“The thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland
Today is Christmas Day.
I woke up this morning to three smiling brothers, towering over my bed, shaking me and yelling in unison: “SANTA CAME, SANTA CAME, SANTA CAME!” One of them is married, and the other two are in high school. Some things never change. I love them.
After a wonderful breakfast and a heartwarming gift exchange with my family, my heart and thoughts turned to those I served while a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I spent the next two hours calling and expressing my love and catching up with those wonderful people: people who risked and sacrificed so much for what they knew to be true. People who, in my absence, have grown into effective, capable, willing, and wise servants of the Savior. I was so happy for them. I was proud.
And yet my heart ached.
It ached because last June I woke from a dream.
For two years I saw the vision of who I could be and what I could do. I was a powerful, pure, and capable person who made miracles happen, who touched heaven, who glimpsed eternity, and who walked upright in the dirtiest alleys and darkest corners of society. Without fear, without guilt, and without sorrow except for the kind that comes as you mourn with and comfort those who have it, I was free and without restraint. I came, I went, I blessed, I prayed, I slept, I served.
And honestly, when I awoke, I woke up a better person.
But even the best dreams fade away. And, metaphorically, I feel as if I’ve taken a shower, brushed my teeth, eaten a bowl of cereal, and gone back into drudgery of the work place to file papers and push pencils. The dream is on the back of my mind, and I’m trying to keep it bright, but as the clock ticks the time away, I feel it dimming.
I feel like Superman would feel if suddenly he received a kryptonite shock so bad that it scrambled his genomes and suddenly he only had the power to be Clark Kent. Day in and day out at the Daily Planet, he would know what he was and what he could do, and he’d hope with all his might that he could become that again. But without it, he’s just another guy.
I have learned that Elder Collier is not my alter ego. Superman is the truth. Clark Kent is the facade. Elder Collier is who I am. Zach Collier is who I was and who I feel forced to be now. I’ve bled as Elder Collier. I’ve cried as Elder Collier. My sweat has stained the soils of the eastern United States as I’ve worked as Elder Collier. He’s my best self. But I feel like I’ve lost him, and if something doesn’t happen fast, he’ll be gone for good.
The question has been asked by many this holiday season: “What shall I give to the Savior for Christmas?” I have pondered that, and I’ve realized that I don’t have anything to give. Nothing at all. I say that if I could, I would become Elder Collier again and work a million times faster, a million times harder, to try to please the Lord – but then I realize that I was only Elder Collier because Christ made me that way. He gave me strength. He gave me miracles. He protected me in dark places, He gave me light, and He gave me the blood that I bled. He gave it to me because I gave my whole self to Him. Everything. All of me. My time, my money, my personality, my name. He took me, and He gave me my true self.
Now that I’m home, He’s given everything I gave up back to me. He’s laid it before me and said, “Okay, Zach. Here’s the world. Take it if you wish. Go play. But you can’t have both. It’s either this stuff, or Me.” And honestly? I’ve taken a few things back. In fact, my collection of worldly trinkets grows with each passing month. And the more I take, the more I become mundane. Ordinary. Terrestrial. Of this world.
As much as I love music, no combination of rhythms, no harmonies, no overtones, can ever satisfy me again like they once did. They pale in comparison to walking in the footsteps of Christ. It all vanishes into a minute, minuscule, incomparable nothing after tasting an infinitesimal serving of the Courage that summited Calvary, and the Grace that conquered Gethsemane.
O, how I long to feel immortal again! To truly live! To have life because life is given!
So, what shall I give to Christ this day – His day? What will I give back to Him?
I’ll give it all back.
I’ll give Him my sarcasm.
I’ll give Him my thirst for financial success.
I’ll give Him my desire to be well liked.
I’ll give Him the rampant part of me that wants to stay up late and sleep in, to be well fed, to be served.
I’ll give Him my worries and complaints.
I’ll give Him my longings for physical intimacy.
I’ll give Him my discontent and ingratitude.
I’ll give Him my desire to make noise and be noticed.
I’ll give Him my dark corners, my secrets, my locks and keys.
I’ll give Him my efforts.
I’ll give Him me.
Zach Collier is not great. He’s not good for anything. He can’t do much. He’s selfish, he’s inconsiderate, he talks too much, and frankly, he’s pretty lazy. He’s an underachiever. I don’t want him.
But Christ does. Christ wants me because Christ can do anything. He has learned. He understands. He has perfected the art of Godliness. And with that power to be infinitely good comes the infinite wisdom required to turn bad things good. To make broken things whole. To make dirty things clean. To make the deepest scarlet shine like the brightest white.
So that’s what I’m doing. If I seem a little different in days to come, give me time. You’ll see the results of my actions in future years. If you try to sway me, I apologize. I’m a man of principle and discipline now, and I’m not going back.
Because I don’t own myself anymore. I’ve given myself away.