An artist friend of mine has been struggling to begin a project. She has long struggled to complete projects, as well. As a creative writing instructor for a local junior college, I recognize her creative paralysis because writers become blocked as well, seemingly unable to break through and begin. There are dozens of links online that offer exercises and techniques to help with this.
But my friend did something very wise. She asked for a Priesthood Blessing. This is extraordinary. But it shouldn’t be; when we need guidance from God a blessing is the perfect choice. Growing up as a Latter-day Saint I—and perhaps you?—got the impression that blessings were only for life-or-death emergencies. As if the power exists in a tiny bottle in the back of a cupboard, and we don’t want to use it all up on smaller issues. But, in fact, there is always an abundance of this amazing power. God is keenly aware of our struggles and wants to help us.
He often uses simplicity and even economy of words, because He knows best how to motivate us and how to express His love for us. Often we’ll hear just a few words, but feel much more detailed impressions. In the blessing my friend was told, “Just start.”
What a powerful message. It resonated with her at once, and she realized it was like Nephi being told to build a ship. He just had to start. Nephi had no idea how to build a ship, and he didn’t ask how to do it! He didn’t remind God that he was unskilled at this. He didn’t consult with others to get their approval of his abilities (thank goodness). He just asked where to find the ore to make the tools, and then did it, undoubting. He had faith and allowed God to lead him.
When Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, he didn’t argue or try to come up with another plan. He didn’t gasp or whine or procrastinate. He just obeyed. And he obeyed swiftly, which is incredible. When Mary was told she would give birth to the Messiah, she didn’t express shock or lack of belief, but simply agreed to trust God. The scriptures show us people who doubted– which never worked out well—and others who, in faith, “just started.”
My friend has posted those words where she can see them. Remember what Boyd K. Packer said about this kind of faith? He was struggling to understand how he could fulfill an assignment he’d been given by President David O. McKay, and was sharing his concerns with then Elder Harold B. Lee. Elder Lee gave him this timeless advice: “You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you.”
This has application in so many endeavors. New callings, scary conversations with loved ones, hard tasks at work, mission service, big projects that look impossible, college applications, apologizing, getting to the temple, finding family names, beginning daily scripture study, making important decisions, praying with real intent. Even starting an exercise program or getting the garage organized—all of these goals become easier if we just get that first step behind us. We need to “just start.”
Gaining a testimony is like this. We have to experiment upon the word, pray with real intent, and ask God if the Book of Mormon is a true record. Sometimes that task looks daunting. But if we just start, just take that first step, we can feel the warmth of approval from the Holy Ghost.
If you want God to confirm that you’re on the right track, you have to be on a track! You may choose not to proceed in the first direction you took. But you have to choose something to get things started. And there is great peace in being proactive and engaging in life, even if we stumble and even if we have to change our direction.
Wringing our hands, hesitating, and feeling insecure about our abilities leads to anxiety and consternation. Perhaps it’s a paradox, but when we take that first, scary step—when we even risk failure—we sense we are making progress. We are doing something. All great inventions, all great discoveries, resulted from someone taking a chance. And when God has blessed us with talents, such as my artist friend has, He will reward us for trying to develop and share it. Just start.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is not just for Christmas. Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village, and this tale teaches anyone, of any faith, the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.