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Sunday, 17 April 2016 23:00

Essay 5: Breaking Down Our Walls

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*Note: This essay is the fifth of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. 


Walls around our heartsAs an LDS midsingle, I have heard quite a bit of talk about "walls" lately. I don't mean Donald Trump's Mexico Wall, Pink Floyd's album, or even the Great Wall of China. No, these walls are of a more personal nature for each of us as human beings and children of God.

I am, of course, referring to those emotional and mental walls that form around our hearts.

As someone who is all too familiar with such walls, I have spent the past few years seeking out the right tools to break down some of my own. Contrary to popular (unpopular?) opinion, dating is not easy for me (I blame it on the cultural Oklahoma/Utah conflicts). Like many of you, when asked "Why are you not married yet?", I have no honest response (although many pithy ones that I do not verbally express). There are a myriad of ways to respond: it could be Heaven's timing (for which I'd love a calendar), I haven't found the right "one" (no, I don't believe in a soul-mate), or a thousand other "reasons" it could be. Chances are it is a combination of many of them; only you and the Lord can know what those particulars may be.

But one factor that could be contributing (in part) to some of the singleness, yours and mine, are these darn walls around our hearts. I don't like them, you don't like them, none of us like them. And yet, due to past hurts, current fears of rejection, perhaps previous abandonment or abuse or whatever other trauma we endured, we have them. I do, you do, we all do. They don't make any of us "broken", they make us mortal.

But they sure are annoying, aren't they? They affect dating, friendships, careers, goals, education, and they can even infringe on our relationship with Heavenly Father depending on what trauma we have gone through. Well, let me clarify that when I say trauma we might just as easily say trials. And whether we like it or not, we came to this earth expecting trials. Abraham learned that truth in the Pearl of Great Price; we cannot be tested without a challenge. It would be like an athlete stepping onto the field of play to test their body, mind and skills without someone to compete against. It just doesn't work, or as Lehi said, "there is an opposition in all things. If not so,... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad." Which is all great in theory, but practicum....that is a harder pill to swallow, especially when that opposition seems to bash us to our knees and break our hearts. When our tears flow like the Mighty Mississippi and the storms of adversity are threatening to blow our house of faith away like the tornadoes I saw while growing up in Oklahoma, well, in those moments we may give anything for a magic wand that will send the opposition back to Hell.

You are strong enoughAnd that is normal. If our trials don't try us, then they aren't very trying now are they? Even the Savior, who knew just how important his atoning sacrifice was in God's plan for our salvation, asked, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me..." I don't know of a single midsingle (see what I did there?) who has not experienced that desire for relief at least once in their lifetime. Whether it was through a divorce or the loss of a job, abuse of some sort or a wayward child, disease or perhaps even the incredibly burdensome adversities of loneliness, anxiety, depression or low-self confidence, every person we see at all the dances, parties, weekend trips and around our ward building has been through fires that we would give our own right arm to personally avoid. 

By nature I'm an observer of human nature. Throughout my careers I have been or am a journalist, a writer, an author (yes, there is a difference), a comedian (no, that's not a joke), a motivational and keynote speaker, a bobsled athlete, a head coach, an entrepreneur, a missionary, a student, and so on. But throughout all these phases of life, I have seen human nature at its best (and at its worst). And the more I see, the more I learn about walls and our reactions to life's events.

As midsingles we are reacting our own inner walls in one of two ways: as challenges to overcome or as challenges to avoid. And I get it. I think that the Lord, our Church leaders and medical professionals alike would agree that the affects of life's adversities/traumas/etc. can be difficult to face at times. Even for the faithful, hurt and fear and loneliness can linger in our lives like shadows on our souls.

The walls around our heartAll around me I see midsingles who carry tremendous burdens on those souls which then help strengthen the walls around said individual's hearts. Psychologists view these walls as survival mechanisms that we employ to keep us safe from future hurt or even to deal with the current hurts we are wrestling with. The problem is that in the long-run, these walls/survival mechanisms that we utilize can keep us from further hurt, but they can also keep us from further happiness as well. We cannot numb pain we feel without also reducing our ability to feel joy. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons the Lord has counseled us to avoid addictive substances (which, by the way, most people partake of to numb their pains).

There are some (keyword, there) midsingles who deal with their inner pains through addictions while others lean towards isolation. Some run from event to event (or even relationship to relationship) in an attempt to outrun the hurt (which cannot be done; it can only be faced). Others have given up on their faith while others have, out of heart-breaking strife, lashed out at God in anger and/or frustration. I see midsingles that desperately crave a relationship, or perhaps even deep friendships, yet their walls that keep them "safe" also keep them distant or afraid. To combat such a struggle, they may use physical intimacy as stop-gap between having what they want and their current walled-in situation. And with this whole paragraph in mind, whenever I see a midsingle who may be struggling spiritually or with the commandments, I always want to ask "What hurt is driving them to such choices? What pain or fear or trauma are they harboring in their hearts that influences their path?" 

The truth is that I don't know. And you don't know. But the Lord does. In fact, in a recent moment of battling some of my own inner turmoil and wondering, as Joseph Smith did in Liberty Jail, "O God, where art thou?", I re-read a verse of scripture that I have seen before, but not with this topic even on my radar. Flipping open the scriptures I read, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." Most of the time we focus on the first part of that sentence, that the Lord's hand carry the scars from the Roman nails. And yet, I could not help but weep as I read the second part and interpreted it to mean that my walls, the emotional and mental walls that are the result of my hurts, my traumas, my fears and even my sins are continually before Him. He is aware of the scars that I carry inside and of my slow-walk efforts to heal them so that I can further the joys in my life.

The love of ChristAs Alma (the Elder) taught, "and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." Their infirmities. I cannot think of a more appropriate phrase to describe the walls around our hearts. Well, perhaps I can if I use Alma's words from the previous verse when he said, "he will take upon him the pains... of his people." That includes the pains of divorce, of loneliness, of anxiety, of abuse, of addiction, of physical and mental disability, of depression, of fear, of financial stress, of struggles to let others in and whatever pain is weighing on your heart and my heart. While all this does not excuse our sins, at times it helps explain them which is perhaps part of the Savior's role as our "advocate with the Father". An advocate helps plead one's case and in this case, the case is ours and part of the trial is the evaluation of just how much our "walls", those difficult emotional and mental hurts, influenced our choices. Judgement truly is the Lord's alone for through his atoning sacrifice only He knows what hurts, fears, incorrect beliefs and other factors led to a midsingle's choice to sin, go inactive, hurt another, etc. And perhaps it is the healing of those choice-influencing inner wounds, negative/incorrect thoughts and debilitating fears that help us to put off the "natural man" and become whole.

What is to be done? I have walls. You have walls. And these walls affect choices we make every single day. How can we break them down before they break us down? Well, we must do our part in this work of healing. We must seek help if we need it, whether that be through a compassionate counselor or the support of loved ones. We can "seek...out of the best books words of wisdom;...even by study and also by faith" by opening the scriptures and (as an author I do recommend this) prayerfully searching the bookstore for a book (or two) that may deal with whatever your "walls" may result from. We can also ask for a Priesthood blessing specifically for our inner pains or attend the temple if that is an option for us. There are so many avenues available, but we must do something, even if we must change (or "repent") of those avenues we have been utilizing to survive the struggle up until now that got us through, but no longer serve us now. We cannot avoid or run from our inner pains forever; we must face them the best we know how as we obtain more tools with which to fight. And if you feel that you lack strength or ability to fight right now, just remember that your best efforts can be magnified by the Lord. Remember, David faced Goliath with just a sling and a stone. After all, the Savior has promised that "my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Mercy if the essence of the GospelAs Isaiah so clearly declared:

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard?"

"[God] giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength....

"...They that wait upon [Him] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles...

"For...the Lord...God will hold [their] right hand, saying unto [them], Fear not; I will help thee."

I don't know what "walls" are affecting your mind and heart right now. I do know that the Lord cherishes whatever level of faith you can place in Him as you face those mountains, for even if your faith is just "as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." You may have to use the combined shovels of patience, hope, optimism, continued-learning, professional and Priesthood support and pray to do the digging, but it is possible. You can trust again, open up your heart again, gain confidence again, and most of all find light, joy and love again. 

No wall, whether it be mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, or financial can withstand the power of He who broke the very bands of death. And just as He was resurrected, so to can Christ bring those "dead" parts of your heart and soul back to life.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

In closing, it doesn't matter what you've done, what you've gone through or what you are currently struggling with. If you will let Him, Jesus Christ will walk with you through it.

As Nephi so lovingly reminds us:

"Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price."

Jeremy C. Holm

Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.

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