Long time no see!
It's good to be a missionary in Japan everyone. I'm thankful that I am here, and not in Mexico, or Holland, Russia, or wherever. The Lord has called and suffered me to be HERE, and I'm so happy He has chosen me to be. A good friend shared this scripture with me before they returned home, and I love the meaning it has for me now:
"And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever." (Mosiah 18:30)
Just as she did, I love replacing the word Mormon with Japan. It gives me that deeper sense of love and appreciation for where I am in the world right now, and how happy I am and grateful for "them who came to the knowledge of their Redeemer" here. It's tough here. It's tough being a missionary in general. But I never would have been able to learn the things I know now, nor have met the people and made the friendships I now hold and cherish, if I weren't here on a mission, nor even in Japan. It's an undeserved blessing to have this opportunity.
This week was rough to say the least. But a valuable lesson was learned and reintegrated into my heart. It's something I felt I need to share with you all, on what the Lord has taught me. Or... Better yet, retaught to me.
Here in Shingu, like I have shared previously, is a very rural, and isolated place. People are more so found in their homes here, or at or around them, farming, cleaning or doing various types of everyday tasks we all have in life. In Kyoto, that is the opposite. Everyone is out of the house at business, work, taking on the demands of the world and of city life. Being there for 4 1/2 months was a splendid time, stopping and talking to people on the streets, sitting and talking to old people at parks (I learned a lot from those people, especially Japanese!) and so on. I made some good memories there that I'll never forget with Elder Grossen. I haven't really knocked on the door of a house since the time I ever really even stepped off the plane here. Not since my first area back in Hashimoto. I've done a few homes in Kyoto, but no one was ever home. It's been a bit difficult getting back into the housing methods of finding after leaving such a concrete jungle as Kyoto. It's actually been very difficult, and that is for one simple reason:
I have completely forgot what it feels like to get a door slammed in the face.
Every day this week without fail, there has been a door slammed...or rather, SLID, (welcome to Japan) by an unhappy, busy, or just a simply not interested person, right in my face. I won't forget the one I received last Tuesday, when I knocked on the door of a beautiful big home, that was clearly cherished and well taken care of by this person. I knocked on the door, and waited. That's when a very sweet looking old lady came to the door, smiled big, and politely asked how she could help us. I replied," We are church volunteers for The Church of Jesus Christ of...." SLAM. As soon as she heard "Jesus Christ" the door was already on its way to being locked to any couple of young guys in white shirts and a black name tag. The least I can say about it, and really about every other door that was shut on us, is that it is a feeling that no one should feel. A feeling of utmost sadness and questioning. "What did I say?". "Did I offend them?". "Am I THAT bad looking?".
Following that experience with this small, but very bold woman, I shook it off, put a smile back on my face and started down the road again. That's when the next door came flying shut, and the next, and the one after that, and after that, and so on. In fact, there was one day where EVERY door was shut on us! I soon found myself after every door, little by little, getting upset, and getting more angry. Every door approach affected the next. As I look back, my smile was not really present during the latter end of each day, or just the week in general. I was not happy. Not one bit. I felt bitterness grow, pride increase, discouragement build up, and the anger flow. I disliked every person that I contacted. I found myself pondering about the problems they have with their lives, wondering why in the world they didn't want to talk, or more so the need to SLAM the door. I began to lose a little desire to go out and work here and there, due to the fact that I would most likely encounter the same song on replay, another door or two to the face. I took my feelings and turned to the Lord and asked for help. "Why are people stubborn, why are they this, and that, and..." just complaining to the Lord about "their" problems.
That's when I turned to my favorite scripture, in which I can count on to always try and make me feel better. It is found in the 1st epistle of John, chapter 4 , verse 18 of the New Testament. I in general just read the verse only. But I decided to read the verse, and then just continue reading the few remaining verses of the chapter. After reading verses 21 and 22. I felt nothing but emptiness about the things I had done. I had judged, hated upon, in some cases may have been a little rude, and short tempered with the people I had contacted, blaming them, and disliking them for the right to agency in which we all have, to choose whether to listen or to not listen. I had linked them to the idea of being "bad" people, and to bad lifestyles, etc. to justify my feelings. To make them "valid". Following this, I reinvested in a good, long prayer and talked with God about it, and asked for forgiveness.
Forgiveness. The Lord taught me in such a way, about forgiveness. Throughout my life, I have been taught well to forgive others by my dear parents, and by just loving people freely, and doing things the Lords way. I always strive to do so in all I did. But it seems I hadn't quite finished reading all the pages of the book. I have been able to, in depth, feel and know what it means to forgive on a much larger scale it feels like. I sat there pondering about it all. "Did I really do that?", "I really thought that?". I had finally broke free from the devious trap of pride and judgement of others, and found the ability to forgive others for what at the time seemed as a large ordeal to me, but was just them simply exercising their own agency, and closing the door on me.
Now this isn't the greatest example I've experienced or seen, but the principles are learned. No matter how big, how small, how unfair, how anything is, forgiveness is number one. It is so important. It dawned greatly on me, and the feeling I received was powerful beyond measure. I am not perfect. Not in anything I do. I'm probably the farthest from it when it comes to perfection... We all make mistakes. We all have our problems. We all have our issues. Those who say they don't are liars. It is just pure fact as human beings. But that is why we have a Savior. One who sacrificed for all those mistakes. We are all on the same boat here, because we all mess up. The church, is a place where IMPERFECT people gather every week, to become better people through the saving ordinances of the sacrament, to seek that forgiveness from the Lord, and our Savior. When someone wrongs you, forgive and forget. In my case, when a door is slammed, smile and keep on trekkin'!
"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin." (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9)
Holding such feelings grudgingly, seeking for revenge, and anger, or merely adding to the problem through bickering, back biting, and rudeness, does nothing but bring greater sorrow, it breaks the heart, and drives away the spirit. It merely adds to the conflict you encountered in the first place, and sends it to greater heights of contention. It allows the window to be opened to the Adversary to come in and take control of you. As I worked and worked this week, and held on to those thoughts and feelings, I had no effect in fulfilling my purpose as a missionary. I felt incomplete without that member of the God head with me. Doing so brought greater feelings of contention, and more unsuccessfulness at every door. It wasn't until I learned to just forgive, so to speak, the person for shutting the door, whether they shut it rudely or nicely, and to forget that ever happened. To say, "okay! Thank you so much for taking the time to listen for these few seconds, I hope you have a great day!" To show kindness to them, even when it may seem like they do not deserve it, after being so rude to me. We all know the rule. The rule is: "treat others the way you want to be treated", not "treat others the way you are treated".
Having that change of heart wasn't easy for me. I'm not saying at all forgiving is an easy thing. It's pretty difficult. It never was meant to be easy. Just like this life we live. Sometimes, after effort in forgiving, the person still isn't changing or even willing to. That's okay. The Lord will see your faith, your efforts, and will bless you.
"But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;" (3 Nephi 12:44)
"… When they have repented and come on their knees to ask forgiveness, most of us can forgive, but the Lord has required that we shall forgive even if they do not repent nor ask forgiveness of us ..." - Spencer W. Kimball. As we sincerely do so, I promise, they will come around.
I can't tell you how hard it was to keep that smile sometimes... How hard it is to really just let some things go, not just in this case, but in all cases that I have experienced throughout my life of friends wronging me, stealing, etc. It's extremely hard, but through the help of the Savior, we can be filled with his love, and have that inner peace we all so desire that can come through forgiveness. He is the "Light and Life of the world", our Master, our Exemplar. Following His example will lead us to eternal life just as the Lord promises us. In fact, forgiveness is a requirement for one to attain the grand blessing! The Savior in His life, was smitten upon, beaten, whipped, spat upon, ridiculed, and nailed to the cross, and slain, without one bit of anger or condemnation toward the men who committed such acts. Not even once. The Saviors dying words on the cross to the Father: "forgive them, for they know not what they do".
Forgive and forget. It is the Lords way. He forgives us of our sins and our mistakes, and "remembers them no more". He loves us no matter what and bids us to follow him and his ways. Sometimes, the problem may not even be others. If we pause and look around for a moment, we may even identify that spirit of darkness and contention within ourselves, as I did within myself.
"And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me."
"And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:21-22)
As a reminder from President Uchtdorf, may we all ask ourselves that question! "Lord, is it I?"
If it is so, we should fix it and make restitution, but importantly, forgive ourselves of the wronging. We should heed to the Saviors instruction to the women taken in adultery: "Go and sin no more".
That's something I feel like I have struggled with in my life sometimes, is when messing up, not forgiving myself of the wrongings I've done. Holding onto the past, in terms of your mistakes, eats you alive. The guilt, the shame, the sorrow, is not worth any of it. The Savior has forgiven you when you repent, he remembers them no more, as should we. Through trusting in the Lord, accepting his forgiveness, and through his help, and the help of others very dear to me, I've been able to forgive myself for things in the past, and have been able to soar deep into the eternal realms of His pure love. There is no greater feeling than being forgiving. There is a same feeling found in forgiving others.
"Be the better man". In a sense it is pure doctrine. We always hear it. But do we actually do it? Are we TRULY being the better man? Or are we going through the motions of forgiveness, leaving half the heart out? Still thinking about, and feeling harshness? That is my challenge to you all! Not just this week, but always. That we may follow the example of Jesus Christ, and have the ability to love the way He did, to walk in His ways, and to forgive one another. The person whom has wronged you is not perfect, neither are you. Always remember that.
I am so grateful to have learned this even more. The importance of it is so great. From it, I know that I need to be even more forgiving to those around me, and to friends, and to family for anything and everything, but also to ask for that forgiveness from them. I have truly experienced the blessings of forgiveness throughout my life, and especially this last week through this simple yet powerful experience I've had here. Going into that next house with a new frame of mind made all the difference. There was love abounding within, and joy in what I do, and really in who I am and have become. The blessings are worth the price and difficulty of overcoming challenges, and forgiving others. Because I have experienced them, I seal it all with my testimony in the name of the One who was slain for us all. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that he loves us all. I know that through his merits and mercy, we can obtain blessings and happiness too deep, and too pure to ever comprehend, when we choose to forgive others, and forgive ourselves. I am so grateful for Him and His atonement, that all of us, even the most broken and imperfect beings like myself, can be forgiven, and can become better. His atonement is infinite due to our infinite amount of mistakes. It is infinite because His love for us, is infinite. As members of this church, we have chosen to take His name upon us, and to follow the Lord and his teachings. Let us all strive to also be infinite in our own love for others, and for the Savior, but also infinite in forgiving others. It is the Lords way.
I know I'm going to have a good week this week. I love you all very much and am thankful for the emails sent to me! If I don't respond to you, I apologize. I do read them! It's very hard to get everyone, every time, but know that I think about you guys and hope you are all doing well. I usually do get all you guys. Because you're all important to me. Thank you so much for your kindness, support, and love! Now quit showing so much of it to me, and start showing it to the one whom I know you all may have thought about while reading this! The one whom you need to befriend once more. Whether that be your friend, family member, your children or your parents, dog, goldfish, whomever. We all have one person. Forgive, and forget. Don't let the evil and dark feelings transform you into what the Evil One wants you to be.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Cabbage pancake. The most delicious thing I've eaten it's called okonomiyaki.