By Zachary M. Collier
“It would be an inconvenient rule if nothing could be done until everything can be done.” – Winston Churchill
Here’s a true statement: repentance is hard.
There’s no doubt about it – true repentance takes time, dedication, and effort. Often, there is a disconnect between what we know we should do and what we actually end up doing. Personally, I frequently find myself getting frustrated with my weaknesses – cursing myself for not obtaining perfection instantaneously. I imagine many of us are in the same boat: we have all the desire, all the intent, but we are missing one key ingredient: patience.
It takes time to fundamentally change a part of yourself. It takes time to be consistent. Repentance is like climbing a mountain – the summit cannot be reached in a single leap. We must climb it step by step. Sometimes we may stumble, other times we may slip on the ice and fall so far that we are hanging on for dear life. But as we continually strive to reach the top, to our Father in Heaven every step, great or small, is a triumph.
I had a tender experience on my mission where I was able to witness one of those triumphs.
We had been working with a couple for six months. They loved having us over, and they loved reading scriptures and learning about the Book of Mormon, but they had a hard time doing it on their own when we weren’t there. Night after night, week after week, my companion and I would prayerfully rack our brains for how to get them to keep commitments – to repent and be baptized. At last we realized that we were asking them to jump to the top of the mountain. We had to get them to take baby steps. That’s when it hit us: in the six months we were there, the wife had never accepted an invitation to pray aloud. That was the step she needed to take before anything else could ever happen. So we planned a lesson based on her need to form a relationship with her Heavenly Father.
So on a Saturday night we had a great lesson about prayer with this couple. The Spirit was so strong, and for the first time, the wife accepted the invitation to say the closing prayer. Nervous and trembling (she doesn’t like speaking in front of people), she pulled her 5-year-old son close and told him to fold his arms and bow his head as she held her baby son in her other arm. Then she gave a perfect, sincere, heartfelt prayer, and it was beautiful. When she said amen, she had tears in her eyes and a smile a mile wide. She held her sons close and kissed them each on the forehead and said, “We did it! We said a prayer!” Her husband was amazed. His eyes were wide and he was smiling so big. Apparently, that was the first time in her life that she had ever prayed aloud. She had always wanted to – she had the intent, but could not overcome her fear of public speaking. Then suddenly, after months of desire and intent, it finally happened.
We were so proud of her. Everyone hugged and clapped and smiled. This was a triumph. This is what Heavenly Father sees in us.
Their family has changed so much since that first prayer. They are happier and the Spirit is in their home. All it took was a step in the right direction.
Be patient. If we continue to pray for a change within ourselves, if we continue striving to keep the commandments, and if we truly have faith and we do all that is in our power to change, the redeeming power of the atonement will make up everything that we lack. Step by step, we will work our way up the mountain. And in the life to come, we will find that by the grace of God, we have reached the summit.
It is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to lose sight of the summit and to become distraught as we focus on the laborious, occasionally agonizing steps in front of us. But Christ has felt it all, and He is there to push us forward. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
So in our quest for eternal life, don’t get disheartened.
Remember. We can do this.