I’ve never found a scripture where God promises life will be without challenge, but I can think of many where he does promise that if we keep our eye on Christ, he will fill us with light. I am not a very good driver. The result is that I get in other people’s way on the road one day as I was driving, probably distracted by what my daughter was sticking up her nose in the back seat, I mistakenly cut off another driver.
He yelled at me and screamed things I didn’t understand, making his frustrations known. I came home and rehearsed the story to my husband, determining that this guy was the worst. My husband was comforting and validating, confirming my feelings that this guy was wrong and that I was right. I love to feel validated in my anger and my frustration, in part because I like to feel right, because it makes me feel safe. Thinking of this man as the worst made it easier to disregard the embarrassment that I felt from my honest mistake.
I was seeing this man who I knew nothing about in black and white, good or bad, wrong or right. I used to see people this way a lot, but then some pivotal events in my life made me have to adjust to a new reality. As a kid, I observed firsthand the challenge of mental illness in my home. We had some tough times as a family. One thing I knew I didn’t want any sort of mental health challenges ever in my future.
I was so paranoid in college that by our third date I interrogated my husband about whether or not he had any history of mental health challenges. If he did, I was ready to break up with him, even though I liked him. I was that determined. And as for myself, I have always been naturally driven, outgoing and bubbly. I told myself and others that I would force myself to never become depressed. Yes, I had some genes that could influence my mental health, but I didn’t need to worry about that because I was a happy person.
And then something changed. When I was twenty one years old, I experienced my first panic attack. I was working in a difficult circumstance with a mentor who I let make me feel very small. I would go to the bathroom stall on my lunch break, sobbing and stifling back vomit. I stopped eating. And then I stopped sleeping, this debilitating anxiety spiraled into a dark depression for the next five and a half years, I would find myself on and off medications in and out of therapy, struggling so hard to defeat this monster of anxiety and depression that kept trying to ruin my life, the life I had planned for myself.
You see, I had a very black and white view of life and people if you choose to be happy, you will be. If you make good choices, everything in life will be good. So why, when I was doing my best to live a good life, why couldn’t I run away from this darkness? Seeing life in black and white was failing me and I felt anything but safe. It wasn’t until, through the help of many doctors, therapists and direct inspiration from God that I came to a place of peaceful, even harmonious acceptance of this challenge.
Through a lot of prayer study and pondering, I began to see myself and my life differently. In Matthew, the scripture says the light of the body is the eye. If therefore then I be single, the whole body shall be full of light. I’ve never found a scripture where God promises life will be without challenge. But I can think of many where he does promise that if we keep our eye on Christ, he will fill us with light.
Christ has healed me. His light, his love has transformed me from a girl that struggled to like herself to someone who loves others better. Because I love myself, I have a susceptibility to anxiety and depression and I may take medication and go to therapy for the rest of my life because medication therapy and keeping my eye on the savior makes a life of peace and happiness for me. And I’m OK with that. In fact, this life I never planned has given me opportunities to reach people I never would have before.
This life that I once thought was ruined fills me with meaning, purpose and pure joy. Through this experience of having the Savior’s light fill me with love for myself, I learned to greater compassion for others who suffer not just with their mental health, but with anything. My own experiences with darkness and light have changed the way I see myself and the way I see them as I’ve talked to people from all different walks of life. A Secret Service officer from the White House with a stutter, a man whose drug addiction almost lost him, his family, a friend who is gay and continues to navigate his way.
I realize that most of our lives turn out very different than how we plan. I learned to sit with uncertainty, to hold more than one emotion at once. I learned that none of us, myself included, are alone. I don’t see people in black and white anymore. At least I should try not to. I try to see them in color by having compassion on them and connecting with them. I think of it like television. In nineteen twenty seven, the first television was invented and the picture was in black and white.
It was so exciting. No one cared that it wasn’t in color because they didn’t know any different. But in nineteen fifty four, all that changed when Americans watched the annual Rose Bowl football game in full color. The first color cast you see when we can look at people and situations as good or bad and we don’t have any reason or circumstance to challenge that way of seeing black and white thinking works for us. But what if we were to enhance our view?
What if we were to see in color? What if that man I cut off, the one who yelled at me was coming from the hospital and he just lost a loved one? What if he had just left a hurtful conversation with a parent? Asking questions like this can give us compassion for the human being sitting in the driver’s seat. It is easy to be critical of someone from far away. But as soon as we get up close to them and see what is really going on with them, I think we’ll almost always feel greater compassion for them and we’ll be able to connect with them.
Now, with the television, seeing in color was amazing. The technology didn’t stop there. In nineteen ninety eight we were all blown away when the first high definition television came out high def TV. The colors were brighter, the picture was clear and everything looks so much more real. We have the same opportunity with our thinking. Not only can we see people with compassion and connect with them seeing them in color, we can see them in high definition by noticing their unique gifts and life experiences that can benefit the world.
That angry driver. I bet if I got to know him, I would see that his life perspective could teach me something just like high definition. Television provides a clearer, more real looking picture, high definition in my mind is seeing reality. It’s seeing life as always, changing, beautiful, painful and so, so meaningful. We can all enhance our view of the people in situations life brings us as we strive for this high definition thinking where people make both good and bad decisions, where life is both happy and sad at times.
In my mind, the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ. There’s a story in the Bible where people bring Jesus, a woman caught in adultery, they say to him, according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned. What do you say? For a minute? Christ says nothing. He just stoops down, drawing something in the dirt with his finger. As they continue to question him, he finally gets up and says this. He that is without sin among you.
Let him first cast a stone at her. They all leave and Christ ask this woman who has made a mistake. Where are your accusers have no man condemned me and she says. No, man, Lord, he responds, neither do I condemn the goal and sin no more. I believe Christ saw this woman not as a bad person, but as someone who had made a mistake and still had immeasurable potential. He had compassion on her. He connected with her.
He saw her in color and even more beautiful, I believe he saw her in that more elevated way of thinking and high definition as he saw her potential as a daughter of God with a future saying go and said no more. We live in a time where it is easy to see others in black and white, whether it be making judgments about others based on their political party, their race, their sexual orientation, even gender. Seeing people in black and white can lead us to inappropriately judge them and not see them for who they really are.
I am grateful to have the savior as my example. His teachings make me feel safe as I choose to love every person I come into contact with. We can strive every day to see our lives and the people around us in high definition thinking. There is a scripture found in the Bible that I find very symbolic when it comes to seeing others as the savior does, the apostle writes. So Jesus had compassion on them and touch their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight and they followed him, Jesus was without conditions, he has compassion on us, whether we see clearly or not, just as he had compassion on the blind.
May we all strive to extend that same unconditional love and compassion, to see the people around us more clearly, to be filled with lights as we keep our eyes single on our greatest example. Jesus Christ. I see you and you look pretty special to me.