Shelley came up to me after the class, and started talking to me about climbing. It turned out that she was a very good climber and we had both climbed several of the same places around the United States. We had a lot in common, and found out that we had even more in common than originally thought as she taught a couple of my girls in school, and she was my third cousin. It is always fun to find new relatives!
We had a nice conversation and made tentative plans to go climbing together "sometime". That never managed to come to pass because a few weeks later, Shelley was killed in a tragic climbing accident.
I made arrangements to go to the funeral and came from work (never an easy thing to do). I was slightly late, so slid into a back row. The service was at the stake center and it was completely packed. There were even people in the additional rooms. There were many people there that came to support her family at this most difficult time. It was amazing! I sat down to listen and learned something that I have never forgotten. It touched my heart so much, that I remember it often and revisit what it has come to mean to me in my own life.
When the bishop had spoken to her family, her brother had shared parts of her journal. In her journal, she wrote about one of the most difficult experiences of her life. Shelley never married, but she always wanted to. She was a wonderful young woman and had many friends. She had a friend that she spent a lot of time with. He was a wonderful young man. They ended up falling in love and he took the discussions, but never accepted the gospel in his life. Shelley always knew that she wanted a Temple Marriage and a family that was surrounded by gospel principles. So, she broke off the relationship, and heart-breakingly wrote about her feelings and her grief in her journal. She ended her account with, "my faith means more to me than my heart".
Those are the words that burned within me and still do today. There are times in my life when I ask myself, what means more? Your faith, or your heart? I use this for my most difficult decisions now. It is so simple, and yet it makes perfect sense to me. Sometimes, the things that are the most important are not the things we want right now. Sometimes, we need to stop and think about what is most important in our lives and in our eternity.
Think for a moment of one of my favorite Old Testament stories. It is found in
2 Kings 5. It is the story of Naaman, the captain of the Syrian hosts, who was a leper. A little Israelite servant told Naaman’s wife that, if he had been in Israel, there was a prophet who could heal him. Naaman came with his chariot and horses to the house of Elisha, but Elisha would not see him and sent a messenger to instruct Naaman, verse 10: “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.”
Naaman became angry at Elisha. He was the captain of the Syrian hosts, and he was offended by Elisha’s instruction to wash in the Jordan. So he “went away in a rage.” One of Naaman’s servants, who was wiser than Naaman, came to hime and said: “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?”(verse 13) Naaman then repented, followed the counsel of the prophet, and went and washed himself seven times in the river Jordan. The leprosy disappeared, and “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” “Some great thing” in this instance means the most important thing and it was extraordinarily simple and easy to do. But it was not what Naaman's heart wanted. His heart wanted Elisha to recognize him for the important man that he was. But when he repented and exercised his faith by following the council of the prophet, he was healed.
His faith also came to mean more to him than his heart.
Someday, I am going to see Shelley again and I am going to thank her for sharing those wonderful words of wisdom in her journal. I know, she probably never meant for me to hear them, but I can't help feeling like they were written for me.
I pray that your faith may always mean more to you than the wants and needs of your heart.