Monday, June 20, 2011

Guest Post: The Grey-Grid Painting



Sam Nelson is a newly returned missionary from Chile and will be studying economics at BYU in the fall. He is also part of the "5000 Days Project," was featured in a youth mormon message and is the subject of a BYUB feature film that will be released this September.

I grew up with an artist for a mother, and she would tell me about her ideas all the time. One of my favorites was her description of the “Grey-Grid Painting.” One day when we were in the car she said “Ok Sam, listen to this idea… Imagine a big huge canvas that is divided into a checkerboard with hundreds of little squares. 98 or 99% of the squares are grey, so imagine the big canvas with a whole bunch of square that are all different shades of grey. And between all of the grey, there are a few bright brilliant colors; but just a few scattered throughout. The painting is almost entirely grey, but the few squares of bright colors make the whole thing beautiful.”

She said, “To me, that is what being a mother is like. 99% of being a mother isn’t all that fun. I spend hours doing laundry, and cooking, and driving kids to sports, and sitting through t-ball games, and disciplining, and washing dishes until my fingers look like raisins… and no one even says ‘thank you.’ Really 99% of being a mother is kind of grey. But there are a few moments in motherhood that are so bright, and so beautiful, and so brilliant that you can hardly describe it; and those moments actually make motherhood worth it. If you take a step back, and look at the whole picture of motherhood, it is beautiful.

When I was sixteen, the story made sense and it sounded like a cool idea, but I didn’t really get it until my mission.

Anyone that has served a mission will tell you about how great it was and how much he or she loved it. But any returned missionary will also tell you that it was hard. You talk to thousands of people, and knock thousands of doors, and sometimes you walk more than 10 miles a day so that maybe, you can help someone discover the restored gospel. You push yourself to the bleeding edge physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You never take a sick day. All day you think about, study for, fast for, and pray for your investigators… who don’t even end up caring. As much as I loved my mission, 99% was tough. But man, when someone stops drinking, or when a marriage is mended, or a family discovers the gospel together, or a teen decides that his future can be brighter than what he grew up in… It’s incredible. There were a few moments scattered throughout my mission that were so bright, and brilliant, and amazing that I would easily trade every difficult part of my mission for them. And now, as a returned missionary, I can take a step back and look at my mission as a whole and say the whole thing was beautiful.

I would guess that most things in life that are worthwhile are the same way.

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