It’s finally happened. My constant effort to control everything has caught up to me. Everyone told me I cannot control everything and I just laughed and said “Watch me.” I don’t know where my need to control everything comes from, I just know that it’s been a part of me for so long that it’s like a security blanket. My therapist recently told me that I need to loosen my grip on my life—like he could see that I had both hands white-knuckle tight on my metaphorical steering wheel. He explained that we grow up thinking that life will go a certain way because we trust that God has a plan for us and when it doesn’t happen that way, we spin out. In that moment, it was like he leaned in and said, “I know you of old,” like Beatrice does to Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.
Apparently I’m unique in this, but for my whole life, my mind has panicked when I’ve felt in my heart that everything is going to be okay. It’s like my thoughts are the Sea of Galilee in the middle of that terrible storm that caused the apostles to ask “Carest thou not that we perish?” and my heart is that moment when Jesus stands up and commands the waters to be still. With my anxiety, I always hoped that God would give me control over these kinds of thoughts and that I would be fixed. More and more, I am learning that He gives peace to my heart. That indescribable peace guides me like the light made from molten glass and touched by the Lord’s finger (Ether 3:1-6). It also is a sign to me that God sees me and loves me.
For the past four years, I have been working on a wall. It’s a wall between me and God. I didn’t realize I was building it until recently, but it’s there. I’ve built it with stubbornness, hurt, and resentment. I tried so hard to justify the way I felt and the way I had walled myself off because God hadn’t given me an opportunity to date and get married. I was frustrated with His timing and started coming up with reasons why I wasn’t married. I thought I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or that I had focused too much on my education. I went around looking for things to explain my circumstances. I felt that I had brought all of this on myself because I was inadequate. At the same time, I was angry and hurt because other people weren’t perfect but they were getting married. It wasn’t a good color on me and looking back, I’m not proud of the way I felt.
I told myself that it’s okay to be mad at God for a long time because He understands. It’s okay to have that feeling because He gave me feelings. The one thing I didn’t realize was how much I was hurting myself.
So here I am, four years deep into building a wall to keep myself from having to be vulnerable with God. It doesn’t make any sense, but I was incapable of bearing my soul to my Father who already knows the ugliest parts of me. I couldn’t bear to tell Him how much I was hurting and how much I felt He was the one who hurt me, so I hid behind my wall. I refused to tell the One who sees my heart’s deepest desires what I truly wanted because I already knew He wasn’t going to give it to me. It made no sense. I thought I could build this wall and push Heavenly Father’s outstretched hands away until He brought me the only blessing I wanted. I was wrong. Paul knew, long before I figured it out that, “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Even while I was building it, I didn’t realize that I was creating a wall. I still read the scriptures, went to church, served in the temple, prayed daily, sought spiritual guidance, prepared myself to partake of the sacrament and all the other “small and simple” things that Alma talks about. However, I found that I couldn’t get any closer to God. No matter how hard I tried, I found all of those small and simple things to be unfulfilling. I felt like God was keeping me at an arm’s length, because even in the temple I didn’t have the moments of clarity and revelation I wanted.
It took me so long to realize that I was the one who was keeping Him away. He came as close to me as I would let Him and didn’t let my stubbornness stop Him from blessing me. It’s like the Lord told Joseph Smith in his moment of deep struggle: “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:33). That promise even encompasses our own personal efforts to hinder our relationship with God.
In Sunday School a couple of weeks ago, one of the missionaries in my ward brought up the children of Israel and their experience with the brazen serpent on the staff. This elder said that we have a lot more in common than we think with the people who refused to look because it was too easy. It made me think of why I wouldn’t have looked. Had I been in that situation, I would not have looked because I would have thought, “I should be able to do this on my own.” I realized that while I need God, I expect more out of myself than He does. He has provided help to me and I keep refusing it because I think I should be perfect. I have believed in my heart that if I show any shred of weakness, I wouldn’t be deserving of the love of God, my parents, siblings, or anyone. If I couldn’t, out of sheer force of will, stamp out my own imperfections, I wasn’t worth anything as a person.
All of this has led me to understand that vulnerability is required of us. I recently talked to my friend Jessica about the need for vulnerability. According to Dr. Brené Brown, vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” In order to live wholehearted lives, we must engage in vulnerability, especially with God. There is power in unburdening ourselves to Him. There is strength in telling Him about every moment we feel powerless. He will fill us when we tell Him we feel empty, but in order for Him to do that, we have to tell Him. We know that “[the] Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him,” (3 Nephi 13:8). However, we need to ask Him for those things. We need to invite Him into our lives through vulnerability.
There is risk in telling Heavenly Father about our deepest feelings and desires. I have felt exposed when I have told Him how much my heart aches for promised blessings and how afraid I am of telling Him what I want because I am afraid of His answer. I have held back part of my heart because I am afraid that God will judge my desires or tell me that I am destined to be alone. All this time, He has been blessing me with everything that I have needed at this point in my life. I was focusing on what I wanted, not what I needed. Heavenly Father understands how much pain I have felt in these past four years. When I have been vulnerable with Him, I have allowed Him to be with me in my pain. It may seem like a small thing to others, but He understands how much I feel.
If you’ve built a wall, if you feel that your relationship with God is so strained that it’s beyond repair, it’s not too late. If you, like me, have been waiting for God to fulfill His promises before you let Him in, decide right now to choose Him and His plan for you. He has been blessing you all along, but choosing Him will allow you to see His immediate goodness.
So don’t wait to let Him in. Right now, right this minute, knock down your wall. Choose Him.
Elisha Ransom is a Pacific Northwest native who recently graduated from Brigham Young University. Sight unseen, she moved to a 600-square foot apartment in Portland, OR to pursue a master's degree in urban planning. She is still trying to figure out a way to explain what urban planning is to people she talks to at parties. Elisha served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Piura, Peru. Consequently, she has an affinity for Peruvian food and crowded public transit. In her spare time, Elisha enjoys watching the Great British Bake Off, eating tacos, and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle—these can be separate or combined activities.