One of my favorite parts of life in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the occasional epiphanous experiences God gives to me in His beautifully divine engineering of mortality. The almost ten years of my marriage have brought those more frequently than before, and I had another such moment recently.
Asperger’s syndrome for me means dealing with communication difficulties, especially when people use idioms, generalize, make assumptive statements, or ask assumptive questions. I believe that none of us, myself included, ever says exactly—I mean EXACTLY—what we mean while being tactful at the same time. I have always tried really hard, however, to do exactly that because of how many times I have been misunderstood. Therefore, learning to interpret what people really mean, as opposed to the words they speak, has always been difficult for me. That’s just part of my communication weakness.
I recently realized a way that Heavenly Father has helped lead me to a place in my life where I am well on my way to finally overcoming that weakness—and it was absolutely NOT in a way I expected. I didn’t even realize until a few days ago that it’s been a process He started with me more than five years ago. Then again, does God’s help ever come in a way we expect?
When I first got married, I was super confident that the next thing I needed to do with my life was continue to develop my strengths and talents—and that wasn’t a bad goal. God did want me to do that and made it more than possible to do so. Thanks to the kindness and help of family and friends, I was able to pursue an attempt at further education in web design and development, and started my own business with it. I loved programming and was good at it—and for a while, it worked. I had a few clients and was able to hone my skills even more with the work I did. However, without the sufficient support of others who were still miles ahead of me in the field, I soon fell further behind than I realized in respect to web standards. So I pursued the one other thing I knew I was better at than anything else: music.
I pursued that field with a vigor that only people with my laser focus can muster. I studied and practiced really hard for a few years in hopes that I’d be able to find a sponsor or do a fundraiser to help me pay for exams through the Royal Conservatory of Music when I was ready to go. It was about the time that I had enough theoretical knowledge and almost enough practice to make it happen when Lorraine’s (my wife) health brought those efforts to an abrupt halt. It was so bad that focusing on completing those exams became totally unmanageable. Since then, I have had to make my role as her caretaker my number one priority (aside from the obvious role I have as her husband).
I was and still am able to get decent piano practice in and have continued to write music since then, but I haven’t been able to give those endeavors the attention I would like to because of more important responsibilities. As things have turned out, that’s exactly the way the Lord wanted things to be! I’m sure He knew that by drawing my attention away from pursuing a technology or music career, He would be able to divert my efforts to blogging. In 2013, with all the difficulty my wife and I had been through, our problems became stacked so high and so deep that blogging to (at first) see who cared to listen to my spiritual musings was the last outlet I had to deal with everything. That motive quickly changed to something more selfless once I got a following on my personal blog and realized the good I could do if I wrote for others instead of myself.
The irony to my continuous blogging was that my biggest weakness, communication (especially about sensitive or controversial topics), was now the very thing I was pursuing most besides my Savior and my wife. I noticed that the process was, as with any weakness, something I got a little better at over time. My first blog post was quite poorly written, but over the next five years and more than 100 articles, I did get better at it.
When I decided to start my podcast, which you can find here, I had no idea what I was doing aside from what I’d heard others do in their podcasts. AlI I knew was that I wanted to go outside of my own voice and take the incredible, mind-blowing, edifying kinds of conversations my wife and I have had with so many people we’ve come to know and love and make conversations like that public so more people could be edified by them. I thought maybe, just maybe, some of the gloriously soul-changing things Lorraine and I have witnessed, or at least the joy we have felt from them, could be carried to more people than I could reach by using my voice alone.
So each conversation I have with my guests is, a) more practice at changing my biggest weakness into a strength, and b) a way to do more good for more people.
I do find it somewhat amusing that it took ten years of marriage for me to see what the Lord really wanted me to focus on, but it’s no surprise to me now that it meant I had to, as the lyrics to Lindsey Stirling’s song “Something Wild” say, “face the fear that keeps [me] frozen.”
The joyful thing about that is that now my fears of failure and being ignored because of my past habitual tactlessness has grown into a level of confidence I never thought I would have (and didn’t realize I had gained until a few days ago).
Is not the process of repentance and eventual perfection a matter of confronting our weaknesses and deliberately facing them so we can shed the natural man? Becoming godly was never supposed to be easy and I now have one more reason to rejoice in the genius of how God can engineer our lives using mainly hard things to help eradicate our weaknesses.
Hard things that God asks us to do aren’t something to fear—they are things to face head on, saying “Challenge accepted!” With Christ, all things are possible.
Paul served a mission in the then Canada Toronto West Mission and moved to Utah after living for ten years with his late wife, Lorraine, in Hamilton Ontario before her passing in 2019 and recently remarried in the Payson temple to his beloved Collette. He loves missionary work, piano, blogging (you can find his personal blog here!), deep spiritual conversations with friends, and hosting his podcast, Stepping Into Freedom. He can solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's cube, and puts a lot of time into gospel scholarship.