One of my favorite gospel related things is the Refiner's Fire.
To refine gold you must subject it to immense heat. This brings the impurities in the gold to the top. From there the impurities can be skimmed off the top and thrown away. Eventually leaving the gold refined to the point where the goldsmith can see his reflection in it.
Our trials (whether a no-fault trial or one brought on by ourselves) bring our imperfections/weaknesses to the surface. That helps us to see where improvement is needed. If our weakness are buried deep within us, how are we going to remove them? We don't even see them, or are unaware of them.
Ether 12:27 says, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
Lately, and by lately I mean the last couple of years, I have seen any weakness as something I didn't know nor like about myself coming to the surface. I would beat myself up because I did not like what I was seeing and there were moments when I thought, "Well, this must be who you really are." I've surprised myself a lot over the last couple of years and as I said, I didn't like those surprises. Recently however, I was explaining the concept of The Refiner's Fire to a friend of mine and it struck me that the impurities in the gold coming to the surface was the same as when our weaknesses come to the surface (which I knew - but bear with me). It is an opportunity to remove those imperfections from us (before I saw it as only master just removing them - not thinking about the daily decisions it would take on our part). It may not be as easy as scooping them out and tossing them aside, but it can be done and we make the decision to do so.
That brings me to my next thing I have recently relearned. Change does not happen at the snap of a finger. I had a very good talk with my bishop who reminded me of all the things I have improved. I work out, I take care of myself, I clean my house, cook my food, pay my bills, I go to church every week, I read my scriptures, say my prayers, etc. These are things I did not do (or didn't do much) when I was younger. Going to church was sometimes a pain when I was younger, but I have since developed the self discipline to go every week. As he said, "We learn to walk by taking one step at a time". Babies don't go from immobile to running in a matter of minutes, but there is a timeline. There are baby steps and trips and falls, landing on your face (and back and bum) before you get it right and even then, it's still a while before you run without tripping or skinning your knees (heck, I know some adults who still can't run without falling on their faces - *cough* Katie B.). It's a gradual progression, so gradual that sometimes we do not give ourselves credit for how far we've come because we felt as though we were standing still, at least that is how I feel at times. And it takes work - progression never feels easy, regression most certainly does.
Something I heard a lot in General Conference this past weekend was taking the time to reflect on our lives, to do a little self inventory. I heard it in several talks (but I have no clue if anyone else did - Conference seems to work that way sometimes). I think it's important to look back to where we came from.
It's like when I went hiking with Jesse at the Southern Rim. We didn't feel as though we were getting very far at points, but we looked back to where we started and realized that that tiny little dot was where we had begun, and we had come a lot further than we thought.
Life is like learning to walk. We are learning to become "the more" that we are meant to be. When we find something in ourselves that we don't like, we can change, it just takes a baby step - each and every day. And some days we will fall down, but as my bishop said (again) if you can make it more days than not out of a month - that's a success.
So here's to monthly successes that lead to a lifetime of progression.