Today Americans celebrate the 232nd birthday of our nation’s Declaration of Independence. The flags are flying, and there will be many parades with beautiful floats and energetic marching bands. Most workers are enjoying this day as a paid holiday, me included. Our parks are filled with families enjoying time together, eating picnics and anticipating an exciting fireworks display later this evening. This is a day to have fun, but also a day to reflect on our blessings, and to remember those who have paid the ultimate price defending our country’s freedom.
As I sat down last night expecting to write a traditional patriotic post in celebration of our holiday, I paused to first read the insightful comment that “Sweet Is The Peace” left for me on my last post. I then followed his link to check out his site intending to give him a quick “thank you”. What ensued was an unexpected spiritual experience, as I read the life story of an active Mormon struggling with Gender Identity Disorder. This man’s very personal and honest story touched my heart and it allowed me to reflect on my own journey. My life experience has given me unique, heart-wrenching struggles both endured personally, and as a loved one to those in my closest circle. My specific trials have gone by different names than this brother’s, but the severity and process parallels the things that Sweet has so openly shared.
As I reflect upon Sweet’s agonizing struggle, I rejoice in his victories, and am inspired by his commitment to endure and overcome. He has created, in a very real sense, his own declaration of independence. He has pledged his life to defend his freedom from guilt, shame, sin and sorrow. Should we not all make this important personal pledge? I can think of nothing that would honor this historic day better, and be of more importance.
When Phillip Paul Bliss penned the poem for his hymn “More Holiness Give Me”, he included this inspired plea:
“More Purity Give Me
More Strength To O’ercome
More Freedom From Earth Stains
More Longing For Home
More Fit for the Kingdom
More Used Would I be
More Blessed and Holy
More Savior, Like Thee”
What a marvelous and poetic observation are those words “Earth Stains” – and the subsequent desire to be Free of them! Anyone who has had to do laundry knows about stains. Just one small spot of tomato can ruin a perfectly good piece of clothing, and it happens invariably on the first wearing. I have never been able to find a sufficient cure for grapejuice or mustard. I have also had the unpleasant experience of turning an entire load of white to pink when one very tiny red sock infiltrated. However, as discouraging as these stains and subsequent loss can be, the stains which saturate our souls are much more serious, lasting and damaging. The loss can be tragic and affect generations. These stains are what cause the world its greatest sorrows, and create the heaviest burdens for all of us. They are irreparable by any human means. And yet, there is hope. There is One who made it possible for our souls to be washed clean and be new again, no matter how filthy we may have become. He has taught that he will help make our burdens feel lighter. He will walk beside us, and never forsake us. He has also provided a church organization where each member makes a sacred promise at baptism to “bear one another’s burdens”. He will never leave us comfortless! He is Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Redeemer. An apostle of Jesus Christ has taught:
“though we live in a failing world, we have not been sent here to fail.” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Our brother at “Sweet is the Peace” and his wife are quiet heroes. Their endurance will become a lasting legacy they will give their posterity. This is a gift gained by all those who “fight the good fight” during this mortal experience. Whether mortal or immortal, physical or spiritual, our Freedom is a priceless gift worth enduring all hardships and making every sacrifice to claim and maintain. It may very well require that we pass through a refiner’s fire – but we may be strengthened in knowing that we are becoming new and clean and holy.