My therapist is an actual angel.
I mean it. Like, step aside, Mother Teresa and Mr. Rogers — Charlotte’s* here. (*Name changed.)
As I wrote about back in February, I’ve been going through some traumatic events the last few months, so finding a good therapist was a must. You know how in TV shows or movies, the protagonist will be having a hard time and they’ll say something to the effect of, “Things can’t get any worse!” and then you know things are about to get wayyyy worse? Maybe she’s on her way to her high school graduation and her car runs out of gas. Then, just as she gets out her cell phone to call her mom, she sees that her phone is dead. Naturally, of course, she fatefully asks, “Could this day possibly get any worse?” and as she gets out of her car to walk to the nearest gas station, it starts pouring rain.
Well, that’s basically my life right now.
The one bright spot in my life, though, is Charlotte. She’s so angelic that I half expect that one day in a few years — or like, twenty years, because I’m honestly pretty traumatized — when I’m doing a little better and I’ve been out of therapy for a bit, I’ll stop by the therapy office and ask, “Hi! Is Charlotte around?” and the receptionist will be like, “There was never anyone named Charlotte that worked here…” *Cue Twilight Zone music*
For real, though, I think she may be one of the Three Nephites. She’s incredible.
One of the things I love best about her is that she always says exactly what I need to hear in the exact moment I need to hear it, and our therapy appointment the other day was no exception.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m just not meant to be happy,” I told her. “And it feels so unfair because I look at other people’s lives and it seems like they don’t have to go through things that are so hard and they’re still great people. I feel like God is blessing them and constantly punishing me.”
“Yes, and it’s hard because you know how wonderful life can be because you’ve had glimpses of it,” Charlotte said. “It’s kind of like someone is making a delicious chocolate cake and lets you lick the spoon. It tastes so good and you’re so excited to have a piece. But then when it’s finished, they say, ‘Everyone else gets to have some — but you have to eat what’s over there’ and they point to a pile of pig slop.”
At this point, I was sobbing because yes, that’s exactly what it feels like. “But some people get to eat the cake their whole lives and are never forced to have the pig slop. Why?”
Charlotte thought for a moment, and then she dropped a bombshell that resonated with me so deeply:
“What if everything went perfectly in your life — your marriage was perfect, your career was prestigious, you had a calling you loved. You had beautiful children that were wonderful and kind, and they all got married in the temple and provided you with gorgeous grandchildren that adored you. Everything was so easy, but even still, all that time, you stayed faithful to God. Then after this life, you met the Savior and He said, ‘Good job, Amy. Really great. Now go in there and stand next to Abraham and Abinadi and Moroni.’ How would you feel?”
Immediately, I knew exactly how I would feel: unworthy to stand next to them — ashamed, even.
“I would be embarrassed!” I responded. “I wouldn’t feel worthy to stand next to them.”
“Right? Imagine going in there and standing next to Abinadi, and he’s giving you the thumbs up and says, ‘Good job!’ You’d feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, my life was a piece of cake and you went through awful things.’ It would be embarrassing! For whatever reason, we have to go through really, really hard things sometimes, but it will allow us to feel closer to the Savior and more comfortable when we get to heaven.”
I love that and it provided some much-needed comfort in a moment of intense sadness and confusion. Truthfully, I think trials come to us for different reasons — we need to be refined, we can teach others through our experiences, and so on and so forth — but really, at the end of the day, the why behind the trial (or the “pig slop,” if you will) doesn’t really matter the way I thought it did in that moment.
All that matters is what we become. Through this trial, there has been one thought that repeats in my mind over and over: “I’ve tried so hard my whole life to be good. I’ve done everything right. Why is God allowing this to happen?” Yet the Savior, who was the most undeserving of all of us, had the absolute worst things happen to Him. When He had the Spirit withdraw from Him — something He had never experienced; something that must have made Him feel so incredibly, heartbreakingly alone on top of the incomprehensible pain He was already experiencing — He didn’t do anything to deserve it. It was through no fault of His own. Yet He endured it because He knew what He would become. He understood His divinity and the glory that comes to those who endure.
So while I’d never wish for this pain — or even wish it on my worst enemy — I’m grateful it’s making me more like the Savior. I’m grateful to be able to stand with all of my heroes who have endured unimaginable suffering. What has happened to me is going to scar me for the rest of my life and I recognize that (and on some level, I’m very angry about it, which is an important part of the grief cycle) — but whenever I think about my scar, I’m reminded that the Savior has scars, too.
And because of His scars, I have someone who understands me. Because of His scars, I am comforted and assured. Because of His scars, I know that someone loves me even when everything in my life feels like it has fallen apart.
And my scars? I think they’ll help someone else, too.
So I’ve realized something: the pig slop is never going to taste good. No matter how you dress it up or try to make it more tolerable, it’s still pig slop and it’s disgusting and that’s never going to change.
But if I have to eat a little pig slop before I get an eternity of chocolate cake, I think I’m okay with that.
Amy Carpenter is the site manager and editor for LDSBlogs.com. She served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denver, Colorado, where she learned to love mountains and despise snow. She has a passion for peanut butter, dancing badly, and most of all, the gospel.