"Growth doesn't happen in the comfort zone and
the comfort zone doesn't exist when you're growing."
I often find myself thinking about growth, change and progress. I reflect back on who I've been, who I am and who I want to become. At times, it's a seemingly evasive journey. While I've come so far, there is always farther to go. There are many factors that contribute to the progress made on the journey of life. I recently had an experience that reminded me of an essential aspect of the journey, the enabling part of the journey, what gets me from who I currently am to who I want to become.
When I heard the Provo Tabernacle had burned, my heart was so sad. I had the memory of attending Stake Conference there on multiple occasions, singing in the choir and listening to President Uctdorf. I had the memory of driving past it on the way to visit the deer with my grandparents almost every Sunday for 3 years. My grandmother would often remark about how beautiful that building was. Although, her Alzheimer's kept her from remembering what it was, she recognized it as a place of beauty, a place of heritage and a place of history.
After it burned, I wondered what the future held for this once sacred, dedicated space. Would it would be rebuilt or be torn down? Why did it happen? What plans did the Lord have? It seemed that the building had been spared no degree of vengeance from the flames that utterly destroyed it. Fire seems so relentless, so demeaning, so engulfing and yet, so purifying, so cleansing and so mesmerizing. It's incredible just how quickly something can go from present to absent, from standing to vanishing and from whole to broken. Anyone who has been near a forest fire can speak to the all encompassing nature of a fire as it seamlessly and viciously destroys anything it touches and spreads with even the smallest of breeze. The sound of crackling and the thickness of the smoke inhibits the ability to see far off and the ability to freely breath as fire pours in every sense of the body. The charred earth and remnants of a "once forest" left lifeless by the heat of the destructive flames. However, upon returning to this same space at a later time, the blackened remnants slowly unveil specks of a color, where life once more returns. And eventually, it comes back better and more lush than before. New life is born. And out of the ashes, life is born and a new day breaks forth.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the open house of the Provo City Center Temple. This temple has come to exist because of something awful and terrible that happened, the tabernacle burned down. This newly rebuilt/converted tabernacle to temple is a transformation that occurred as a direct result of a tragedy. Tragedy paved the way for something better. What I always knew as the Provo Tabernacle has become the Provo City Center Temple.
As I wandered through this sacred building, my heart was deeply impressed by what the tabernacle had become. While it was great before in its acoustics, its old school character and its reflection of the time in which it was built; the Lord has turned something good into something much better. It now served a higher purpose, order and calling. It invited and soon would allow patrons to make and keep covenants with God in His house. It had become a House of the Lord. In order for this place to fulfill the full measure of its creation, it required refinement. That refinement occurred in the process of something that started as a tragedy and turned into a temple. It has now become a sacred edifice, truly "Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord." It had been refined and re-defined. It has become better than before.
As I stood outside, I marveled on how the outside structure had been preserved, how it was much the same as it was before. However, the inside had become so different. My mind was taken to the Savior, to His life and ultimately to His Atonement. I love how Preach My Gospel talks of the Atonement as encompassing three events, Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, His crucifixion on the cross and His Resurrection three days later. In process of the Atonement he went from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. He trod the loneliest path that will ever be taken. He truly descended below all things in every sense of the meaning.
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sickness of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; 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. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffering according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance...." (Alma 7:11-13)
And because he suffered every pain, affliction and temptation that we will ever encounter, endure or experience, he has provided a way whereby we too can overcome the suffering of the flesh and ultimately be delivered to our heavenly home. Through the great tragedy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we too can reach our ultimate destiny. Through the Atonement, we too can become better than before. We can be cleansed of sin so we are worthy of blessings, and ultimately become pure, even spotless, becoming worthy of living in the presence of God and inheriting eternal life.
This cleansing process is often more intensive than we might think. I often think my heart just needs a little renovation. You know, polish some things up, fix a leak, maybe a broken pipe, refinish the patio, change the kitchen around, maybe update some fixtures, patch the roof, just some touch ups with simple tools and household cleaners. But God expects more and therefore, more is required. Clean enough isn't clean. It requires intense work and effort in order for true purification to occur. Tough abrasives, scrubbing, scratching and even stretching and stinging. It involves a lot of time and diligence. It requires at some points, the element of heat, be it through friction or fire to be ultimately cleansed. This occurs in our souls.
Our Heavenly Father has a vision of potential for his children that is truly divine because he knows that divinity is in us. He intends for us to use the Atonement of his Son to become refined, prepared and pure in order to dwell with Him. That transformation takes the shape of a rebuild/conversion that is much more like what is described in this CS Lewis passage from Mere Christianity.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”And so, what God did with the temple, he is trying to do with us. It is the same pattern, a foreshadow if you will of what could and should happen to us. As I thought about the significance of the temples in my life, I thought of how I go there to make and keep covenants with God. These covenants are intended to eventually allow me to return to live with God. It's the course I'm putting myself on, its the path I want to walk.
I thought the tabernacle had reached its potential but it was through the cleansing fire of adversity and affliction (which really at the time we called tragedy and terror) that it has risen from the ashes to become something more incredible and more beautiful than could have been imagined.
And so it can be for us. Happiness and joy were not ever intended to be experienced in full measure in mortality, this life is only a time for us to prepare to meet God (see Alma 34:32). Happiness and joy are the eternal gains. We knew that mortality would entail a lot of uncomfortable moments, lots of stretching, lots of growing. Growing isn't comfortable. But there isn't growth in the comfort zone and there isn't comfort in the growth zone. The fire of refinement is hard and at times, heartbreaking. Tragedy can pave the way for something better. We may wonder what good can come of it, if any at all. We wonder if growth and change are possible. We search for understanding and we look to God to understand what he is doing. But all the while, don't forget that he is always at the helm.
"You know...that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small held in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves. Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (Doctrine and Covenants 123:16-17)
I don't usually use this as a platform to outrightly share my testimony although it is inherent in a lot of what I post. But, I want to share in a few simple statements. I know that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who loves us and I love Him. He gave his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ to tell the world of love, sacrifice and death. He sent his son to die for us and rise with living breath. (He Sent His Son, Primary Songbook) Jesus is the Living Christ, the light of the world. "His way is the path to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come." (The Living Christ)
Let us choose to follow Him.