I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Italy. In Rome, we toured the Vatican and other amazing museums featuring hundreds of sculptures and paintings that were absolutely astonishing. The talent, the lighting, the colors, the whole of it—truly jaw-dropping. How many years had some of these magnificent works taken to produce? Even the mosaic floors made your mind dizzy, trying to calculate how much intricate work they required.
At one point, I felt as if my eyes were too full. I couldn’t look at one more piece of art without deleting something already stored in there! It was overwhelming. Don’t we feel this way about many things?
As much as we might enjoy our work, our associations, music, sports, and hobbies, don’t we sometimes need a moment to process and sort, to stand back and catch our breath? A change of scenery, some time to ourselves, and a break from a packed schedule is often rejuvenating. It gives us time to appreciate, to learn from our experiences, to share with others.
As Thanksgiving in the U.S. approaches, like most people, I count my blessings. But I also think about food. Let’s be honest. This holiday has morphed into a fest of gluttony. Plans begin far ahead as elaborate menus are planned. Hours and hours of work go into the feast, at which many eat until they’re “stuffed,” and then collapse on a sofa to sleep off the indulgence.
Just as my eyes felt too full in Rome, we are approaching the time of year when our stomachs feel too full. And it’s made me think of the various vessels we fill in life, many of them full to overflowing.
When it comes to overeating, what if we dialed it down and thought of others? Hunger is an everyday problem for so many, and most of us could easily donate to food banks, soup kitchens and other organizations that distribute food to the needy. What a great way to kick of the Christmas season, too. Also remember that food donations are even more important before and after holidays.
What else do we fill? Some of us fill our brains with knowledge. This can be good. In fact, we all wish a few more people would expend such effort. But some make it their entire focus, worshipping their degrees and expertise to the exclusion of spiritual growth. Sometimes such folks become prideful, and view the less informed with pity.
Some of us fill our pocketbooks. Whole lives are spent “getting and spending” as Wordsworth wrote, making wealth our primary objective. No bank account is large enough, no home lavish enough, no power great enough. The addiction to riches always offers another finish line.
Pleasure-seeking is another worshipped idol. We gobble up entertainment, we constantly seek the next “fun” adventure, we’re all about constant enjoyment of life’s pleasures and the next new self-indulgence. Recreation and fun times aren’t evil; it’s only a problem when they crowd out everything else, including Christ’s directive to help one another.
Screen time is another area where many of us can and should cut back. As we strive for a balanced life, we need to honestly look at a clock and see how much time we’re spending on “likes” and links.
Body worship seems on the rise to me. From plastic surgeries to spending every waking minute working out, some are convinced their temple needs constant remodeling and redesign. Yes, of course there is value in being healthy and fit, but when it becomes an obsession—again, crowding out service and spiritual growth—it becomes as superficial as appearance actually is.
Oddly, we also see people addicted to panic. From the pandemic to politics, we all know some who cannot tear themselves away from media reports, which pour into our lives like a constant waterfall of bad news. And while we’ve been told by our leaders to be informed and even get involved, none of us need to become so immersed in conflict that we sacrifice our health and our relationships for a 24/7 dose of anxiety.
I guess we all know where we feel the tug of temptation and where our lives might be out of balance. Satan urges each of us to spend more time than we should in whatever will keep us from putting God first. It can even be a “good” thing; Lucifer doesn’t care. As long as we get too busy to read scriptures or attend the temple, he’ll take that.
Ironically, the sense of achievement some feel when they’ve over-filled the wrong vessel, pales in comparison to the joy we can feel when we become enthusiastic missionaries, forgiving friends, devoted spouses, and dedicated servants of God. Sometimes fulfilling a difficult calling, or setting aside our own wants in favor of God’s will—can surprise us. Out of nowhere our hearts feel a rush of joy, the thrill of closeness to our Savior, and the humbling amazement of His approval.
In Rome, I noticed my visit to the new temple there was exhilarating. Isn’t it interesting that when we fill our spiritual bucket, it never overwhelms us or makes us feel we need a break? Instead, we feel energized and ecstatic.
President Ezra Taft Benson famously said, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” This Thanksgiving, how about we pause and express genuine thanks for agency? We get to choose whether to get side-tracked, or to keep our focus upon God and His Plan of Happiness. Let’s pray about the things we’re filling up—and really consider whether we have filled our lamps with oil. God will help redirect us and give us strength for this righteous goal. This year as you gather for the annual feast, perhaps your gratitude will not be so much for things, as it will be for your relationship with your Savior.
Hilton’s book, A Little Christmas Prayer, is the perfect Christmas gift. 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.