On my bad days—the days when I feel completely frustrated with my shortcomings, my moments of impatience, my utter failures—I remind myself of a defining moment in my life when I learned something spectacular about God.
It happened as a result of a General Conference address I heard a couple years ago by Elder Lawrence. I’m sure you know the one: “What Lack I Yet?”
In his talk, Elder Lawrence suggests following the rich young ruler’s lead and essentially asking the Lord, How can I become better? What do I need to change?
I’ve practiced this, sometimes formally during a kneeling prayer or the ordinance of the sacrament, and other times quietly in my mind while completing my daily tasks. I always receive an answer, things like:
-Find more meaningful ways to serve those around you.
-Make the Sabbath Day more sacred.
-Don’t be so critical of the people you love.
-Make an effort to be more punctual.
-Save more; spend less.
-Stop comparing yourself to others.
-Pray with your husband every night…even if you’re both exhausted.
-Remember to enjoy the moment.
One night, just months after the birth of my baby boy, I had gotten up for what felt like the 100th time to feed him. I looked down at his perfect face and suddenly felt smothered by all the things that made me so…imperfect.
I knew I needed to make some changes. I knew I needed to be better. I knew I needed help, but I just didn’t know where to start.
So in the stillness of the night, while the rest of the world slept, I prayed, “Okay, Heavenly Father…..what lack I yet?”
I worried that the response I’d get was, “Everything”, but Heavenly Father taught me then that He is gentle with our fragile feelings.
It was as if in my mind I could hear Him say,
“There is a time and a place to be corrected, but right now—this—this is not one of them. I hope you will ask again in a future day, but for now, just enjoy the infant in your arms and remember that I love you.”
Now I know I had an endless list of things to work on—weaknesses to address, habits to overcome—but in that moment, I came to know a God who was willing to push all that aside so that I could simply feel His unconditional love. This was a message with a pulse, and it changed me forever.
Because on that night, the psalm, “Be still and know that I am God” sang to my heart. He knew how overwhelmed I had felt since motherhood commenced. He knew the constant stress and worry. He knew the paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. He knew the guilt and the fear. He knew the depression and the anxiety. He knew the brain fog and the headaches and the sleepless nights.
He stood fully aware of my waning spiritual habits due to utter exhaustion. He knew I’d been neglecting my church calling, and even worse, that I’d been neglecting my husband. He knew I was too quick to get frustrated and too slow to reach out to Him for help.
He knew all of that. He also knew that my heavy heart just couldn’t handle one more thing. He knew that in that moment I did not need to be rebuked or chastened. I just needed to be loved.
I have no doubt that Heavenly Father will forever be invested in our progress, but He also wants us to know how deeply He can love us, especially when we can’t love ourselves. Vulnerability is a scary thing to surrender, but when it comes to God, vulnerability is a first-class ticket to His grace. I love these words spoken by Elder Gong: “He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us—and loves us still.”
I have continued to ask my Father in Heaven how I can improve, how I can be better. When I feel spiritually and emotionally stable enough, He answers; He gives me something to work on. But on those days when the tears won’t stop flowing and the pressure mounts, I remember the compassionate God who gave me His peace and instead of asking, “What lack I yet?” I choose to behold His glory and allow myself to be “encircled about…in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).