What an honor to be invited to contribute a piece to a wonderful online Christian magazine!
The Journey of a Lifetime
By Guest Writer, Vicki Andersen–Provo, Utah
Even as a little child, I had a keen awareness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. My earliest memories include lessons heard at the LDS church and in my home about what was required in order to live with Heavenly Father. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious about whether or not I’d make it to heaven after this life. Therefore, every day was a futile exercise in trying to prove myself worthy of such a destination. I was constantly aware of the high stakes game of mortal life with eternal consequences. As I walked through each day, I wondered if my steps were bringing me closer to His love and acceptance, or distancing me from him.
The road signs leading to eternal life with God had been laid out for me since birth: Baptism, Temple Marriage, Genealogy, Tithing, Word of Wisdom, and more. Admonitions abound and promised blessings await those who are obedient. “Follow the Prophet, and he will lead you to life eternal and exaltation. Follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before. Do not waver or leave the path.” Rewards in the afterlife were predicated on taking the necessary steps in mortality so it was imperative to hold fast to Mormon doctrine, the “Iron Rod.” I held on with a white-knuckled grip and prayed for strength.
I was so concerned about what would happen in the next life, I was willing to give up this life prematurely so as not to jeopardize eternity. A shorter mortality meant less time to make grievous mistakes. Guilt was a constant companion. After arguing with my sister, I’d imagine I had just caused more drops of blood to fall during Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. When I was angry over the abuse by my parents, I was sure that God was unhappy with me for being upset! I wanted to walk with God, but was so ashamed of the things that were happening in my home, I knew He wouldn’t want to be anywhere near me.
I tried to follow the road signs that seemed to point the way to God and His heavenly home. I knew that in order to live with Him, I’d have to be morally clean as “no unclean thing can enter the Kingdom of God.” But how could I possibly manage that when I had no power to stop the abuse that happened behind closed doors? Other road signs pointing to heaven were Perfection and Obedience. How do I perfectly obey parents when they are diametrically opposed in what they are asking of me? How could I obey God when He commanded me to obey my parents? What do I obey and what do I ignore?
These particular road signs were more problematic than helpful. They led me through murky waters and swirling mists of darkness. But I kept walking in hope for a better path ahead.
Attaining the goal of marrying a returned missionary in the temple was a giant leap on the road to exaltation. Surely the hardest part of my journey to God’s presence was behind me! Childhood trauma would take a backseat to the life of promise that awaited as I worked to create an eternal family of my own. I hoped I’d eventually reach my final destination as I followed the signs marked Church Service and Sacrifice. No obstacle was too big or hurdle to tall to keep me away from God…except for continuing shame and a sense of worthlessness. No matter how hard I tried, I never felt I was as good as everyone else.
Then life’s journey changed again when divorce became a reality. But just as before, I knew the only constant was God. The only one I could trust was God. The only one I needed to please was God. Family and friends were judging and shunning, but I was still right with God. And I had the LDS temple recommend to prove it! The road ahead was tumultuous and bleak at best. But I kept trudging forward, trusting that God would eventually shine a light and open a way for me to know His will concerning my future.
And that’s exactly what He did! Not only did He open a new road, it was headed in the opposite direction! It’s a road that points to a life free from debilitating guilt and self-recrimination. A road lit with the bright hope of Christ. A road I travel with Jesus as my constant companion. A road I could never have imagined. A road I would never have considered had God Himself not plucked me off my Mormon path and placed me on this new one with the bidding to follow Him.
It’s been a little over a year since that life-altering day…a year of ups and downs and upside-downs! But by holding tight to His love and grace, I eventually land back on my feet. My journey to and with Christ is far from over. My heart sings with joy and gratitude for the invitation to walk with Him rather than searching in the dark for Him. And though I don’t know what the immediate future holds, I’m secure in the knowledge that eternity with my Savior and King awaits when this mortal sojourn ends. Until then, I’ll just keep taking one step at a time.
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