For the past year or so, I have been learning how to play the guitar.
I first picked up a guitar in the sixth grade. My fingers bled and I struggled to read the tablature. In the true fashion of a middle schooler, I gave up when things got hard.
Now, as a young adult – and especially as a returned missionary – “hard” is no new concept. I bought my Luna mini when I returned from my time in Los Angeles, sat down, and taught myself. This time, my fingers callused quickly, and I kept going. I’m a decent enough player to struggle through the simple fingerstyle version of “Come Thou Fount” I posted to my Instagram page.
For the past four years, I have been learning how to navigate college, how to be a missionary, and how to make decisions that will alter the course of my life. Perhaps the most important concept I learned is that while “hard” things are good, sometimes the easiest decisions are also the best. When I received my BYU acceptance letter, I knew immediately where to go to college. When I took a mission prep class, I knew after the first day that I needed to go.
The “hard” parts were what followed. The decision was easy – the action, not so much. Even though I’ve found the best of friends at BYU and have done well in school, being so far away from home and family for most of the year is, well, terrible. When winter hits, and snow follows, it grows close to unbearable. There was no snow in California, but there was rejection. I’m not talking about the doors slammed in my face or the people who yelled at me in anger when they saw the badge I wore, though certainly none of that was pleasant. I’m talking about the soul-wrenching, mind-boggling, heart-breaking rejection from those souls I’d found, taught, and loved – those who decided to forego their newfound path in favor of the life they’d had before.
There are those of us who are afraid of learning, I guess.
For the past twenty-one years, I have been learning how to be a good daughter, sister, and disciple of Jesus Christ. I’d like to say I learn more about these three every day, but my knowledge of the first two is exponentially increased when I am at home in Georgia and living with my family, for obvious reasons. It is easy, for the most part, to be a good daughter when the expectation is that you call every other day to check in. That changed in March when I returned home early from school due to the current pandemic and, though it’s taken me twenty-one years, I’ve finally learned to give – or to at least try to give – the same love and attention to my parents that I have always received from them. Because this is definitely an impossible feat, and will be until I become a parent myself, the operative word here is “try.”
For thousands of years, we as a human family have been learning how to live together in a very flawed, fallen world – in which we ourselves, by design, are also very flawed and fallen. For if we were already perfect, what would there be to learn? The song we learn as kids in my church is called “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus,” not “I am Like Him.” Even the Hallmark cards we all know and love say “Happy Father’s Day to a Great Dad,” not “Happy Father’s Day to a Perfect Dad.” Though, I suppose, our Heavenly Father would really appreciate the latter. But, for now, the one he sends back reads “Happy Birthday to a Wonderful Daughter,” not “Happy Birthday to a Perfect One.” The Instagram comments on my guitar playing will read “Great song!” and not “Perfect playing!” That is okay, so long as I make progress.
I, for one, am very grateful that my life is filled with small, daily learning experiences. Just as I learned to crawl, then walk, then run, I learned to strum, then make chords, then pick. And who knows – someday I might become a great guitar player.
But for now, I am just learning.
And that is okay.