I consider myself a devout Christian, though social media isn't where I usually display my religious activity. It's for the same reason I don't wear clothing or jewelry with a bunch of Jesus stuff decked all over it--power to those who do, I'd just personally feel flamboyant and obnoxious doing so, based on my personality. And for a major portion of my life, I've struggled with being obnoxious.
Were we to explore just how or why, we'd be here all day and you'd be bored to tears, so I won't get into that. Bottom line is, whether through nurture or nature, that's who I ended up being. When my post-teenage years rolled around and I got out into the world on my own, I didn't realize just how much I tended to annoy people.
In the fall of 2003 I started to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As part of my service, I was assigned a companion who was to be by my side basically twenty-four-seven. Your companion changes every couple of months, because the Lord needed us in different places at different times, and we had different things to learn from each other in the meantime.
Sometimes you like your companion, sometimes you don't. I had a few that I got along with, a few that I didn't, and one who taught me a boatload about how to be a better man. We've remained close friends to this day, and I frequently find myself thanking God for his friendship and the impact it's had on me.
His name is Matt Jones, from Oklahoma. He has an innate skill for making other people feel valued and important. He has a ton of interesting talents, chief among them being his propensity for humor. For being such a small dude, he's got a crazy deep voice, which I think is what makes people laugh at just about anything he says. (That and his propensity for sarcasm.)
What I appreciated most, I think, is his balance between his devotion to God and his total unwillingness to tolerate BS. He knows what he wants, he knows what's important, and anything that opposes that, he doesn't let it waste his time. In a sense I didn't realize that one could truly live that way until I knew him.
Furthermore he was able to let me see my own flaws--and how to fix them--without chiding me, belittling me, or putting himself above me. He's the kind of friend I really needed, then and for years to come.
My talent for annoyance didn't disappear overnight; obviously it's still there, yet it's only a shadow of its former self. It took years for me to truly see what he's taught me. They aren't the things anyone could learn by sitting down and studying them. You couldn't read a checklist of your faults and become the kind of person you'd be after a few months of Matt. It's why his friendship is such a blessing.
I joke with people about how putting up with him is a Herculean task, primarily because Matt's also very skilled at teasing you in a way that everyone can laugh at. Nobody knows this better than the woman who just married him last night, bless her heart. She's very special indeed, not for her ability to tolerate that one shard of him, but for her ability to win him over.
I got to attend their sealing and wedding reception yesterday in Oakland/San Francisco. I've gone to weddings before, of course, yet this one struck a chord that I hadn't felt since my little brother got hitched in December of 2010. It takes a very special event to drum up that sense of pure joy and love for another person, for being happy that they are happy. I feel like by nature I am a selfish person, and I often wish I was better at being happy for others, so when that feeling comes along I really treasure it.
At the night's end, as I was walking back to where I'd parked my rental, I took a few brief moments to breathe in the San Francisco ambiance and let my mind wander down Memory Lane. It surprised me how similar Frisco is to Barcelona, or Valencia, or other major coastal Spanish cities where I'd lived and worked as a missionary. There I was, ten years later, striding quickly down a cobbled sidewalk in a suit, my heart and spirit full of inimitable joy, thanks in large part to Matt Jones.
Whatever my skills with words, I come up short to describe that feeling in its totality. The last ten years of my friendship with Matt have been a roller coaster whirlwind, as severe life events have bounced off both of us, tried us, tested us, changed us, and hopefully made us just a little better than we were back then. I can't put a price on those memories, those feelings, those raw emotions that have only strengthened the connection I feel to God. Aside from my marriage and fatherhood, the most formative and meaningful successes of my adult life have had Matt's fingerprints on them.
And that's something that would not be, if he and I had not chosen to serve missions.
I know what Christ has personally done for me, what He continues to do for me daily, and what's possible because of Him. If I were to catalog them all, it'd be even longer than this post, which I thank you for reading. Most of what Christ has done for me, He's done through other people.
So this Easter, as I focus on the blessings of the Atonement and the Resurrection of our Savior, I think about what that's done for me and my family. Without Him, we'd never have a shot at getting home to our heavenly parents. Without Him, we wouldn't have His Church on the Earth, I wouldn't have gone on a mission, and I wouldn't have become so many of the good things that Matt has helped me to be.
God most often blesses us and answers our prayers through other people. Think of that when you have a chance to reach out to someone and help them feel what you feel. That pure happiness is there for all of us if we look in the right place.
Thus, I leave you with this simple truth: #BecauseOfHim, my joy is full.
And I'll work to keep it that way.