Hey Siri: “How about some self-reflection?”

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Earlier this summer we bought a new car stereo that has the “Apple CarPlay” feature. It is pretty sweet. I can plug my iPhone into it and the stereo essentially takes over for my phone. My EC really likes it –mostly because when it is activated, I can’t use my phone to check my email, text, look at Facebook, play music, etc. (Which, of course, I would never, ever, do.) All of those functions have now been surrendered to Siri.

For example, yesterday I asked her, “Hey Siri: What was the BYU Wisconsin score.”

She promptly replied, with a little snark, “BYU was trounced by Wisconsin, 40 to 6.”

All of that was to set up what happened Wednesday. Wednesday was my 56th birthday. I was running some errands and asked Siri to play some music. “Randomly” she chose a song from one of my faves, Nik Kershaw. The song was “What Do You Think of It So Far?”

Here are some of the lyrics:

Time goes by, time goes by
And if you didn’t laugh you could almost cry
Life goes on, life goes on
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s almost gone

What do you think of it so far?
Do you wonder where there might be something better?
Do you think about where you are?
Do you wonder where you’re going? (link)

Thanks, Siri, but wouldn’t “Happy Birthday” been a little gentler?

Then, “randomly,” she chose to follow it up with a song by another one of my faves, Switchfoot: “This Is Your Life.”

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose. (Link)

Seriously? By virtue of some strange birthday algorithm, Siri was forcing me to ask questions of myself about how I feel my life is going, and how I see myself. Cursed technology. Birthdays already trigger a lot of self-reflection for me. I see them as an annual opportunity to have a “gut-check” about how things are going – which is not a bad thing, but I don’t want to be prompted by my car stereo.

Yet the self-evaluation happens anyway. Overall, things are going swimmingly. I don’t live in a hurricane zone, I am employed, my kids are all firm in the faith, my EC still loves me, and I have 2 more grandkids on the way. Life is good.

I am content…kinda. Well, honestly I have never felt completely content. Contentment is defined was “peaceful happiness,” or being “satisfied.” While I am usually happy, I am rarely “satisfied.” (cue Hamilton)

To me, reaching a level of “satisfaction” with myself and my life flirts with the risk of being complacent. Contentment and complacency are not the same thing. Complacency is downright dangerous, so when I look at my life, if I find myself feeling that I have “arrived,” or feel complacent about where I am, and who I am, then I begin to worry.

Here are a few quotes about complacency that make it look less attractive:

“If we are casual or complacent in our worship, drawn off and desensitized by worldly pursuits, we find ourselves diminished in our ability to feel.” Elder Ronald A. Rasband.

“We cannot afford to be complacent. We live in perilous times; the signs are all around us.” President Thomas S. Monson.

This is a time when some will become complacent and take for granted the gospel principles. This is a time when many will pick and choose the commandments they will keep. This is a time when Satan is unusually cunning and effective, and he entraps many of us, sometimes without our knowing it. It is a time of trial for all. Elder H. Burke Peterson.

My concern is that we often take for granted the unique and valuable blessings that we have of membership in the Lord’s Church, and in such a state of underappreciation we are more likely to be complacent about our Church membership and are less valiant contributors to building a community of Saints. Elder M. Russel Ballard.

There are plenty more where those came from, but this should be enough to make the point that complacency is a dangerous thing, and it does not belong in how we perceive and practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just this past April, Elder Jeffrey Holland gave a General Conference talk where he pled with members of the church to stay put, and invited everyone else to join us. It was a terrific invitation to all. He said:

“There is room in this choir for all who wish to be there. “Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us.” (link)

I saw that invitation was welcomed and talked about by many. However, the next line did not seem to engender nearly as much discussion:

“Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.” (link)

The very purpose of Gospel of Jesus Christ is to help us change, and become a better version of ourselves Through the Gospel and His Atonement, the Savior is always attempting to move us forward, and to lift us higher. Complacency in our spirituality, our behavior, and our efforts is antithetical to our theology.

If we think we have gotten to a good place in our spirituality, and are complacent to stay there, we do not understand the Gospel, nor the Atonement.

As President Harold B. Lee once said, “The gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” (Link)

Feeling comfortable?

A non-church example: I spent the last couple of days at a writer’s conference. In one of the classes, I glanced behind me and saw a well-known writer focusing intently on the instructor who was teaching a writing class. I also know that this writer has sold well over a MILLION books, yet here she was listening, studying and learning in order to get better at doing what many would think she has already mastered. Why? To get better at it.

And so it should be with our quest for spirituality. We will never finish that quest. We will never “arrive” at that destination in this life. As soon as we can get out minds around this idea, we can stop feeling bad about the fact that we haven’t been able to check that item of our lists. Then, instead, we can focus on making the slow, constant, incremental changes that will move us onward and upward.

President Ezra Tat Benson taught this beautifully:

“Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20) (link)

I am happy, but I am acutely aware that there is much more for me to do, and room for me to grow. And that is the most anyone can ever wish for on their birthday.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! Kinda do the same things on my birthdays… so thanks for this encouragement. I relish beginnings and endings. The school semester was my OCD promise land, so the eternal journey is hard for me to feel cozy with. BUT forward motion….always. Helps to have other good souls on the path with you 🙂

  2. I think we as saints so often forget that Celestial Glory isn’t an arrival. It is the opportunity for eternal increase, for growth un-ending. If living, temporarily, in a state of struggle (granted with blinders and imperfect conditions and mortal classmates) is too much for us, then what will we do when we get to the other side and the real work begins? Will we welcome those new vistas or say “Nope. I’m good.” Those that wish to pitch a camping chair and settle will be welcome to do so, but they will be closing to minimize themselves, never realizing, “all that the Father hath.”

  3. I am posting this on my kitchen wall the quote from elder Holland “for there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there.12 “Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.” I have faced many changes this year none of them I wanted. but as I grew closer to the savior out of pure survival I realized the changes the lord had made in me. I bow my head with humility and understand.

  4. Thanks for putting that Nirvana song in my head.
    Great post. It certainly made me take a look at my life and attitudes – definite room for improvement there.

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