Saturday, December 10, 2011

Loneliness in imperfection.

Dear Mom,
I can't believe it's almost Christmas! Just under two weeks now. It doesn't exactly feel like the same Christmas I'm used to, minus shopping, family, and cold, but the mission gives a different kind of Christmas. This Christmas season (that if I can remind you started about three months ago) has been memorable to say the least. The gifts Heavenly Father has given me - new friends and new experiences - up until now have just been beyond my own deserving.

This week has been hard though. It's been really, really hard.

Last night I was able to watch the special devotional put on by the First Presidency of the church with Christmas coming so near. I was particularly touched by Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk about an imperfect Christmas. It reminded me a lot of many Christmases I had growing up.

In President Uchtdorf's talk, he talked about how many of us have what we picture to be the picture-esque (if you will) Christmas. The cliche, perfect family, perfect gifts, and whole she-bang that seems to encompass perfection in the holiday. And then the point - for no one is Christmas perfect and many years we watch our perfect image of Christmas come shattering to the ground.

Funny aside - during the devotional, I noticed this guy had some kind of interest in finding out who I was. Finally, he came up to me and asked for my name (as if it's not glued onto my chest) and then asked if I knew Elder Posadas. Caught of guard? Yeah. Definitely not expecting that one. Come to find it, he is good friends with Airi, Elder Posadas' older sister because they were in the same stake in Zamboanga, and saw pictures of me and Elder Posadas on her facebook, recognized me, but couldn't figure out where! What are the odds.

I can remember my teenage years wanting so bad to just fit in and have good friends. Mom, maybe you remember. I would buy huge boxes of cards, sometimes years over 50+, and I would sit in my room for hours, before Christmas, and write cards to literally, everyone I knew. I remembered being so happy and so excited to give all the cards out. But what I seem to remember more is the sadness that always followed the day before Christmas break. I vividly remember leaving the house with those 50+ cards every year, and coming back heartbroken with only two or three. My "perfect" Christmas every year seemed to be ruined. Not so much because I would give to receive, but because of the thought that all this time, while I was thinking of other people, no one was thinking of me. Christmas always left me feeling so lonely, like I had no friends, and would often times come as the most depressing time of the year.

This week, I've thought about those past Christmases.
This week, I've felt really, really lonely.

I've thought about loneliness a lot this past week. What is it about loneliness and why does it hurt so much? Why does being by yourself and having no one around you always seem to destroy your heart?

I concluded that loneliness, the kind of emotional loneliness that comes even when we are surrounded by people, is the absence of feeling loved. People by nature just need people, and our eternal purposes, as children of God, cannot be accomplished alone, as individuals. Man is nothing alone.

Loneliness is probably one of the most trying emotions that a person can have, and in the end, there are only two options: give up and lock your heart, or open up and love.

When I was struggling the most, I was fortunate enough to be able to turn to Sister Sperry, our mission president's wife, for some motherly counsel, and her answer for combating loneliness was through service.

When I thought about it, it didn't make sense. But when I pondered it, it did.

Service is such an important thing and is obvious by Jesus Christ's example to us. It helps us battle loneliness because it is the fastest way to access God's love. When we put others first, we fulfill our eternal purposes. At BYU, our school puts it best with the motto forever engraved at it's gates, "Enter to learn. Go forth to serve." I believe that as people and children of God, we were given a chance to come to earth to love and to help. Selfishness and self-gratification never seem to bring about happiness that lasts. But when we serve, we feel God's love for each and every single one of His children, and most of all for us. When we don't feel loved and alone, we can feel the love of a Father in Heaven who's love is greater than any we can experience in this life.

Sometimes when we let Satan manipulate our minds and let him convince us we are all alone, we envelope ourselves in darkness in useless things. It's important that we remember that God doesn't forget us, even though sometimes we think He does. He does not abandon His children. He will never leave us alone.

This week I realized this when I felt as though none were with me. We went out teaching one day and found a less-active member of the church. After we taught her, a great lesson I may add, she offered us a small meal of something she had prepared earlier called "ginataan" which is a dessert cooked with coconut milk and native fruits. She said she was cooking it earlier, thinking to herself that hopefully she'll be able to give this to someone to help them, because ironically, no one in her family likes ginataan. What she didn't know is that Elder Corpuz was coming to her home, and that Elder Corpuz has so many fond memories with that particular dish. She didn't know that Elder Corpuz used to love spending hours with his mom, although messing up the little white ball dumplings, and eating it on cold winter days. She didn't know that Elder Corpuz always had ginataan right around Christmas, because his grandma always makes it whenever Elder Corpuz is around, because she knows it's Elder Corpuz' favorite. She didn't know that that day, Elder Corpuz needed to feel loved.

When she told me that, I was in tears, and I knew that that day, Heavenly Father didn't forget about me. And it was His way of telling me that He is always right by my side, especially in times that I need him the most. I've realized that I am loved, by Father in Heaven and by so many other people. I've found that it's important to remember this, and especially to remember that just because people don't love you the perfect way you want them too, doesn't mean they don't love you with all their hearts. Perfect love, as with perfect anything, is extremely overrated.

This week is going to be full of great experiences. Tomorrow I'll be able to have the great opportunity to sing with one of the Assistants, accompanied by Sister Sperry, at the temple lighting here in Manila. I can't wait and I'm so excited. There is no season like Christmas where we can just give all that we can and forget ourselves and feel the love our Father in Heaven as we love and serve one another, knowing that we are truly never alone.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

Elder Corpuz

My body guards.

Me and some of the elders I knew in the MTC at our leadership training.

Some of the members from the Mapayapa Ward.
Setting up our Christmas decorations!