A Long, Slow Life Review

Man walking in a stone-lined tunnel toward a light. Canva.com

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes.” This phenomena, commonly reported by near-death experiencers, is called a life review and involves a movie of sorts that replays all the experiences of life, good and bad.

I haven’t been well for the last year and a half, and strangely, I’ve been having my own life review on this side of the veil. Except mine is non-sequential and very slow. I’ve been surprised by all the things I’ve been recalling, which, but for the love of my Heavenly Father and Savior, would be unbearably painful.

I can hardly believe what is popping up for me.

Without trying, I’ve been recalling, in excruciating detail, all—and I mean all—of the sad, idiotic, and sinful things I’ve done since childhood. The people I’ve hurt. Bitter words tarnished by resentment. The pets I’ve neglected. My financial mistakes. My wilful teenage sins. My weaknesses, neglect, and foibles as a parent. It’s been a grand parade of folly.

I comfort myself with this: maybe it’s a preview of the life review I’ll experience on the other side of the veil. Maybe I’ll be able to say, “We’ve been over this. Next slide, please.”

I think this has been an unexpected answer to prayer. While I’ve been ill, I’ve thought a lot about the fragility of life and how surprising and swift an end can come. Accordingly I’ve prayed for the Lord to show me what I need to repent of. He has graciously obliged.

Through all this, I feel His perfect love and see His smile. I know I have and will receive more mercy than I think I deserve. I’ve learned to be less hard on myself because I know how kind God is.

I’ve heard of people who are nearing death say, “No regrets.” No regrets? Are you kidding me? You have no regrets about your life? I honestly don’t understand that. But if people can hold themselves up like that, well, more power to them. I can’t.

Nevertheless.

I am grateful for this glacial life review oozing across my mind. It has opened my eyes, softened my heart, made me more conscious and accountable for all the stupid, embarrassing things I’ve done in life. They are no longer buried. I am forgiven and I forgive myself, but some pain remains. I’m not wallowing in the past but I am experiencing it as if it were present. Sometimes it feels like I’m wearing a barbed wire shirt, but I’m getting through it. My appreciation for the Atonement has grown to reach heaven. I hope I someday I can reach heaven too.

Dusty Smith’s Trial of Faith

I recently found Dusty Smith’s book Trial of Faith (also by Kimiko Christensen Hammari). It sort of waved me down. It was next to a larger book at waist level on a shelf at Deseret Book in Spanish Fork. I was not having a great day but it was about to get better. Something said, “You’ll want to pick up that book.” I took it in hand and bought the intriguing little volume forthwith.

I finished reading it the next day. It moved me. Dusty’s story is not candy coated. I was amazed by his honesty. He confesses his online antagonism —bitter, hate-filled, and frequent over two decades. But then something changed and his heart started to soften. The patience, understanding, and good humor of his now good friend Mike Robertson helped a lot.

Miracles came. Many, many miracles. Miracles so convincing that they seem more real than “reality.” Like the time (starting on page 60) when Dusty was deathly ill and his son innocently let a pair of missionaries into the house when he was not up to seeing anyone.

“You’re sick,” the missionaries observed.

“I’m not just sick,” replied Dusty, “I’m dying. Now please get out of my house.”

“Can we at least give you a blessing first?”

A hinge point. “If it’ll get you out of my house, then yes.”

They gave him a blessing and this is what happened. “I felt instant relief,” he reported. “I was immediately and completely healed. My fever broke, and I was able to get out bed even though I wasn’t able to just a few minutes before. I walked the missionaries downstairs and asked them to never come back . . . [but] I was left with a nagging feeling to read my mission journal, and I kept thinking about the Church. Was God trying to tell me something? Why did the missionaries just happen to knock on my door that day?”

That’s just one of many miracles that led a man who once had a Korihor-rible (John Bytheway’s word) attitude about the Church to someone who had his testimony resurrected, was rebaptized, came back into full faith, and had his story retold in general conference. Dusty’s tale was shocking to me, eye-opening, encouraging, heart-warming, and miraculous. I highly recommend the book.

When we adopt—or readopt—God’s wisdom as the guide to our lives, our lives change, and I was changed by this amazing story. Thank you, Dusty, for your example of faith and humility. I’m grateful to have made your acquaintance through your book.

Grace and the Motor Home

Courtesy Wikicommons

A few weeks back, we were discussing grace in priesthood meeting in the homeless branch where we serve. The discussions in those meetings are some of the most energetic doctrinal conversations I have ever heard. Opinions are rarely defended and the atonement and power of grace are held up. It’s a blessing.

Anyway, one of our number raised his hand and told a story. He told of buying an old motor home and spending several days getting it in running order. When he finally got it running, and he took it for a drive, it broke down. He was stuck, by himself, on the side of the road. He didn’t know what to do. The hulking mass of steel and wood was too heavy for him to push off the road alone.

Finally, it struck him. He said to himself, “If I want help, I’d better go out there and push this motor home with all I’ve got. Then help will come my way.”

So that’s what he did. He got out and and pushed, alone. But he was only alone for five minutes. Soon two others showed up and together they were able to in the motor home off the road where it could safely repose until more help arrived.

He likened his experience to the grace of God. Yes, often, God helps us when we don’t deserve it, but more often than not, grace arrives when we are doing our best, reaching out, reaching up, giving our best.

Our plea for grace is not a Lazy-Boy-and-remote experience. We have to get up out of our chairs, if we are able. We have to put the remote down, as we must. We have to do something, as any good father would require, before we are empowered to solve a problem or receive help from others.

Grace is the power to do things, without which we could not do them. It is the power of God in our lives to take positive action. I am not saying that we can earn grace, but we certainly can hasten its arrival by getting up and doing something, in faith. Grace is a call to action.

Often but not always, sincere, devoted, prayer-guided action is the photosynthesis of grace. Grace is costly, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. The cost is discipleship and the price is action.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8.)