Latter-day Saints can find themselves on the top of the world when they least expect it.
I just love those days when, for no particular reason, you’re on top of the world. You go punch dancing down the street for your morning work-out (and I do mean literal punch dancing a la Kevin Bacon in Footloose). You glance in the mirror on your way out the door and confirm that you are having both a good hair and a good face day (a rare treat) and you know today will be a day where perfect strangers compliment you on your outfit. You perfectly grasp the concepts discussed in your classes, even offering your own insight or two. You feel on top of every task and your social interactions leave you with a smile that lingered rather than any awkwardness or regret. You make your director laugh out loud in rehearsal and in the notes afterwards she says things like “brilliant” and “keep doing that” and you arrive home to find out that the boy you like was over looking for you while you were gone.

Days like those fill you with great, gulping doses of empowerment. Days like those begin, progress, and end with the setting of goals that feel sure-fire and completely within reach. Things you’ve been struggling with for years suddenly seem like victories to be celebrated within the month. You can see just who you’ve always wanted to be and one fleeting moment, you can see how to get there too. But days like that (those precious few days like that) are just there to mock you as soon as life kicks in again and discipline dies and those resolutions fail and you say something stupid in front of someone you really want to impress.

I checked out a book from the library last week that I’ve been meaning to read for some time. The prologue seemed so familiar to me, I thought for a moment I may have even read it before. It was written by a person whose writing never fails to intrigue me and all of his books have made it onto my “intend to read” list at one point or another, so I figured I must have just read about it before. Half way through the first chapter I turned the page and there was a library receipt inside with my name neatly printed on it and “January 27, 2009” just above. So I had checked it out before (and I guess this author isn’t nearly as popular in the Harold B. Lee Library as I think he deserves to be if the receipt stayed in there all of this time).

It was odd to look at the receipt and the other books listed on it and the date and try to imagine the version of me whose grubby little hands had last grasped this book so tightly. I tried to envision who I was on January 27, 2009 when I walked out into the snow from the warmth of the library ready to read (though apparently I never got further than that spot in the first chapter that this receipt was bookmarking). I realized that that was before Thailand and more shocking still, before Jerusalem. Jerusalem is so much a part of my daily psyche; it sometimes seems silly to think I existed before I lived in my soul’s city.

That old version of me seems like a sniveling, unwieldy, naïve thing compared to who I am now and what I know now. The experiences I’ve had in less than two years have transformed my person and I do think that despite the fleeting nature of those empowering days, I’ve made progress. I am greater now than I was then. Those broken resolutions and fizzled out empowerment days meant a life of stumbling. But I think (I hope) that I’m stumbling upwards towards light. I just wish I could feel the triumph and celebrate it.

“I will heal their backsliding and love them freely” (Hosea 14:4) I feel like I can hardly take two steps forward before I find myself taking one back. Even if that means I’m ultimately moving forward, I have such a hard time shaking the disappointment of seeing what I was once moving toward, move away from me again. But to know that the Lord is good to his word, and the word is that backsliding will be healed fills me with punch-dance worthy confidence that even the goals that continually fall through and the empowerment that refuses to stick around will eventually be things that I’ve accomplished and a person that I’ve become. The Lord loves us freely whether we’re kings or pawns, but imagine the joy he’ll share with us when with his help we’ve succeeded, and with his stripes we are healed.