We all have something in our life that we cannot change, but that is difficult to accept. For me, that is most often the limitations of my mental illness. I find that learning to accept it is a continuous process. I will think I’ve finally accepted it and can live with it with grace and then suddenly I find myself in a complete rage about it. This story in this video has been one of the most powerful lessons in acceptance for me. It’s told by Elder D. Todd Christoffersen, an apostle of the Lord.
I love this story. The very first time I heard it, I knew I’d just learned an important lesson for my stubborn heart. No matter how many times I hear the story, it’s the same experience over and over. It makes me weep, as I so fully understand how the currant bush is feeling.
I often get frustrated by the limitations that come with having a mental illness and I find myself asking, “Why, God? I know that through your guidance and grace, I could do so many things. I want to help uplift and inspire others. If you could lift this burden, I could accomplish so much more. When my desires are right, why can I not be free from this illness holding me back?”
The day before my most recent stay at the hospital, I sobbed into my husband’s arms, an utterly heartbroken lament, “I could be so great!”
I didn’t mean that in a conceited or arrogant way. What I meant was, I know I have been given talents, as we all have. And I know that I could accomplish great things, if given the capacity to develop those talents. I have a willing heart! I want to do so many things! I want to do good! I want to help others! I want to be strong!
What I lack is the opportunity to focus on developing those talents.
Instead, I spend much of my time surviving.
At the worst of times, this means finding the strength and desire to keep placing one foot in front of the other, to walk away from the dark abyss my thoughts desire to lead me to. To keep pressing on day after day.
But even now, when things are not so dire, I am rebuilding. Learning how to be an engaged wife and mother again. Trying to clean my house without wearing myself out and becoming a rage monster. Struggling to remember how to make the recipes I’ve made for my family for years, but that electroconvulsive therapy treatments from over a year ago mostly erased. Learning how to become and be a friend. And enduring the days when depression welcomes itself back into my life.
There are people around me who are doing the very things with their lives that I wish I could do with mine. And they are doing them very well—as I believe I could. Sometimes it is hard to watch them and keep kind feelings in my heart. As if their talents somehow detract anything from me and my life.
So, I keep coming back to this story about the currant bush and reminding myself that I am shortsighted, but the Lord is not. And He knows what I can be. And what I can be great at. And that what He wants for me is most assuredly greater than what I can imagine for myself.
For what He wants for me is to be as absolutely great as I can be and I can’t do that on my own. I need to be cut back and trimmed on occasion. Or maybe, all the time. I need to remember that the Lord is not only doing these things because He knows they will prune and shape me into what He created me to be, but that He also knows I will survive every cut. He knows that what I am learning as I navigate life with a mental illness is ultimately of greater worth, to me and those around me, than what I could be doing without it.
My brother once told me that he is impressed at the burdens and trials the Lord allows me to have. My brother is so wise and insightful. And that new perspective was something that I really needed that day, and has stuck with me since. The Lord prunes us back so we can grow into what He knows we are created to be. He allows us to carry the burdens we have so we can develop the strength we need to be whatever that is.
He knows I have a willing heart and He is shaping it into what will ultimately bring me greater happiness than I can imagine. In His garden, I am not a great big tree. I am a currant bush. He sees the big picture, of how everything in His garden grows and comes together and who is needed where. He is not content to let me just grow haphazardly, as fast as I can. He knows that becoming something truly useful takes time, care, effort, and patience. He is the Gardener, not me. Sometimes I get anxious and frustrated and I think I want to be the Gardener. But, when I remember this story, I know I don’t really want that. I want to become what He knows I can be. And that requires faith in Him and His plan. And more willingness to see the growth that having Bipolar II provides. And less resentment for what I think it is taking away from me.
I recently came across this quote that fits so perfectly with this: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, God’s work in your life is bigger than the story you’d like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you’ll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him.”–Adam S. Miller, Letters to a Young Mormon.
The reality is, I am His daughter with infinite capacities. I need to trust in Him. I need to trust that He knows how to shape and prune me so that I can grow into the greatest me I am capable of becoming. I need to allow Him the time that requires. And I don’t have to be a great big tree to be happy.
I can be happy as a currant bush.