Friday, May 4, 2012
Lessons From Popcorn
Since I have been on my mission I have been working hard on eating healthy foods instead of the junk that I used to eat. I have been doing a pretty good job! I have Raisin Bran for breakfast every morning, I have salads for lunch and dinner almost every day, soda only at one meal a week, and have been eating a lot less candy and other junk foods. I never would have willingly touched a salad or even a vegetable before my mission and suddenly here I am eating them every day! I would say that is quite a big change from how things used to be!
Well as is my habit, I have a few bags of popcorn stashed away just in case. A few weeks ago it was the evening and I was really hungry so I decided to pop a bag. And just like I have always done, I ate the whole thing. But because I have been eating so healthy recently my body is not used to so much junk. So I felt pretty terrible after eating it and decided I wouldn't eat a whole bag of popcorn in one sitting again! Well last night I was hungry again so I popped another bag! When I got back to my desk I remembered how terrible I felt the last time I ate a whole bag so I decided I would share my popcorn with some of the Elders around me! Good plan right? That's what I thought until I found out that everyone around me didn't like popcorn. "Great" I thought, "I made this popcorn and I don't want to eat the whole bag but I have nobody to share it with. Now what?"
So I started eating the popcorn and realized that if I was going to get rid of this I had better find someone to give it to quickly before I had enough time to eat it all. So I turned to one of the Elders behind me and offered him a piece of popcorn. "I don't really like popcorn," he said, "but I guess I will have just one piece." So he took a piece, popped it into his mouth and a few seconds later cried out, "Oh man! I got the shell stuck in my tooth!" One of the unfortunate side effects of eating popcorn, but I enjoy the taste so much that I don't really care. I was afraid that getting that piece stuck in his tooth would discourage him from having anymore but I offered it anyways. He initially turned it away saying that he didn't want to get another piece stuck between his teeth but then said, "Well maybe I can have another one and it will help get the first one unstuck." So he ate another piece and said "Dang it! I got that one stuck in between my teeth on the other side of my mouth!"
I grinned to myself and thought that this was the perfect opportunity to play a little game. So I offered him the whole bag and said "You already have popcorn stuck on both sides, you might as well just keep eating."
"No", he said, "Then I will keep getting it stuck in my teeth."
"Well even if it did get stuck in between all of your teeth there are only a limited number of spaces so it would have to stop at some point."
As he grabbed a few pieces of popcorn he nodded his head and said "That is true."
"Now I've got him," I thought. For the next few minutes I would take a few pieces of popcorn then offer some to him and he would take a few pieces. When I realized that I no longer had to coax him into eating it I started to eat it less and less and he would continue to eat it. I realized that all I had to do was simply offer it to him and he would take some popcorn. After a while I started pushing harder and harder trying to get him to take the bag. As I did that his response started changing. He would say things like "No, I don't even like popcorn." And yet the funny thing is that as he said this he would take a few pieces of popcorn.
This kept going on for a few minutes and finally he said he needed to wash his hands. When he got back I offered him popcorn again and he said "No! My hands are clean and I am not going to get them dirty again for something I don't even like!" So I was forced to finish the bag of popcorn by myself (there were only a few pieces left by this time so it was no big deal).
So what is my point in sharing this story with you all? What started out as a goal to continue eating (relatively) healthy ended up in quite an awesome learning experience.
Towards the beginning of this experience I noticed a very odd parallel to what happens in all of our lives. At time in our lives, we are all confronted by temptation of some sort. Be it large or small we can all be assured that it will come. What I did is exactly what Satan does to all of us. He offers us something that we don't really like. Logically most of us realize that many sins are just dumb at first. But Satan tempts us and does his best to convince us that doing it just once will be no big deal.
Eventually we often give in to his temptations and try it out just once and almost always it has negative consequences. We think to ourselves "That was dumb. I don't even know why I did that. I will never do that again."But by this point Satan has already gotten a head start on us. From this point he offers us half-truths to help try to get us to continue and more often than not we justify our actions by trying to pin them as good such as thinking that by eating another piece of popcorn the Elder would have been able to get the other piece unstuck from between his teeth. But that is exactly what Satan wants. He does his best to take these little steps down his "slippery slope." Before we know it we have already messed up and we think it is too late to turn back so we just keep going thinking that there is no relief.
But just as in this experience with the popcorn, we often realize that what we are doing is bad and harmful and recognize that it isn't something that we want. But more often than not we are in so deep that we can't get out on our own power. Just as with this Elder, he didn't want to keep eating the popcorn but he continued to do so. He kept trying to stop but it wasn't until he washed his hands that he was finally able to resist the temptation. That is what gave him the motivation to stop. And that is how it is with us. When we are in over our heads we often can't get out on our own. It isn't until we repent and wash ourselves of our mistakes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we are able to be "fixed in [our] minds with a determined resolution" (Alma 47:6) to avoid sin and are freed from our previous sins. (It is important to also know that just because we repent doesn't mean we won't be tempted. We gain forgiveness through repentance but we will always be tempted to do what is wrong.)
I guess there were two main lessons that I learned from this experience. The first is how Satan works. I have read the scripture in the Book of Mormon numerous times that says "and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21-22). I have read this scripture a number of times but it wasn't until last night when I actually experienced this. In my experience I was actually being the tempter. I was the one trying to get someone to do something they didn't want to do. And I realized as I was doing that how true those verses in 2 Nephi are. The devil really does work by little things. He starts us off with little tiny mistakes here and there. Then we get comfortable with making a few mistakes so he starts tempting us with bigger and bigger ones until we have crossed the link where we can stop on our own.
And that leads to the second lesson I learned. Repentance is always available! No matter what we have done, no matter how bad we may have messed up, Christ's Atonement can always pull us out of those situations and bring light into our lives. Always! Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about this in his talk in this April's General Conference. He said, "...however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."
I know that my words are nowhere near as powerful as that of this wonderful Apostle, but I know that the Atonement is always available to anyone who desires help in their lives. I know that through repentance we can receive forgiveness for our sins and enjoy the peace that comes with living in harmony with what God wants from us. I am so grateful to have this knowledge in my life and to be able to share it with people all over the world!