Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm a leaf in the wind

A wonderful friend of mine and I were in the woods recently. To get to our destination, we had to cross a fairly large river. Through poor planning, we only had one pair of waders to protect us from the freezing temperatures. On the journey out, I went without waders. Cold water makes your whole body feel like an ice cream headache. I was making funny noises and moving as fast as I could. After a day of hiking we returned, and he volunteered to go without the waders. He smiled, put his hands together, closed his eyes and said, "I'm a leaf in the wind!" He then walked across the river without any sign of discomfort. Though I know he was in massive pain, he didn't really seem to care.

For weeks, I've been thinking about that profound statement.

God truly is found in our extremity.

It is our privilege to literally commune with God:
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D&C 107:19)
If our experience is anything less than this, we have not yet found true religion.

Why is this communion so far from our experience, given that most have experienced God to some (minor) degree? God is reticent to reveal our true standing with him. It would hurt us a great deal to know just how far from him we are.

How do we bridge the gap between where we are and true communion? We are like little children who, having been told to stay away from the hot stove, think we know everything our father has to teach us. While keeping his commandments is required, just as important is our belief that he has unfathomable knowledge, and a burning desire to obtain it by the sacrifice of all things--including what we think we know already.

The process of getting to know God is like walking into a fire. Before we commune with him, he must purge us. We would be foolish to think that we can come to know him in our present state.

The scriptures are replete with this pattern. Consider Melchizedek.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven. (JST Gen 14)
Did Melchizedek wake up one day and come face to face with God? No. This was a process, and the end was nothing more than the next step in a pronounced path. What was that path? Well long before he was called by God's own voice, he developed faith. How was that manifested? He developed "fear" (deep trust in, reverence for) God. He stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the violence of fire. Folks, these were not parlor tricks at a zoo or around a bonfire. Melchizedek was thrown to the lions and thrown into the fire! It was not until he increased his faith through these experiences that he was "approved by God" and heaven moved in his behalf.

Here is the pattern:
1. You develop belief in God.
2. You develop trust in God.
3. He brings you successively more dire circumstances where you can show your trust in him by obeying him, calling out to him, and trusting him despite the gravity of your situation.
4. He responds.

It happened with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I can happen to you, too. But only if you don't quit. You can't cash out your chips. Our lives are like a bank account with compounded interest. We are far too willing to cash out our principle after the first interest payment.

He will produce fruit, but that is not where it ends. He takes the fruit and starts us over on the path to even greater fruit:
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15)
God routinely "purges" us. He either sends something on the Job scale our way, or he gives us the chance to abase ourselves willingly through to-the-dust humility. Every time he empties our cup, he gives us a bigger one and begins filling it.

If we haven't yet reached communion with him, it might be because we have not yet repented of our sins. But it is also possible that we cashed in our chips too soon.

You have to be a leaf in the wind. You have to be "willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)