Sunday, October 30, 2016

In the long hours

I have spent a little more than 20 hours in the car this week as long ribbons of highway stretch out ahead.  I rarely have quiet moments in life.  They may happen between the hours of 1 am and 5 am when sleep hides behind the changing landscape of my mind. So, I have been taking advantage of the time to search for understanding and peace.

I ramble on with disconnected thoughts at the steps of Heaven, hoping God hears me.  I haven't been able to understand the events of this year and this year has been eventful.  I don't understand what is happening to Shelbie.  I don't understand how everyone around me seems to find answers and treatments and solutions to their problems but we still clamor and climb against a growing wall of problems and roadblocks.

In a response to my Bishop's wife, I texted these words on Friday night...

        "It boggles my mind.  Like, in an unbelievable way.  I don't understand why my kids are still here?  I mean, we have tragic things going on but they survive it all.  Some people don't survive even a small stroke like Shelbie had last night and that was even the second one in a year!  I don't get it.  I'm both happy and incredibly blessed but exhausted from the daily adrenaline rush of treading so close to the limits of mortality."

Why?  It's the age old question...Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why does a loving God allow such difficult things too happen and without apology, keeps sending his children into the thick of mortality's extremities?

I have never asked 'Why' to engage in an argument with God but I have asked to understand.  People often say, "I bet you are going to have a lot of questions for God when you see him again.  He is going to have some explaining to do."  I will and do, have a lot of questions but not out of anger or feeling that I've been treated unfairly but because the mysteries of why God does what he does intrigues me.

As I left the house Saturday morning, after only 3 hours of sleep, to make another drive to Utah, I was exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.  I dropped my head to the steering wheel and cried out, "I cannot do this."  I picked my heavy head back up and started on the road.  The radio was on my usual station of inspirational music and a talk was on by M. Russell Ballard and his clear voice spoke loudly to my soul...
     
For some, Christ’s invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard—or difficult to accept. Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present. Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become “weary in well-doing.”5 For these and other reasons, some Church members vacillate in their faith, wondering if perhaps they should follow those who “went back, and walked no more” with Jesus.
If any one of you is faltering in your faith, I ask you the same question that Peter asked: “To whom shall [you] go?”
Life is hard and difficult to accept...so...am I going to give up? No. Probably not but I am tired. 
Never fail to give equal time to the Lord through honest attempts to understand what the Lord has revealed. As my dear friend and former colleague Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, “We should not assume … that just because something is unexplainable by us it is unexplainable.”
With that, I began to plead to understand, even just the events of this week.  So many losses, so many trials, so many blessings and so many opportunities to be humbled and so many trials...I know, I listed that twice because they come in multiplicity of waves upon waves. 
As I drove in the quiet, I began to understand.  Heaven reached down and opened my mind.  I went to what I know about God. 
God is good.   God is a God of abundance not scarcity.  We don't have to work to obtain the kingdom of God, it is already within us; He sent us here with everything he is and everything he has. Above all else, God knows how to give good gifts to his children. 
          "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?  or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Could it be that I asked for these problems?  Could it be that all these trials and setbacks and disappointments and heartache are the good gifts that God has given me?  Could it be that God does not differentiate between blessings and trials...he sees all things as blessings?  
Time is nothing to God but everything to us.  Miracles seem impossible yet are the very fibers and nature of God and there is no hierarchy to the miracles that God can perform.  How often do our blessings feel as overwhelming as some trials?  Sometimes, the blessings are so great and powerful they exhaust us! 
God's ways are not my ways...What is a trial to me is a sanctifying project to God where he is giving me his highest attentions...yet I murmur and whine and complain and cry and lose my patience and threaten to leave and stomp my feet and throw a fit and give up and give in.
Somewhere in all of these thoughts are the answer to the whys of all we face and all we do.  
Why does a loving God permit hard and 'bad' things to happen to good people...over and over? 
Because they are blessings!  God could not in his nature give something bad to his children, Luke even told us in the bible.  He gives us good gifts.  He isn't up there metering out punishments to less than perfect children.  We are suppose to be imperfect, he wants to watch his children grow and progress just as it brings me such joy to see my kids grow and mature and become amazing human beings! 
On the contrary, God is up there showering down blessings like confetti, even blessings that look hard and feel hard, and he is a God of abundance and shares his blessings freely.  I asked for patience and he blessed me with opportunities to become intimate with that virtue.  I asked why I feel so distant to him, he gave me this amazing opportunity to come running to Him, to cling to him, to lean on him because there is no one else who understands this extremity.  I felt alone and in this blessing of Shelbie's stroke, he sent loving people to take food to the boys, friends who just happened to be in Salt Lake and could come to share our burden.
I am grateful for these things I have learned.  Does it make all this better?  In a way it does.  Maybe not better and certainly not easy but to understand why it has to be this way makes all the difference in my second wind.  
Shelbie has been  on her own spiritual journey the past couple of months; rededicating herself as a disciple of Christ.  I warned her that when she turned back to her Father, he would want to keep her close for fear of her straying again.  Without fail, she has been riddled with problems in the past 6 weeks, car accidents, overwhelming work, very poor health and now this.  As we walked into the hospital Friday night, I put my arm around her and said, "This is it!  A trial of Faith.  This is what you wanted, to be close to your Father in Heaven.  You turned back to him.  He has prepared you for this moment. Remember that.  Hold on to that.  Everything is going to be okay.  Be patient with the process. This is just a little test of your faith and you can do this.  We can do this."
So, we hope on.  We accept our weaknesses and believe me, I am weak.  I am not as gracious in hosting these blessings as I should be and I'm not as grateful for these generous blessings as I need to be but God is good and continues to bless me in measures I constantly underestimate. 
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