What is most important for me to learn from the experiences of my life? Why do I go through these ups and downs that are tailored just for me? In every situation I have the choice to turn toward God or turn away from Him.
Where is my heart? Am I focused on God--or on myself or any of a billion other distractions that don't ultimately lead to Him? Pass or fail. It really is that simple. Every moment is our teacher.
- I react with impatience. Fail.
- I give a sucker to an exasperated mom stuck in the checkout line with a toddler who is having a tantrum. Pass.
- I complain and bring a negative energy to those around me. Fail.
- I do something kind, knowing it won't be noticed and I won't be thanked. Pass.
- I gripe, "Why me?" and act like a martyr. Fail.
- I prioritize my time in a way that allows me time with God in my daily devotional, in frequent prayer, at church, by going to the temple. Pass.
- I pay my tithing even when I don't know how the finances are going to work out. Pass.
- I look at someone with compassion instead of judging. Pass.
I could look at this pass/fail concept and feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Or I could look beyond the discomfort, frustration, or selfishness to find the lesson(s) I need to learn.
One thing I know for sure is that every time I fail I get a chance for a redo. Even when I pass I usually end up with lots more "practice" passing that lesson. The wonderful thing is that God wants me to pass, that He will do everything I allow Him into my life to do to help me and comfort me.
In his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn said, "These trials are not impediments... They are the practice, if you can remember to see it this way" (p. 251). Our trials aren't meant to be stumbling blocks. Every stone marks the path back to God--if we follow them.
I hope I live long enough so that by the time I die, the tally marks in the pass column will far outnumber the ones in the fail column. And I guess even if I don't make my goal, at least I still will have many more opportunities to practice ahead.