Help. Hope. Healing.

The Supremacy of the Gradual

By Rex Goode

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I’ve been operating recovery resources for individuals who struggle with various problems for about ten years now (Clean-LDS and LDSR.org). There has been a pattern with people who come to these sites and others I’ve been involved in. I think the majority come because they’ve been looking all over for the fastest and easiest road to wholeness.

I would be happy if they were initially disappointed in that hope. So many of them learn a few insights and hear a few things that work, try something, and then announce their success. Off they go to enjoy life without their problems. A lot of them come back. Some of them who come back do the same silly thing again. They discover one thing they think they were missing and off they go again.

Others, in a similar vein, try the one idea they picked up from the other people sharing, try it, see that it doesn’t work alone, and abandon the effort altogether after concluding that the change they desire is hopeless. What’s worse is that they tell others that it doesn’t work and spread their own disappointment around.

I believe that all of this stems from our modern lust for the ultra-convenient and instant remedies. We get used to advances in things like pharmacology, transportation, and communication to the point where we lose all capacity for patience in things that can’t be fixed in a moment or by a single-dimensional approach to a problem.

I like it when people finally come back and say that they recognized that it wasn’t going to be quick or simple, that it would take time, dedication, and lots of learning from mistakes and from successes. A step in the right direction isn’t the end of a journey. That is one of the hardest things for people to learn. Success today doesn’t ensure success tomorrow. It takes diligence.

One of the most familiar themes in Latter-day Saint belief is the idea of enduring to the end. We have this promise in the restored gospel:

And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God (D&C 14:7).

I don’t think we Mormons take that requirement as seriously as we should. We don’t realize that the word “endure” doesn’t describe a lazy walk in the park. It requires a commitment and fortitude that must draw daily on the spiritual strength of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of keeping the commandments. Most of all, it takes an entire life, by definition. We are not told to endure to the point of over-confidence. I take “the end” to refer to the end of life and possibly beyond.

There is a tragedy to thinking that problems should be easily fixed and I think it is at the heart of why people don’t want to believe in enduring to the end. The tragedy is that quick fixes, if they ever work, rob a person of the priceless gift of self-knowledge. I really made progress in my life when I realized that the process was going to require me to truly understand myself and I determined to get to know myself no matter how ugly I thought the information would be.

Then, to my great surprise, as I got to know myself, I realized I wasn’t half bad. I was worth knowing. I had flaws and imparied thinking, but on the whole, was quite lovable. It has been a very long and arduous journey. As tiring as it may get, each new challenge presents me with the opportunity to discover my mettle, to learn a new aspect of me. How sad it would have been to just plop myself down where I was and decide to avoid getting to know myself.

I think that’s the problem with the quick fix. It’s self-rejection, and even more sadly, rejection of the desire the Lord has to show you yourself. When He shows you yourself, you discover something that is miraculous. He shows you that you are of the greatest worth.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shallappear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

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2 Responses to “The Supremacy of the Gradual”

  1. julie said:

    Rex,
    I understand this concept, however it has been so hard for me to do it because of things I have learned about myself. I think that I find out stuff about myself and it hurts and then I say okay this is not so bad, but then I learn more and more and it feels like it never ends. And I suppose it doesn’t because that is what enduring to the end means, but I can’t seem to feel like I can even breathe a little before something else hits me and knocks me to the ground. I’m so tired all the time and then I also have a hard time feeling like I was really prepared by God before I came here. I don’t know that I would have chosen to come here and do this if I had really known how hard it would be. This life is supposed to be a test and I know how it feels when I am taking a class and I haven’t studied and prepared for a test in that class. Well, this life for me feels like I wasn’t prepared or studied enough for this test and I feel like I am going to fail, like I fail those tests in a class that I haven’t prepared for. I know I should have more faith and hope, but I really struggle with enduring to the end.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Believe it or not, Julie, I struggle with enduring to the end too. Sometimes it’s a struggle every day to just keep myself on the “straight” and narrow, pun intended.

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