This month, my New Year's Resolution is "to set my heart less upon the vain things of the world" - taken from Alma 5:53, which says:
And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches?
This will be a bit more reflective post than most, in the sense that I am going to be writing quite openly about my past and personal inclinations. I hope and pray I will be able to do so in a way that will help someone who reads this post.
I have to admit up front that this resolution is one area where I have been both naturally humble but also been forced to be humble. I was raised poor, due to my father's amazing dedication to my mother and willingness to forsake honor and relative wealth to care for her in her need. However, that poverty never was presented to us as a burden in any way. I wished I could have more fairly often (especially when I was dating my future wife), but I never was covetous to any significant degree. My struggle with the concept was much more a result of my ambitions upon leaving for college - and my subsequent desires to "live up to my potential" when it came to earning a living.
I never struggled in school. In fact, academic learning came easily to me from the time of my earliest memories. Understanding math, especially, was a natural gift. This led me ultimately to Harvard (my admission being influenced greatly, I know, by the fact that I was from a tiny Utah town of which none of the Admissions Officers had heard), where I became enthralled for a few years by the opportunities that lay ahead of me. I dreamed for a while about international diplomatic work - probably in Japan, where I served my mission, or China, which always has fascinated me. Eventually, however, I realized I really did want to be a high school teacher, so I walked away from those secondary dreams and entered my subsequent life of relative poverty.
After I left the classroom, I ended up in Educational Publishing Sales and Marketing - and I made a very good living in that arena for nearly a decade. I had one year, in particular, that was extraordinary - but, in the end, due to an unwise investment, I lost what I had earned, changed careers and now, once again, am doing work I love immensely that does not pay very well. The "difficulty" for me now is that I have been more than comfortable previously, and it is hard to let go of the desire to be there again.
In general, I am incredibly happy with my life, regardless of my financial circumstances - especially since I believe deeply that I am and have been exactly where I am supposed to have been and be now. I can look back on my life thus far and see that it was FAR more important for my family to be where we have been than for me to have made a lot of money. In other words, our location has been more important than my actual job and career path. I have gotten jobs that took us to where we needed to be - and, in having that happen, I am learning to let go more fully of the dreams I fostered those first four years in college. It helps tremendously that I now do work that I enjoy greatly.
This year has deepened my understanding of the trajectory I just described - and I have come to accept more fully the idea expressed in the LDS hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go":
It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea. It may not be at the battle's front the Lord will have need of me. But if, by a still, small voice he calls to paths that I do not know, I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I'll go where you want me to go.
I was talking with my wife this week about exactly this understanding - that I have no idea where life will lead me from this moment forward, but that I am willing to accept wherever that ends up being.
I will deal more specifically with the meaning of the focus of my resolution in the posts that follow each week, but I wanted to start with this post - and an encouragement for everyone to strive to be able to accept whatever life the Lord desires of us - even if it is a life we did not expect and would not have chosen on our own.