It was a morning like most. I couldn’t find two socks that matched. The pitcher of orange juice was empty. There were only quarters and nickels in the family lunch-money can. Like most mornings I was running late and could hear the school bus roaring up the street before I was ready. I grabbed my backpack, forced on shoes still tied from the last wearing, and raced to the front door.
And, like most mornings, Dad was standing at the door with a look that said, “You missed family prayer again. How do you make it through your day?”
So before he could say out loud what his face was already shouting, I said, “Bye, Dad. I love you.”
“I love you more,” he teased.
Then, as I raced past him, he grabbed my hand, stopping me for a split second. “And your Father in Heaven loves you even more. Think about Him today, will you, sweetheart?”
“Sure, Dad,” I grinned and ran to the bus.
It wasn’t that I was the stupidest person at my high school. I averaged B’s. If every class had been dance or drama I would have been a straight-A student. But they weren’t, and I wasn’t. Drama was only 55 minutes a day, and dance came after school. Except for those brief moments when my spirit could soar free, I found myself in a sort of academic prison camp.
I felt my jaw clamping tighter and tighter. By sixth hour I wasn’t just ugly about school—I was ugly about me. As my math teacher began to explain a story problem that had no business being in a book, I sank even deeper. That’s when the voice in my head started repeating: “Why isn’t this making sense? Is it just me or is this a math class death march? How will I ever make it to graduation? I hate this class. I hate this teacher. I hate this school. I hate math. I hate my brain for not getting this. Why can’t I get this? Why am I so dumb?”
There, I said it, the thing I hated most about school. It made me feel dumb—worthless. So I sat there wanting to cry, but knowing if I did, I’d feel even more dumb. If I could have stood and recited Shakespeare or shown them my running split-leap in the air, then they would have known the real me, how talented I really was.
My whole day—okay the whole rest of the school year—would have been totally lame but for the strangest thing happening. Out of nowhere, my father’s words came rushing into my head.
“And your Father in Heaven loves you even more. Think about Him today, will you, sweetheart?”
Now I wasn’t the most obedient 15-year-old, but I knew undoubtedly that my dad loved me. And I knew I didn’t like how I was feeling about myself, math, and my future in public education. So I listened to his words. I followed my dad’s advice. And right there in algebra, I closed my eyes and let my mind rest on my Father in Heaven. I saw Him in some ways very much like my own dad—gentle and kind and deeply caring about me as his daughter. He loved me.
The remarkable thing was that as I held on to that image, my stress vanished. I felt like what it talks about in the Book of Mormon, like I was “encircled … in the arms of his love” (2 Ne. 1:15). I knew in that moment that I could do all things with God, even making it through algebra without causing permanent damage to my psyche. In fact I felt completely free from my stress. In that moment I felt His love.