Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A work in progress

I am a work in progress. Ask my wife, my children or anyone who knows me. I am not where I want to be, nor am I yet where I ought to be.

A friend of mine says it this way: “God’s not done with me, yet.”

I spent a fair amount of the long weekend working in my flower beds. This is an activity I really enjoy. It reminds me of weeding the flower bed in front of my childhood home with my mother. (I’m guessing I didn’t necessarily enjoy that so much, though I think I enjoyed it because we did it together.)

I planted impatiens, begonias, marigolds and a few daisies. I adjusted sprinkler heads and pulled some weeds. No matter how much I do, there’s always more to be done. There are the same beds I weeded just a few weeks ago before spreading nine yards of bark on them. And I’ll be weeding them again before I know it.

The time between planting little flowers from the flats until they grow up to something you can see even if you aren’t looking for it from the street is bittersweet for me. Part of me wants instant flowers (but for that I have to buy pots, not flats, and I buy too many flowers to afford that). And part of me enjoys watching the flowers take root and grow into themselves.

It’s that second part that reminds me that I am also still growing into what I can be, what I ought to be.

I don’t mean that in a “oh, wo is me because I’m not like so-and-so” sort of way. I mean instead that I understand I’m supposed – one day – to be perfect, and I’m not there yet. I also understand I’m on the path, and that I am moving forward one step at a time. And I have learned (after over 50 years) to recognize that I’m farther down the path now than I used to be.

I used to joke when I was a bishop that I knew I was not perfect. Anyone who thought I was should just ask my kids. They have, I told people, a list. I don’t know if they really had a list, but I sure did. And for a long time, I’d beat myself with that list without making much progress.

Regular readers will know that I have found help moving down the path by working the 12 steps of recovery. There are lots of versions of the steps which began in Alcoholics Anonymous, including the church’s own Addiction Recovery Program. These twelve steps are, as my wife once observed, a structured way to live the gospel and make the atonement real in our lives. The twelve steps are a way to recovery and peace, by they are not the only way.

I found when I started believing that the blessings of the atonement were really available for me, that my human weakness (which is different from my weaknesses) is part of how I was created (how we all were created, according to King Benjamin), and that, as President Packer often teaches, it’s never too late to repent, I could recognize that I was on the path and find peace, even though I wasn’t done.

So as I wait for my annuals to grow and mature, I will look for similar development in myself and in those around me. And, despite my desire to be further along than I am, I will feel peace.


  1. Paul, I think our 2nd Article of Faith is MUCH more powerful and amazing than most members realize. I believe it says that we will not be punished for the things we inherited as a direct result of the fall - those things we inherited as a natural part of our genetic heritage - those things we didn't choose intentionally but became ours simply as a result of our allegiance to God in the pre-mortal life - those things that make us truly human.

    That truth (that the Atonement of Jesus Christ covers ALL of those things), imo, is the truth that makes us free - to pursue perfection (completion, wholeness and full development) joyfully without guilt for being imperfect (incomplete and partial). It makes repentance an exciting, forward-looking process of progress, not a depressing, backward-looking guilt trip over nothing more (in most cases for most members) than being human.

  2. Well said, Papa D. Well said.