We had the missionaries over for dinner the other night and were sharing some experiences and memories we had. I was telling them of when we lived in Boston. Our ward there shared the church building with a Portuguese speaking branch. No one in their congregation played the piano or organ, so for special occasions they would ask me to play for them. I was asked to play at a baptism once and the missionaries there translated for me. The speaker at this particular baptism was reading the scripture that talks about being baptized with water and by fire. As this missionary translated, he told me that when we are "baptized with fire", our desire to sin is burned.
If you've ever burnt yourself (and let's face it, we've all done it one time or another), you learn quickly where those hot surfaces are and you take great care to make sure you don't touch it again. Typically you don't keep going back for more, taking the chance that this time it won't hurt you.
It made me think more about my life and the sins I've committed. I've thought about habits I've developed, not necessarily bad, but not good either. In the context of getting burned, there are things that are burning me, and I don't want to feel that pain. I want to live knowing that I'm avoiding those things that cause pain. Unlike an actual fire, you may not immediately feel the effects of those acts, but over time you will find that the damage is much more widespread and may take longer to heal.
I see that in myself. It's easier to do some things because I'm not doing other things right. And I'm done living that way. I've been working on removing those things, thoughts, actions, etc. from my life. I recognize more and more that I can always do a little better.
As time goes on, I feel those wounds healing. I feel more joy in my life, more contentment. I feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost more on a regular basis; confirmation of being on the right path.
I've been particularly focused on the media in my life. Instead of listening to the radio, I have been listening more to conference talks, hymns, and other uplifting things. Instead of some of my "favorite" TV shows that are not in line with what the gospel teaches, I've replaced them with more appropriate shows (and if you're wondering about giving up things (TV, music, friends, just to name a few) you love, or just really like, for something better...it is SO HARD!!! But the rewards are SO GOOD).
I had a stake president one use the acronym GIGO = Good In, Good Out. As I've changed the content of what I've been putting in, I realize that more good is coming out. I am more loving and hopefully more Christlike. My thoughts and actions feel more clean and overall more genuine, like it's who I really am, more than just someone I'm trying to be.
Back to the analogy of being burned, I feel that as I take these actions to improve my life, those wounds are healing. As I encounter the temptations to watch/listen to things I shouldn't, or to do things I shouldn't, I feel that pain and I want to step away, change the channel, get out of whatever place I am in, whatever it takes to avoid that. Does that mean I'm perfect at it, that I don't mess up? Absolutely not. I'm still very human, but I'm making great efforts to avoid the evil, or more correctly in most cases, the less than good things that surround me at times.
As I type this, a hymn keeps coming to mind and I have to share. It is hymn #256: As Zions Youth in Latter Days (specifically verse 2 with regard to what I've been thinking about here). I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.
As Zion's youth in latter days, we stand with valiant heart
With promise shining in our eyes, resolved to do our part.
Upon a noble past we build; the future fills our view.
We face the challenge of our day and pledge we will be true
The truths and values we embrace are mocked on every hand
Yet as we listen and obey we know we can withstand
The evils that would weaken us, the sin that would destroy
With faith, we hold the iron rod and find in this our joy.
Thru test and trial we'll have our fear, but we will not despair
We're here to serve a righteous cause; truth gives us strength to dare
We'll love, and learn, and overcome; we'll sing a joyful song
As Zion's youth in latter day, triumphant pure and strong.