Becoming Like Christ--Developing Christlike Attributes
Recently I was asked to present a workshop at our Stake Women's Conference and the topic I was given was Christlike Attributes. I was definitely NOT assigned this task because I have mastered the topic, nor because I am a great orator, because neither of those things are true. In fact, I have my own mountain to climb before I'm even marginally where I should be. But what better way to learn than to teach, and I got my own lessons and miracles as I prepared this presentation.
I decided I wanted to share what I presented here in the form of a series of blog posts because I love the topic and truly, isn't following Christ and working to become like him the ultimate focus of all we do and believe?
It's all about momentum
My husband and I have been having a silly disagreement for decades that seems to pop up any time we go to an event with a crowd and lots of traffic. When it's time to leave, he wants to sit in the car and wait for the traffic to disperse before even attempting to move. I am exactly NOT like that. To me, it isn't about the speed, and I don't even care that we move slowly, it's about getting into the line of cars and inching our way forward. The traffic doesn't really bother me, but I want to feel like I'm making progress even if it's almost nothing.
Whether you agree with him or me about how to deal with the traffic, I think my version wins when it comes to spiritual progression. Progress is progress, even if you don't go very far or very fast. So when it comes to following the Savior and trying to become more like Him, this is the attitude I need to take, because anything else will overwhelm and discourage me.
Where do we begin?
In his talk Becoming Like Him, Elder Scott D. Whiting said the following:
Admitting that we have work to do is definitely the first step, but that honesty should never include beating ourselves up for our perceived failings. Another part of being honest with ourselves is seeing how far we've come, or what we are presently doing right. The truth is, we are all doing better than we think we are or than we give ourselves credit for.
If you'd like to see where you really are, you can take a quiz. I pulled the questionnaire from the Preach My Gospel manual, and since it was designed for full time missionaries, I made a few tweaks to it. I love it because it's got scriptures to reference, and you can take your time and really think about things as you go. You may want to just do one attribute at a time, too.
Grab the quiz in the Resource Library
What Attributes is the Spirit inspiring you to work on?
Knowing that we are never alone in our efforts makes all the difference, and asking where our focus should go will help direct us down the right path.
Elder Whiting said this about asking for help:
The Parable of the Cream Puffs
There was a day a few years ago when I found myself craving chocolate eclairs. (My version of eclairs is not so much the long, thin cream puff, but a big round ball filled with creamy goodness and a big thick layer of chocolate frosting.) I have made them approximately ONE MILLION times (and eaten the majority of them personally), and I even taught a Relief Society class on how to make them, so it is something I know how to do pretty well. But for some reason, this day, everything was going wrong.
As I put the batter on the pan, it was runny and spreading into thin little pancakes. I knew it wouldn't bake right, so, frustrated, I tossed it and started on a new batch.
The second batch was not as runny, but as I put it on the pan, I could see it starting to spread also. Hopeful that they would be fine, I put them in the oven anyway. But as they baked, I could see they were not going to turn out either. These came out looking vaguely like hockey pucks.
I was getting mad and frustrated and my mini tantrum was apparent as I started on a third batch. My husband told me to give up and try again another day, but the stubborn perfectionist in me would not allow it. I would make this work or die trying. I had now used more than a dozen eggs and a whole pound of butter. Was I being ridiculous? Yep. Did it stop me? Nope. I was running out of those ingredients, so this would be the last shot.
Luckily (for everyone in the household that was witnessing my meltdown) the third time was the charm and they came out of the oven puffy and golden.
Each time I had followed the same recipe and procedure, but a cream puff recipe is not an exact recipe--how many eggs you need will vary, so it requires observation and adjustment to know when the batter is right. After years of doing this, I thought I had the process perfected. So why did two batches completely fail? If you're hoping for an answer... sorry, I don't have one.
But there is a lesson here. Even though the Lord has given us the "recipe", our own individual experiences, life circumstances in the moment, and needs will require a slightly different process. And even when we do everything right, the outcome is not guaranteed to be what we'd hoped.
Keep the Commandments
Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk titled Christlike Attributes--the Wind Beneath Our Wings is a great one! In talking about the Savior's invitation to His apostles to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men, he said this:
So now it's complex but simple, not easy, AND painful. If it's all these things, is it any wonder we sometimes feel like we aren't doing very well and get discouraged?
Back to that momentum...
It's important to remember that the discouragement we might find ourselves feeling is NOT a feeling that comes from the Lord. He doesn't want us losing our way in that murky, dark place--He wants us to keep going, keep trying. I like to imagine that, just like when we are leaving a crowded parking lot, the Lord is watching me, urging me on, reminding me that progress is progress even if it's slower than I wished. He doesn't expect me to score a perfect 5 in all categories on the worksheet right now, but He loves my effort.
Elder Whiting's talk give us some great tips to focus in and begin to change, and in the next post, I'll get started on those!