unimaginable happened.  The girl back home broke it off with him.  And he was left to sink or swim.  Sometimes both the young man or young woman in a relationship can get so wrapped up in each other that they consider the other to be that thing that they are most passionate about.  And yes, there definitely is passion.  But I would like to state a theory here that maybe is not widely accepted.   It is what I am figuring out for myself through my own experience to be completely necessary in order to obtain Sustainable Attraction in a relationship.

Sustainable Attraction Theory:  if a man or woman doesn’t have a life in addition to the passion they have for each other, their Attraction for each other will not be Sustainable. 

I’ll share the end of what happened with Aaron in a minute (most of you already know).  But first I want to share a story that was recently shared with me by a good friend during our women’s group meeting at church.  I do this in order to explain what I mean by that Theory.  I have felt this theory inside of me for quite some time but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it exactly.  Thanks to my friend, Kristine Jenkins, I can explain it now.  I will forever be thankful to her for sharing this story.  She had recorded her husband reading it on her iphone so it was even more powerful.  I felt the most intense feelings in my heart.  It has helped me understand something that was only vaguely known to me before.

She got this story from a talk entitled, “On, On to the Victory” that was given in June of 2010 by Elder Richard H. Winkel (Former Member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy). 

Major Sullivan Ballou
In the talk, Elder Winkel speaks of a man named Sullivan Ballou who lived from the mid to late 1800s during the time of the American Civil War.  He was married to a woman named Sarah who he utterly and completely adored and together they had two boys (who he also loved with a deep fatherly passion).  Sullivan Ballou was a major in the United States Army.  As you probably recall, this war was between the Northern and Southern states.  The North wanted to maintain the constitution and the governmental system of Liberty to all men that was set up by the founding fathers which included abolishing slavery, a practice that was deeply interwoven into Southern culture and economics.  Sullivan was passionate about maintaining the government that so many people before him had given their lives to establish.  At the time the following letter was written, he was about to head his troops into a battle from which he wasn’t sure he would come out of alive.  The letter demonstrates the conflict he felt between his love of country and his love of his wife and boys.

A picture of the actual letter
July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow.  Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.     

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me.  Not my will, but thine O God, be done.  It is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready.  I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.  I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us-through the blood and suffering of the Revolution.  And I am willing – perfectly –willing –to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows – when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children.  Is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last/perhaps/before that of death – and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart,...

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved/ and I could not find one.  A pure love of my country ...and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Listen:  Faithful by Journey

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long.  And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.  I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the prayer of my little Edgar – that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed.  If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. 

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you.  How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!  How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm.  But I cannot.  I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. 

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be near you:  in the garish day and in the darkest night – amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours – always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or when the air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. 

(Better to just listen than to watch because while the song conveys the feelings of the letter, the video distracts from it)

Sarah, do not mourn me dead;...for we shall meet again.

 As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care.  Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood.  Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters...I call God’s blessing upon you.  O Sarah, I wait for you there!  Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Sullivan was mortally wounded in the battle and died shortly thereafter.

In expressing my desire for my boys to get a life, I haven’t meant to teach them to run after riches and fame or anything else that could never sustain long-term happiness and put those things above his commitment to his wife and children.  I have meant for them to give their lives to a greater Cause, a true Cause, a deep and abiding Cause, the Cause of God.  And I want it to be a powerful conflict for them between being with their wife and children in happily ever after RIGHT NOW and fulfilling their duty to God, church, and country.  I want them to find their rest, peace, and Joy at home with their beautiful wife and children but also have an energy, a motivation, and a fire for their duty to act in the name of what’s right for a larger Cause whatever that personally means to each one of them.

I cannot tell you how ATTRACTIVE  a man who does this is to a woman (and to his children).  How amazingly attractive is a man who has this real conflict inside of him without faking it because it is known to any sincere and honest woman when a man fakes his passion for duty.  A man who views his relationship with his wife as his own LIFE but then must give up that life FOR NOW to whatever degree that his God requires of him in order to maintain or regain the Liberty of his Country (which ultimately includes his wife and children) is the most powerfully attractive man that exists.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want my sons to love their God more than anything else, even more than their selves.  And their “selves” include their complete and utter love of their wife.  IT’S SO PARADOXICAL! (This link takes you to the Servant Program Day 5 which discusses the concept of the paradoxical nature of sacrifice.)

Listen:  "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor
And us women need to allow this sacrifice KNOWING that Sustainable Attraction is ETERNAL.  The love between a man and a woman with a relationship like this is ETERNAL.  It will never die spiritually even though physical death may part them temporarily.  That’s not easy for us women.  We too have a duty to God to perform.  And it is giving up our lives—that beautiful man that belongs to us, who is apart of our very souls—which pierces us to the depths of our hearts.  Yet in this very act, this very deepest pain, is where Sustainable Attraction is made ETERNAL.   Sealed forever to each other.  Soul to soul.

The truth of the matter is that we don't want to be the center of a man's life where his God should be.  We don't want to be made into his idol.  We can feel when a man does this and it is a bad feeling for all of us who desire Sustainable Attraction.  Although it may feel good in the beginning, it can't last. Yet we don't want to be disregarded.  This is a conflicting desire, I know.  But Sullivan Men satisfy a woman's conflicting desires with their own conflicting desires to love both their God and their wives. 

Read:  JST Mark 8:37-38
This is what I have wanted my boys to understand.  I want each to seek out that woman who will be his LIFE but to start first with GETTING A LIFE by figuring out what sacrifice God requires them to specifically make on this earth to maintain or regain the Liberty of man kind—the right to choose.  That probably won't mean they will be required to make a sacrifice exactly like Sullivan but I'm sure they will be required to sacrifice to the degree they desire Sustainable Joy and Attraction.

As a mother, it really has never been about my kids succeeding in sports or academics or having a car as an end.  Those things were a means to an end.  It was about teaching them to pay attention to their core desire, whatever it was at their age.  I knew or rather hoped that desire would be refined as they matured.  Refined to become more like Sullivan’s desires.  I know my own has been refined over time.  

Back to Aaron's story:  When he saw his LIFE seemingly crumbling before his eyes while serving his mission, he had a choice:  sink or swim.  He chose to swim!  I saw him cleave unto his God and trust in him.  He believed that if he continued doing all he could to honor his commitment to God, all would work out, however it worked out.  It was not easy for him.  His love for this beautiful daughter of God was intense.  But he did it.  He allowed himself to be swallowed up in his duty to God while allowing her the space she needed.

Here are two songs that he sent me while he was still on his mission that illustrate his Sullivan love of God and Country.

He sent me "Middle of Your Heart" when he was really struggling with the whole break-up.

The End (and the Beginning):  They got back together after he returned home.

Aaron & Lindsey from Kelly Newman on Vimeo.

I’ve seen similar Diamonds in my other three children.  These events are all incremental witnesses that they too are becoming like Sullivan.  And I smile so deeply every time I see them!