I recently watched Kung Fu Panda 2 with the kids. I know it sounds so cheesy, but it seriously brought me to tears several times because I resonate with the message so much! With Kung Fu Panda on my mind, I am going to take a stab at writing about the theme of the movie: inner peace. I know. That is such a daunting undertaking. What I would tag as inner peace is something that has been interlaced throughout previous posts. For those who have been following, it won't be completely new, but maybe framed in a different light.
During the movie, The Dragon Warrior, AKA Po, has flash backs to his childhood in the middle of battles. Even Sennika piped up during the movie and labeled these "flash backs" as triggers. (Check out the post on triggers if you haven't before). Because he has a response to the trigger and his mind is reliving the past, he isn't present to fight well. Whether we realize it or not (and until we do), we do the same thing. I won't hash out triggers again here, but want to zoom in on being present.
From my experience, it has been true that when my mind is caught up reliving the unresolved past or even fast forwarding with fear of the future, I am not present either. I may be fighting the enemy like Po, but some times my occupation elsewhere makes me simply miss taking in the full beauty of the child right in front of my face. Maybe there is someone who could offer/needs something important if I reach beyond myself, but I am too busy to notice. Maybe I feel like I am just existing...just surviving day after day...I have shut off the hurt or numbed out so I can keep going. I may not realize the great opportunities I have or the blessing right in front of me because my mind is too occupied with something other than the here and now. When my mind is elsewhere I may respond differently to those around me. I may be more impatient, less kind, reactive...just like Po, I won't be my best self in that important moment if my mind is anywhere but HERE, in the present (again, whether I realize it is happening or not).
The things that occupy our minds are unique, as are the things we may miss or not be our best selves for while we are occupied. The pattern is the same though. When we keep bringing the unresolved past into our present or jumping ahead to the future, we will have a different experience than when we are in the moment. Maybe you are saying to yourself that you don't do that. Maybe you don't. I can't speak for anybody buy myself and my own journey. What about these examples? Is there a certain person who really irritates you? Why? Is there something your spouse or kids do that you just can't stand? Why? Is there a personality trait that drives you crazy? Why? Are there situations that stir fear or frustration? Maybe times when you feel you don't have control or have no power or maybe fear looking stupid or fear somebody finding out something about you? I don't know what it will be for you, but I can say yes to everything above.:) I am really trying to come up with a few things off the top of my head. The point is, pay attention to those things that stir strong emotion because chances are, there is something underneath it. For me, it hasn't always been the "big" things that set off this emotional response, but the seemingly small and, at times, imperceptible. It has truly required Heavenly help to open my eyes to see. Also, you don't necessarily even have to know exactly what is there in order to seek to have it removed/replaced or changed. Just begin to take note if you haven't already.
HE WANTS ME TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT BY CLEARING THE PAST
The good news to all of this is that it is possible to live in the present! I am not there yet, but just like I wrote about last time and the time before, I am stepping in that direction and it feels wonderful! For most of us it is a process. This process is possible through Christ. Through Him, we can clear those things that would tug us backwards. Steps 4 (fearless written moral inventory) and 5 (share that inventory with a trusted individual...note: anything that would prevent a temple recommend in the inventory needs the Bishop to be that person) of the 12 step program were a huge turning point for me. Extremely vulnerable doesn't begin to describe what the process was like for me to not only dig deep into my life and the patterns behind it, but also share all the dark and hurtful experiences with someone else. That's why you should choose your step 5 person carefully. You want someone who will see what you share as close to truth as possible---someone who will come back and help you reframe it so you aren't too hard on yourself, but also keep you from justifying or brushing off experiences or patterns. Being on the other side of these steps, plus the trauma egg assignment from the group counseling program, and a recent revisit with Jaci's book, I can honestly say it is such a freeing feeling to have light shined on all the dark corners. Having shared EVERYTHING with select people and bringing it all back to God in prayer, I don't have as many reasons to look back or fast forward as often as I thought I did. I promise God will walk you through this process and the details for your individual life and circumstances. REMEMBER though that this is STEP 4 and 5...not 1. Steps 1-3 are vital to a successful 4 and 5. We need to recognize our need for God and Jesus Christ and build that trust before we can take this huge leap. Start with step 1 if you are interested in the 12 step program or seriously pick up Jaci's book because she walks you through the process too.
Also along these lines, I cannot emphasize enough that these details will be different for each of us. We may have similarities, but the details are tailored for our benefit. As I mentioned above, I have been blessed with many tools and opportunities and also people and experiences that have helped me shed those things that would disturb my peace. I believe that God works through small and simple means and the combination of those things that help us uproot the natural man tendencies or to heal hurt will be different for each of us. Just because scriptures, prayers, church, and temple attendance alone wasn't enough fast enough for me and it took 3 years of private and group counseling, 5 years of 12 step meetings, a bazillion hours of yoga, essential oils, energy healing, eating well, sleeping well, etc. doesn't mean that this is somehow the "magic formula." It is what has/is working for me as directed by the Spirit. THAT is the point. Look at the patterns. I also believe that God can work in our lives whether we realize it consciously or not. He is always seeking after us---waiting for us to see Him and turn to Him---and orchestrating the details to guide us to Him if we will.
HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES
One more huge piece of good news is that Jesus Christ also covers the times we aren't present! As we turn to God and work through the repentance/healing/forgiveness process, Christ's grace covers us. Jesus Christ met the demands of justice. Even if He wanted us to repay Him, we cannot pay for our sins. Instead of holding it over our heads as an unpaid debt and demanding repayment, He is asking us to use the gift well---to use it to BECOME a different person. He doesn't care if we weren't present for a million times in one day. I guess He does, but not in the beating ourselves up sort of way we often do. It is where our heart is and that we are struggling forward with seeking His help that matters.
There is a line from Brad Wilcox' book, "The Continuous Atonement," that has really stuck with me. It's: "however long it takes." Truly that is it. He doesn't become impatient with us and only give us one last chance. God will give us chance after chance before the final judgement and call to us with many ways. Yes, we do have to repent, but it isn't to repay Him. That isn't His point. The idea that we repent to pay the price of our sins (seriously what I somehow used to think He was asking of me) is exactly what the law of justice requires, but that isn't God's great plan of Happiness. Yes, we shouldn't have the mindset of "sin now, repent later." By Christ (mercy) meeting the demands of justice, it preserves our ability to choose. God is simply asking us to choose Him and Christ, however long it takes. With mercy meeting the demands of justice, Christ becomes our "task master" and He is a gentle master. Once we take steps forward to repent and improve, He (through the Spirit) shows us the next area of our lives to work on. We once again partner with Him for however long it takes. Then the next item is brought to our attention and we work at it with His strength for however long it takes. Often these "assignments" come with experiences to test or reinforce our faith or teach us, humble us, or to help us develop a God-like attribute we are still lacking (or all of these at once).:)
God does have requirements for the activation of mercy meeting the demands of justice in our lives, but those requirements look different now with my new understanding. I used to think that Christ "makes up the difference" of my efforts...that grace was something that somehow comes in the last leg of the race to top off my efforts. The problem I ran into is that my efforts were a joke most of the time. I would understandably become discouraged that I would never be able to make it far enough for the atonement to "make up the difference" and kick in. Brother Wilcox said what I have come to find in my life to be true, "Christ doesn't make up the difference. He makes ALL the difference." Go watch his BYU devotional "His Grace is Sufficient" if you haven't before. It is worth the 30 or so minutes to watch it. (Watch it or a close second is to listen. He is such an entertaining speaker!)
My dear friend showed me this scripture a while back and it has changed my understanding of what my part is or "all I can do." Turning to God and repenting is all I can do and as I have combed the scriptures with this new understanding, I know that is all He has been asking of me all along. Listen to what the Lamanites share about "all we can do" in Alma 24: And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to atake them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—"
Sin isn't all His grace covers. 12 step has not only been able repentance for me, but also healing and forgiving Mark for his choices and the consequences of those choices with addiction and all the others in my life I was holding malice or grudges towards---even the ones I felt perfectly justified in holding...but don't worry, that is step 8, not 1 either. :) I testify that Christ is the only way to peace!
"MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU"
John 14: 27 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Check out this awesome clip from the very end of the movie. This is after Po has faced his past and come to terms with the story of his life. Look at what Po is able to do as he has inner peace and is present to this moment. Watch with your spiritual eyes as Po does the seemingly impossible. This level of confidence (in God) and similar miraculous power is what God wants for us! I testify that we can do ANYTHING if we can be present in the moment to choose to allow Christ's power to flow through us AND that as I discussed last time, we can immediately get back on track the moment we realize we looked back. To me, that is inner peace. With this confidence I can say, "I believe in Christ, so come what may."