Friday, I was putting some gas in my truck and something odd happened. The driver that was on the opposite side of the island from me reached into the cab of his truck, pulled out his entire change holder, walked over to the trash bin and slowly dumped it out, making a distinctive noise.
Coins. The ashtray had been full of coins.
I might not have noticed that they were coins, but a nickel bounced off the edge and rolled across the concrete. The driver got back into his truck and drove away.
I was surprised, and went over to the trash can to make sure of what I thought I saw. I was right: He had dumped am ashtray full of coins into the trash. The can was half empty, so I couldn’t see how many coins there were, but it sounded like a lot. I saw a lot of pennies, so I figured that there was not much value, but then I saw that there were more than pennies.
Sitting on top of the trash was a shiny quarter. It just sat there. I was tempted to reach in and grab it, but thoughts of George Costanza and the infamous eclair raced through my mind. I decided to leave it, but my mind couldn’t leave it alone.
I’m guessing that the change dumped into the trash was worth a few dollars. Why would someone throw that away? Sure, I get sick of collecting pennies too, but quarters and dimes? Who does that?
It seems that at one point in his earlier life – if not earlier that day – the man had valued those coins enough to save them. They were, after all, worth a few bucks to him. That’s the thing about coins – they have am inherent value: A quarter is worth a quarter, etc.
Hoever, something happened and this man decided to de-value the coins in his truck from several dollars to zero. I have no idea what his reasoning would be, but it was obvious that to him, those coins had become of zero worth to him – even though they were still worth several dollars in society. I will never know why, but those coins lost all value to him that afternoon, so he got rid of them.
Which leads me to The Two Big Lies.
These Two Big LIes are obviously twins, and they are only used in the saddest of circumstances. I have heard both of them in my personal life from friends, and well as in my tenure as a bishop. Here they are:
“I don’t think I ever really knew the church was true.”
“I don’t think I ever really loved her/him.”
I’ve heard the first one as people I care about contemplate leaving the church while struggling through a crisis of faith.
I’ve heard the second as people I care about contemplate ending a marriage that has disintegrated.
But in the instances I have experienced, those statements have been untrue. My response has always been sorrowful and a bit skeptical. The skepticism can be expressed this way:
You don’t think you ever really knew the church was true? What about the feelings, the experiences, the promptings you have felt? What about the miracles you have witnessed and performed? What about the lives you have seen transformed by the power of the gospel and the Atonement? Now you are telling me that none of that really happened?
You don’t think you ever really loved her? Hey my friend – I was there! I witnessed it. I watched you fall head-over-heels in love with that girl. I watched you become a better person. I watched how your eyes would light up when you saw her. I felt what you felt in the temple sealing room that day when you made sacred covenants. Now you are telling me that none of that really happened?
Nonsense. Tragic nonsense.
How does that happen? Just like the man who dumped the change in the trash, my friends had come to the conclusion that something that had once held great value for them had no been re-valued to the point that there was no value to their testimony or marriage.
To follow this path takes a great deal of convincing, if not self deception. It requires us to actually re-write history in our minds and in our hearts. Why the effort to re-write? To provide ourselves with a reason – a justification for our next step: Leaving.
If I can convince myself that I never actually had a testimony, then there would be less pain in leaving it behind. Same for a spouse – If I never actually loved her, then leaving her is not such a big deal.
The Two BIg Lies are easier than the truth:
We allowed our testimonies die, or we proactively killed them.
We allowed our relationships die, or we proactively killed them.
Both scenarios are strikingly similar. A testimony and a marriage both require constant nurturing. (Which would warrant an entirely separate blog post.) The scriptures are full of metaphors comparing faith and love to plants that need water and care. Withhold that constant care, and both will wither and eventually die.
We proactively kill both by breaking covenants. As we sin, the Spirit pulls away from us and we find ourselves doubting what we once knew to be true. Then the re-write begins takes shape.
Love and testimony have a very short shelf life. What is alive and healthy today is not guaranteed to stay that way. We are all vulnerable to losing them if we do not make it a part of our normal, day-to-day focus. I remember a quote from my youth that seems apropos:
“Doing a good job is like shaving, no matter how well you do it today, you will need to do it again tomorrow.”
A strong, growing testimony will not survive if it is only based on the past. It must be based on today. We need to ask ourselves: “What nourishment did I give my testimony today?” Is it any wonder we have been counseled our entire lives to have daily scripture study?
A strong, vibrant love cannot be based on the memories of the past. It must be based on today. We need to ask ourselves, “What have I done to nourish this relationship today?’ If we don’t do anything today, one day becomes two, two becomes ten, and suddenly, we find yourself explaining to those who will listen, “I don’t think I ever really loved her.”
Tragic, yet avoidable. Strength in testimony and love is not found in the grandiose, it is found in the daily.