One of my favorite books is Jane Eyre. I’m only going to tell you a small portion of the story, so you should read it, too. It’s the story of an orphan girl named Jane Eyre (surprise!) who becomes a governess. She falls in love with her master, Mr. Rochester, who is an angry man with a hidden past. Even though he is ornery and has a past filled with mistakes, Jane can see that he is trying to be better, which is part of the reason she loves him. He secretly loves her, but wants to be certain that she loves him in return before he tells her.
One night, after being convinced that he is going to marry another woman, Jane tries to avoid him by walking through the gardens of the manor. He follows her and talks about the “bride” that he has chosen, trying to get her to show her true feelings. I love Jane’s character. She is very mild and does what she is told more often than not. But on a few rare occasions, she speaks her thoughts with such clarity and purpose that those who are her “superiors” cave to her will. I love it! She does that now, and tells Mr. Rochester that despite their stations, they are equals in God’s eyes. He proposes to her, and though she doesn’t believe him at first, she eventually accepts.
This whole conversation takes place under an oak tree in the garden. As they are sitting there, a storm approaches, and the tree is hit by lightning, splitting it in two. They run inside and announce to everyone that they are engaged, and everything seems great. That tree, the one hit by lightning, eventually dies, much like Jane’s dreams do on their wedding day. After a long time, a seed takes root in between the large broken pieces of the tree. This is a symbol of love. It doesn’t give up, and it holds on even when it seems there is no hope.
I want to tell you about a time when I found a tree like this one. It was on a mountain near a camp ground where I was attending a camp for youth in my church. I was having the time of my life, but I was nervous for the testimony meeting that evening. Because I was one of the youth who helped plan the camp, I felt responsible to say something during that meeting. A testimony meeting is a time set aside for anyone to share how they feel about the gospel. All day, whenever I thought about it, I couldn’t focus. So when I had the impression to go for a walk, I didn’t hesitate to take a break and to just think.
I walked down a road until I found a little meadow with a tree in the middle. After I sat on a log by the tree, I realized that it was part of the tree, but had been split off, probably by a heavy snow from years before. Both parts of the tree – the one standing and the one fallen on the ground – were still sending out leaves and continuing to grow. Instantly, I thought of Jane Eyre, and the tree in the gardens. And almost as quickly, I thought about love.
You see, I had become very bitter during my senior year, which had just ended before the camp started. I had been hurt, and instead of reaching out for help, I pulled way back inside myself. Instead of reaching out and serving the other people in my high school, I waited for them to serve and love me. If they didn’t, neither did I. I refused to open my heart and love them.
For a week straight, I had the opportunity to serve people whom I had never met before. And all of a sudden, I was filled with love. Not Disney’s I-just-met-you-and-you’re-beautiful-so-let’s-get-married love, but God’s love. I cared for the youth in the camp like I had never cared for people before. I wanted them to be happy so badly that it hurt! And the trick was serving them.
I had thought that I needed to be whole to love someone. I had thought that I needed to be loved before I could let go, but that’s not how God works. He loves us no matter what, regardless of whether or not we love Him in return. The trick to love like God does is to serve.
I sat on that tree and bawled. Not only had I learned to love again, but I felt as though I was healed. All of the emotions that I had been holding inside for so long were gone. Honestly, I don’t know how it works. But I know that because I served the people in the camp, I felt God’s love for them and for me. I know that through Christ’s atonement, my pain was taken away.
So when you are feeling lost, serve someone. When you feel fear, serve someone. When you need a friend, serve someone. And I promise you that you will feel Heavenly Father’s love for that person and for you, and He will let you know that you are never alone.