Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Two stories

Story 1

About 8 years ago, I moved to North Carolina for work. I was in the Maryland National Guard at the time. As part of the move, I had submitted a packet to be transferred into the North Carolina National Guard. Usually, this would be a quick transition. For some reason, the officer in charge of processing the paperwork happened to be amazingly slow at his job. I was enjoying my job, enjoying the change in dating scene, and contemplating buying a house. One day, out of the blue, the Lord told me in an audible voice "do not sign any house contracts, you are going to be deployed." I was shocked, but being familiar with that voice, I could not question the source. The next morning, my commander (I was second in command in the unit) called me. He said "This is pretty hush hush still but have you heard we are getting deployed?" I smiled and said, "I have!" He didn't ask how.

I grappled with this situation. For some time I had come to the conclusion that our foreign policy was out of alignment with the Lord's will. While I wasn't so worried about my own life, I had serious reservations about taking someone else's life or being responsible for putting my subordinates in danger for the reasons at hand. I immediately began to pray in earnest. The Lord replied, again with a voice (which is always a big deal and abnormal in my life), that I was not actually in the North Carolina National Guard. I was shocked at this comment, because although I was not legally in the North Carolina Guard, I had been attending meetings and training with that unit for months, and definitely felt an obligation to go with them. I continued to pray, telling God that I felt conflicted and didn't know what to do.

His response was very interesting. He replied with a question, again audible. He said: "What do you want more, to go to war with these men or to get married and have a family?" It was surprised to learn that this was an either or situation, and the Lord was not going to tell me what to do. He showed me the conflict and allowed me to choose what I desired.

I immediately decided, and less than 24 hours later I was on the road, headed west with everything I owned in my car. Less than a year later I had met and married my wife. I have been shown what my life would have been had I not moved. It would have been very bad.

There are a few takeaways from this story:

1. A very large ship can be steered by a very small rudder, and the largest of gates can turn on the smallest of hinges.
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)
2. The Lord gives us according to our righteous desires in this life. However, he doesn't always put it on a silver platter for us. We have to ask, seek, and knock. Sometimes the blessing we seek is hidden behind life-as-usual. The status quo may stand between what we desire and what we have, and sometimes the only thing God will do is to wait for us to ask. If I had not prayed about my situation, I am sure that I would have chosen the wrong door--the default door.
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul. (2 Nephi 32:9).

Story 2

I joined the LDS church at age 18. At age 20, I left on a mission. I had every reason in the world not to go. One significant reason was that I dreaded leaving my family. Not geographically speaking--I had been away to 3 years of college and various military training trips. I was very afraid for their spiritual welfare. I believed I was their lifeline, and without me they would be lost. In retrospect, it was a pretty silly thing to think. Nevertheless, I thought it. After much deliberation, I left. What I experienced in the next 2 years have planted a foundation that has blessed them spiritual in ways I never could had I stayed. Soon after returning home and finishing my first degree, I moved away from home. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and the first to leave the area my family had lived for generations. Although I always thought I would be returning soon, it hasn't worked out that way. In the years since my departure, I have taken countless opportunities to improve my situation. It has been tough having a family while being far from my parents and siblings. Still, it is ironic to me that all the reasons I had for not leaving have proven to be the very reasons I needed to leave. Specifically, I wanted to stay to take care of my grandparents, parents, and siblings. Yet, in leaving I have encountered opportunities to become far more capable of helping them than I ever could have had I stayed.

There are several lessons that I learned through this:

1. Sometimes honoring your mother and your father means having to disobey their wishes, as sometimes they don't have the foresight to know just how much of a blessing your actions will prove to be to them. I think of the story of Joseph of Egypt. Joseph's father surely did not want Joseph to be sold into slavery. Yet, it saved his life and the lives of his entire large household.

2. We can rarely know the end from the beginning. In fact, the Lord tells us not to assume we know what tomorrow will bring:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof. (3 Nephi 13:34).
We have to ask God, and when we receive revelation, trust that he knows better than we do. When we seek God's will and follow it, we should find ourselves frequently saying that it has all panned out in ways we never would have supposed (see Moses 1:10).