Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Than Conquerors

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

More Than Conquerors through Him That Loved Us, by Paul V. Johnson
Of the Seventy

Our recent move into our first home brought the opportunity to be reunited with things we had long stored at parents' houses. One of these things is a weight set. Upon seeing the weights and bench, my seven-yr-old son asked if he could work out with me. To be honest, I was wanting to exercise, but wondered if I would find time to slip away alone. His request provides an opportunity to spend time with him, nurture our relationship, teach him some things, and learn a few things from him, too!

Lifting weights with a small child is an interesting experience. Whereas I'm lifting more than 100 lb., he is starting with no more than 10. As I look at his small load, I often calculate and compare the ratio of his load to his body weight, and compare it to mine. What looks like hardly a challenge can be a real test to others who are smaller and inexperienced! In addition, our weight lifting sessions remind me to be a good example of form and technique because it's readily apparent that he's mimicking me exactly.

It's great fun to exercise with my boy; we even take turns spotting each other! The only hard thing is when I see that instead of a spare tire, like I have, he already has a six-pack!

Our exertions together in the garage remind of trials and challenges. Much like muscles don't gain strength or endurance without exertion and opposition, we often hear that the same is true with us and trials—but I've yet to meet someone who enjoys trials as much as we like lifting weights together.

Trials are a part of life and they can lead to meaningful growth, but I find myself increasingly asking "Okay, what did I do wrong this time" whenever I encounter a trial. For some reason, I'm correlating challenges with bad actions—as if the trial is some kind of punishment. What I love of Elder Johnson's talk is that it helped me remember the benefits and blessings of trials.

Perhaps one reason I fell into the habit of seeing trials as punishment was because of how me-specific they seemed. Elder Johnson helped put this in a new light for me:

Since personal growth is an intended outcome of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that the trials can be very personal—almost laser guided to our particular needs or weaknesses.

I shouldn't be surprised when a challenge seems personally catered to one of my [many] weak spots; don't I do the same thing when I lift weights? "Growth cannot come by taking the easy way."

If I do well, will there be a point when I won't have to face these types of challenges?

The furnace of affliction helps purify even the very best of Saints by burning away the dross in their lives and leaving behind pure gold. Even very rich ore needs refining to remove impurities. Being good is not enough. We want to become like the Savior, who learned as He suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.”

Here's a good reminder of the ultimate purpose of challenges, trials, and reacting well to them:

Someday when we get to the other side of the veil, we want more than for someone just to tell us, "Well, you’re done." Instead, we want the Lord to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21).

Yesterday, my son told me that lifting weights with me was the thing he had most looked forward to in the day. While it's true that "we don't seek out tests, trials, and tribulations" (because "life will provide just enough for our needs"), we can look forward to having someone there to help us through the trials, supplying encouragement and a gentle lift when necessary.

I think I'll end here and go to the garage and lift weights with my son.

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