About a year ago as the COVID-19 lockdown began, I spoke on the phone with a friend I’ve known for about 16 years (since my first year of college). We are friends on social media and we connect here and there but haven’t stayed in close touch over the years. She and I spoke for a long time as we caught up on everything.
During the call, she said something that has caused me an enormous amount of pondering over the year. It was to the effect of, “Liz, I like who you are today. I just really like the Liz of today. I obviously liked the Liz that I knew when I met you, which is why we’re friends, but I really like who you are now.”
My first thought was honestly a touch of guilt and sadness that I wasn’t the kind of person I wish I could have been when I first met her. And for a second I felt bad about who I was. But then immediately I realized the great blessing and gift she had just given me. She had seen and recognized changes in me that were positive. And my heart was touched and grateful.
I have pondered on her comment this past year as I’ve evaluated many things in my life: what I want to keep as part of me and what still needs to improve.
This last October, the sentiment I had been feeling was captured in the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of the speakers, Becky Craven, shared the following:
“I occasionally run into friends whom I haven’t seen for many years. Sometimes they say, ‘You haven’t changed at all!’ Each time I hear that, I cringe a little, because I hope I have changed over the years. I hope I have changed since yesterday! I hope I am a little kinder, less judgmental, and more compassionate. I hope I am quicker to respond to the needs of others, and I hope I am just a little bit more patient.”
This. Exactly this. My friend gave me the gift of helping me see that I have changed for the better (at least in her eyes) as I’ve grown and matured. I am hopeful that the change she thought she saw in me is actually a real change, not just a perception. I’m also grateful to have friends who let me change and who use their eyes of love to see me for who I am becoming.
I think most of us are very conscious of things we wish we had never done and things we want to be different in our lives. I have very often felt the weight of all the areas where I know I mess up even when I know I’m basically doing OK. Yea, verily, in past years when I struggled more deeply with perfectionism, I often joked to others that I was a bit pharisaical and was trying to be more like a disciple of Jesus.
In seeking that, I have worked to be more empathetic and to extend compassion even if I don’t feel it’s “deserved.” Life’s experiences have taught me a lot about the blessing of mercy and I have a deep desire to extend that mercy more fully. I still have a lot of work to do, but I hope I have learned a little about being less a “letter of the law” and more a “spirit of the law” person.
My trust in my Heavenly Parents and my faith in the Savior have been transformed into something so much better than they used to be. They are still changing and morphing into what I want my faith and trust to become.
My own personal standards have become less about what others think about me and more about what will help me be a more useful instrument in the hands of the Lord. I am trying to be more intentional in my decisions.
I am still more judgmental than I’d like to be, and I’m a little bit quick to anger. Do you want the rest of the list? You probably already know it. But knowing my friends who read this blog, you’ve probably already seen it in me and forgiven it. Your mercy blesses my life.
As a note: I know that I am loved and fine as I am today. I don’t have to be someone different to be worthy of love. And the same goes for you.
But the beautiful thing is I can be better and I can change. I want to.
One of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon is the speech of King Benjamin to his people. He preaches of goodness and kindness and the love and the hope we have through Christ. When the people heard this, they were touched.
“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou has spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2, emphasis added).
I seek for this deep change often and am grateful when I see evidence of it.
Today I am thinking of Palm Sunday. It is the day our Savior, Jesus Christ, rode triumphantly into Jerusalem in the week leading to His great sacrifice in the Garden and on the Cross. It is the week commemorating His death and His resurrection.
When Christ entered the city on Palm Sunday, the people cried, “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9). A word of praise asking Him to save us.
Yes, Christ saves us. He heals us. His love and mercy allow us to change. And His love and mercy can change us.
I really do like and love who I was 16 years ago and who I was yesterday. And I like the YOU of 16 years ago and of yesterday. But I also love who we are becoming as we allow for change through the Savior: for ourselves and for others.