Sitting at a desk all day is not very strenuous work at all. In fact when I first came on my mission I imagined that I would go home with all of my clothes in pretty much the same condition they were when I came on my mission! For the most part I would say that is pretty accurate. But I guess typing and using a computer mouse all day can wear down the elbows of long-sleeve shirts! Who would have thought? :)
A few months ago I was going about my regular, day-to-day activities as an online missionary and I leaned on my elbow and noticed that it felt pretty cold. I looked at the desk, saw nothing, and figured I was losing my mind so I went back to how I had been sitting. But again I felt this cold sensation. Again I checked the desk and it felt fine. This time I decided to look at my shirt (as sad as it is to say, one of my favorite shirts!) and found the reason for the temperature difference! I noticed that there was a small hole right over my elbow so that when I had it in just the right position my elbow poked through and that is what I was feeling.
"No big deal," I thought, "it is just a tiny hole, it should be fine for a while." So I ignored it and went back to what I had been doing. I eventually got used to that chill that ran up my arm whenever I put it on my desk and just acknowledged that I had a small hole.
Over the next few weeks I continued to wear and wash this shirt without much thought. Every time I wore it I would make a comment about how annoying it was to have that hole but was too lazy to do anything about it so it continued to get a little bigger and a little bigger with each wear and wash that it went through. Each time was practically imperceptible, but it still happened. Time continued to pass and I continued to be lazy about my shirt. After a few weeks someone commented on my hole and I realized that it had grown since the last time I had looked at it! Now my elbow poked out pretty much all of the time, not just when it was in the perfect position. I had a hard time remembering about the hole and every time I quickly bent my arm I would hear the hole tear and get a little bigger.
This was my favorite shirt! And there was a hole in the elbow getting bigger and bigger! This time I finally decided to do something about it! Unfortunately there isn't a place where we can get sewing jobs done here (and if I had a sewing machine I totally would have done it myself!) so I had to send it away to a seamstress. About a week later I get my shirt back, but it isn't the same as the shirt I sent away. I distinctly remember sending them a long-sleeve shirt so that they could patch the elbow but what I got in return was a short-sleeve shirt. I checked the tags and it was definitely the shirt I had sent away but magically it became a short-sleeve shirt! The people at the dry cleaning desk made a few phone calls to figure out what was going on. Come to find out, the hole had become so big that the best way to fix it was to simply cut off the sleeves. Considering the fact that one of my favorite shirts had suddenly become a kind of shirt that I hate, I was not very happy. But I paid for the work, took my shirt and left.
A few weeks later, another shirt (the same brand as the other one) somehow got a hole in it as well. The "symptoms" were similar as with the first one in that it started out as feeling the cold desk on my elbow through a small hole in my sleeve. I had learned my lesson already so as soon as I could I sent this shirt away to get patched up. I was a little nervous, hoping that this one also wouldn't come back with short sleeves, but sent it away nonetheless. A week or so later I picked up my shirt to find that there was a very nice patch on the elbow and it was still a long-sleeve shirt! How happy I was about that! :)
As sad as it sounds, I have actually thought about this experience quite a bit over the past few months. Every time I see the now short-sleeve shirt I am reminded of my laziness and lack of attention. It actually didn't take a whole lot of thinking to see how this applied to my life.
I had a problem. It wasn't very big, just kind of an annoyance more than anything. Because it wasn't anything too serious I let it be and just kept going. Over time, due to neglect, the problem grew! It was only a little bit and hardly noticeable at a time, but it still grew. Slowly, yet surely, what once was little more than a nag grew into an inconvenience, then a bother, then a frustration. Eventually it got to the point where when I did certain things I could hear and feel the problem getting bigger and bigger. By this time I recognized and admitted that there was a problem and sought help and assistance. But it was too late. The only help that could be given turned what I had once loved into something that I strongly dislike.
Has this ever happened to you? It probably hasn't happened with a hole in a shirt, but I can almost guarantee that everyone in the world has had something similar happen to them. Whether it is an addiction, a state of mind, or some other action all of have experienced something similar. One scripture that I have kind of made my theme in life is found in the counsel the Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, gives to his son, Helman. In this guidance, he says "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass".
As I have repeatedly read, pondered, and prayed about that scripture I have come to realize something. I always understood that that scripture teaches that as we do the small things in our lives, the Lord blesses us with great things and big things are achieved. But recently I have come to realize that the opposite is true. Small and simple bad things can easily turn into great evils that can bind us down and tear us apart if we let them. It all starts with something simple--both the good and the bad! It is in the small details of our lives that eternal life--the great blessing to live with God and our loved ones for eternity--is either obtained or squandered.
The little things will come up. They always do. But are we ignoring them and allowing them to grow and fester or are we cutting them off right away and severing anything that could potentially become a great obstacle in our lives? This life is a time for us to be tempted and tried. It is our opportunity to prove what we are made of. It is our chance to show God and to show ourselves that we are worthy of enjoying the eternal company of God and our families. But this only comes through obedience to God's commandments and faith in His promises.
As I have thought about this experience with my shirts, a scripture in the Book of Mormon comes to mind every time. In the words of the great teacher, Amulek, he says,
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.When we see a problem in our lives, what are we doing? How do we respond? Are we procrastinating the day of our repentance and allowing our problems to get out of hand or are we taking care of them right away? As I have already shared, I have experienced this teaching in a great analogous way, but I have also experienced this teaching in my spiritual life. There have been times when I have had a small problem, ignored it, and allowed it to get out of hand. Then there have been times when I have noticed a small problem and taken care of it right away. The repentance is so much easier and less overwhelming when we take care of things right away rather than when we wait until they become something large which, in order to fix, requires what seems to be more strength and energy than we can muster. Yet even in those times the Atonement of Jesus Christ is there to lift us and give us that strength to continue on and be able to overcome our challenges.
"And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnessed, therefor, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the dasy of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed."
We are always able to repent and be cleansed of our sins and mistakes, but it is so much easier in the day when the problem is small rather in that "night of darkness" when our mistakes have overtaken us. I testify that that is true. This is our time to prepare to meet God. Let us not put it off until it becomes something more difficult than it needs to be.
I often wear the shirt that I had patched, in fact I am wearing it right now! It is still a long-sleeve shirt and it still feels good, it just has a small imperfection in it, just like me! :) The other one, the one that I waited too long on, sits in my closet and serves as a reminder for me. A reminder to not procrastinate. A reminder to always eliminate problems as soon as they come up. A reminder to not let little things fester, build, expand, and grow into something big where the only way to fix it is to cut away the problem and turn it into something I don't like.