To read part one, click here.
I thought I had learned a lot by the time I was 40. Then, at 50, I was really focused on a fast track to self-care workshops and success seminar excellence. (Notice the growth of ego?) I am an experiential learner with the scars to prove it. I don’t learn fast. However, once I get it… I GOT it.
At the age of 54, I decided to go to the local trade school and get a high school diploma (not a GED, but a real diploma!) so I could enroll in college and get a real education. College lasted one quarter. They were teaching about existentialism and post-modernism, talking about pedagogy and other words that didn’t compute in my head. The story is long, but the point is that I went there to learn — and what I learned was that I don’t learn that way. And that’s okay!
One of the best personal development decisions (and subsequent education) I made by the time I was 58 was to get certified as a professional business/life and relationship coach. Oh my goodness! That’s when I learned that it wasn’t my job to have answers for anyone — my job was to learn how to ask powerful questions so my clients could dig down into their own hearts to find the answers that were already there in the labyrinth of their minds where the Spirit planted them. That’s why pondering, meditation, filling our minds with the word of God, and being willing to be obedient opens up those labyrinths where we are in harmony with the nature of happiness.
I love a song I learned during this period:
It’s In Every One of Us
It’s in every one of us to be wise.
Find your heart.
Open up both your eyes.
We can all know everything without ever knowing why,
It’s in every one of us by and by.
There was a period of many, many years when I was not asked to teach or speak in church. It was very frustrating because I really longed to share the gifts I had received. As I look back on those years, I realize Heavenly Father was growing, shaping, and refining my spirit to be able to fulfill the task He eventually planned for me to accomplish. He was helping me get over my attitude, my tendency to depart from the principle of “comforting the afflicted” and slip into “afflicting the comfortable.” I often thought my “season” was long past and I had simply failed to produce any fruit. Or, if I did, it was in serious jeopardy of turning from ripe to rot.
Therefore, at the age of 74, I find I am sitting in the warmth of a well-banked fire, sorting out the glowing embers from among the ashes and content that I am able to tell the difference. Every day I am grateful for the amazing eternal companion Heavenly Father brought into my life 25 years ago and I am happy. The counsel I received from many years ago echoes in my ears…
Back in the 1980s, our stake invited Anita Canfield, author of Self Esteem and the Latter-day Saint Woman and A Woman for All Seasons, to come for a women’s conference. I was so intrigued with her talk that I contacted her afterwards and our conversation has been in my mind as though it was spoken yesterday.
I said to her, “I want to do what you are doing: write a book that is so meaningful that I will be invited to speaking engagements.”
She responded, “I did not seek for that which has come to me. It has happened as a result of the experiences in my life. It isn’t your responsibility to figure out what you want to do. Your responsibility is to do the best you can at whatever comes to you in your life. The Lord knows you and He knows all the gifts and talents with which He has endowed you. He knows exactly when and where He wants to use those gifts and talents. When it’s time, and you are ready, He will let you know.”
It was according to God’s timing that it took many years for me to become a useful instrument in His hands. I remember how I wanted to be like the primary teachers I remembered from when I was a little child. They were soft-spoken, gentile, full of grace and humility. I’ve had to learn that the Lord had a different plan for me… He needed me to be someone who could talk about the elephant in the room.
Talking and writing about generational dysfunctional family systems completely lacking in parenting and communication skills, that unwittingly propagate all forms abuse (emotional, physical, mental, etc.) and addictions from one generation to the next is not a delicate subject. They are considered “shame-based” issues, causing many people to stuff those experiences deep in their minds and never speak about them, much less forgive them as found in themselves and others. Just like an oyster covers a painful grain of sand with layer after layer of mother of pearl, we continue to layer over that buried shame, guilt, and pain. Truth is, feelings buried alive never die. Going home to Heavenly Father with a heavy string of these toxic pearls was not my idea of a life well lived.
Simply stated, when a person can do advanced math, speak three languages, and is a wizard at social media, but can’t manage their emotions, practice conflict resolution, or handle stress, none of that other stuff is really going to matter much. It is so important to learn about resiliency and emotional self-mastery. There will come a time when society will be so frantic and disoriented that it will follow anyone who seems to have their wits about them. (Did somebody say we’re there already?!)
It’s important to gain emotional stamina and to be able to use critical thinking skills sooner than later. The prophet is telling us we are in the final season of this dispensation. We truly must be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It is our responsibility to help prepare this world for the return of the Savior. How can we do that with a heavy string of pearls weighing us down?
I’ve had people tell me, “There are lots of people out there who need you, but they don’t know where to find you.” I am content to let Heavenly Father be at the helm. Lighthouses mean a great deal to me because of the symbolism. One thing I’ve noticed is that lighthouses don’t run all over the coastline looking for boats to warn and save. They just sit there and shine.
We are called to be those lighthouses. We are to be “the lights along the shore” guiding the way to the safe harbor.
“Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave. Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.”
Our world is drowning in an ocean of pain.
Know that God is fashioning the armor
for those commissioned to wade in
and rescue lost souls caught
in the rip tide.
(I’ve been there and I know the way out)
Sonja Lorrigan Hopkins
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.