Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Importance of Knowing Who We Are

Jo Anne and I were out driving one afternoon and pulled up behind a big black pickup truck with huge oversized tires and a sign in the back window that said "Quad for Sale!" She looked over at me with a big smile on her face and said "What a great idea! I wonder how much I could get for you?" I could just picture myself driving around in my power wheelchair with a similar sign dangling from a string around my neck.

Lest you think badly of Jo Anne; however, I heard her talking to one of her friends on the telephone the other day and she said to her, "I have a model husband." I was elated with her description of me and felt it was right on target, until I looked in my online dictionary and found that one of the definitions for "model" is "A cheap imitation."
I have been called lots of things since my injury such as "handicapped," "physically challenged," "mobility impaired," "quadriplegic," "Quad," and a few others I can't mention, or at least don't want to. Before my accident I felt I had a pretty good idea of who I was, but after the accident I was a little shaky for some time regarding that subject. Quite frankly, for an extended period, I really didn't know who or what I was. It was devastating!

In some ways I felt like I had left the human race that I had been part of all my life. Something inside me however, rebelled against the idea of being labeled as something that I then perceived as being inferior compared to a normal person.

Adding to my feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty about who I was after my accident, just a couple of months after I was injured I experienced one of the most humiliating and demeaning experiences I have had in my life. It took place at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital where I spent six months being rehabilitated, so far as possible. Thinking I had a blood clot in my leg one day, my doctor had me taken to the basement of one of the buildings at Rancho to have a test run that would determine whether his diagnosis was right. Because of the nature of the test, he felt it would be safer to take out my speaking valve in my trachea system and put me back on the cuffed trachea that didn't allow me to speak. So down I went into that dark, cold, windowless basement room, unable to move any part of my body, lying on a gurney, and unable even to speak. The lab technicians rolled my gurney into a dark corner of the room. For the next hour or so they acted like I was not even there while they told each other immoral stories, cussed, blasphemed, and shared with each other the raucous, sleazy escapades they would be involved in that evening. Finally they did the test, never addressing me directly, and treating me as though I were a completely irrelevant and inanimate object.

Thankfully, having studied the Scriptures many of the years of my life, beginning in the mission field in Central America, I was reminded of it, and began to internalize some eternal truths regarding who I was. It began to make all the difference in the world.

A number of Scriptures began to mean a great deal to me. When the Lord appeared to Moses as recorded in Moses 1 he called him "my son" three times in verses 4-7 and in verse 6 he said to Moses "... and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten Son and mine Only Begotten is the Savior..."
I believe He wanted Moses to know who he really was because of the great work Moses had been called upon to do in leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Moses was empowered and strengthened as it was revealed to him who he really was. I believe as it was with Moses so it is with each one of us as we come to know and internalize the great truth that we are sons and daughters of God created in the similitude of His Only Begotten Son-the Savior.

After this vision closed, Satan immediately appeared to Moses tempting him and saying "... Moses, son of man...worship me..." [Moses 1:11] [Emphasis added]
Moses was able to withstand this assault from Satan because he knew he was a son of God. By calling Moses son of man Lucifer hoped to deceive and weaken Moses and even entice him to be one of his followers.

When Satan came to tempt Jesus after he had fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights, he devilishly introduced two of the three temptations with the challenge "... if thou be the son of God..." Satan knew that if he could place doubt in Jesus' mind regarding who he was that he could destroy him and the work he was sent here to do.

So it is with each one of us. Knowing who we really are strengthens us and empowers us to be able to fulfill our foreordained missions in mortality.

Gaining strength to overcome adversity and the Adversary by knowing who we really are, reminded me of an experience Joseph Smith had as a young man. Elizabeth Ann Whitney, the wife of Newel K. Whitney, wrote in her journal: "Joseph Smith, with his wife, Emma, and a servant girl, came to Kirtland in a sleigh early in 1831; they drove up in front of my husband's store. Joseph jumped out and went in; he reached his hand across the counter to my husband and called him by name. My husband spoke, saying: "I could not call you by name as you have me." He answered, "I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here, now what do you want of me?" [Helen Mae Andrus, Hyrum L. Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 39.] [Emphasis added]

That winter day in 1831 when Joseph met Newel K. Whitney and his wife in their store in Kirtland, Ohio, he was only 26 years old. I find it both remarkable, and at the same time reassuring, that this young man could with such confidence, announce himself to the Whitneys as "Joseph the Prophet." I believe Joseph was able to endure all of the afflictions he suffered during his lifetime because he knew who he was.

Thankfully, I came to understand that I was not just a "handicapped" person, "mobility impaired," or a "Quad." Oh, I am all of that of course, but so much more -- a son of God created in the similitude off His Only Begotten Son.

Having internalized that truth I need never give in to the depression, despair, and blackness that accompanies the temptations that the Adversary places in my path.


1 comment:

Evergreeen said...

Hi Jack,
My name is Jill... no really. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and live at Ensign Ranch, a church-owned recreational property in Washington state used primarily for YW camps, but also Scout activities, family reunions, etc.

I teach gospel doctrine in a small branch here in our little town of Cle Elum, and today's lesson, #12 is about coping with adversity in life as we study the story of Joseph in Egypt in the Old Testament. I have been struggling this week to find a way to adequately explain how faith can help all of us to endure our trials, and I found this blog post of yours very helpful.

Isn't it interesting how the Lord works and how He helps us in our callings! Just yesterday I received a forwarded email from a friend with a link to the YouTube excerpt of your very inspiring "comedy routine", which I enjoyed very much. In fact, so much, that I linked to your blog and ordered the DVD! I must admit that I had never even heard of you before.

So, I thought I would tell you that today in gospel doctrine class in a remote part of Washington state, some of your words will be shared to uplift your brethren and sisters - and hopefully, I'll be able to share those words in a virtual sort of way, as if you were visiting our class yourself. It would be an honor to meet you, and you are certainly welcome to come enjoy Ensign Ranch any time. You can find our website on LDS.org in the A-Z index under R for recreational properties > Northwest Area.

Much love from a sister in the gospel... and keep up the good work. You are inspiring others and making a difference! Jill Hallows