Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Time, Why You Punish Me?

Like a wave crashing into the shore 
You wash away my dreams. 
Time, why you walk away? 
Like a friend with somewhere to go 
You left me crying
~Hootie & the Blowfish

Most of us don’t have a problem with time when things are going well.  If we are in a place with those we love and who love us and we're physically healthy, we’re good with letting time take as long as it wants.  In fact we want times like these to go on forever.

The issue with time is when it is requiring us to sacrifice--to go without something we need or want.  It is when we’re separated from those we love or are subject to being with people we don’t get along with.  It’s when things aren’t going our way.

So the question is, “Time, why you punish me?

We all know the answer.  

"Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: ‘All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, … purifies our hearts … and makes us more tender and charitable, … and it is through … toil and tribulation, that we gain the education … which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.’  These purifying trials bring us to Christ, who can heal us and make us useful in the work of salvation.” ~Neill F. Marriott, “What Shall We Do?” 

"We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death. President Thomas S. Monson explained: Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing. …Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father…knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.” ~Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Opposition in All Things”

"In teaching the principle that mortal life can be agonizing but our hardships have eternal purpose—even if we do not understand it at the time—Elder Holland said, ‘You can have what you want, or you can have something better.’” ~Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, “I Am a Child of God”

"There are heartbreaks when circumstances are very different from what we had anticipated.” ~Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, “I Am a Child of God”

In order to learn, grow, and become absolutely beautiful we must endure adversity for a time.  But the question of every intelligent being is, “How long?”  Because we understand the above principle, we can and will endure adversity.  We have no choice if we want what we want, except to give up what we want.  

This learning and growing process is symbolized in the 2015 Cinderella movie when her fairy-god-mother turns her older dress that belonged to her mom into the new bright blue one. But we have to do more than just turn in circles while our “fairy-god-mother” does all the work. That’s a little too heavy on grace and not enough works. Yet the bright blue dress symbolizes what Cinderella was already doing throughout her life despite the adversity—“Have courage and be kind.”  I mean who would Cinderella be without all the trials she was required to endure?  What kind of princess and queen would she become if she had not learned to have courage and be kind when it seemed like all was lost?  How would she have learned what true kindness was if she wasn’t tempted to give up these values when she was treated with unkindness or when she was experiencing pain?

But how long do we have to endure the unkindness, the separation from loved ones, the hard times, the pain and sorrow, the longing, the needing?  We know we can’t say when that time will end.  We can’t say, “I will only endure this adversity until next Spring and then I’m done.”  For some reason that doesn’t work in our relationship with God.  He doesn’t like it.  I bet it’s because it sounds like we’re demanding that he bless us and when he should bless us, as if he were our servant.  I think it crosses over to an attitude of entitlement, which really isn’t synonymous with having courage and being kind.

No, I think we have to give it all to our Heavenly Father. We say, “Thy will be done.” We can’t assume time “ain’t no friend of mine.” We can’t assume it’s just “wasted time.” How could having courage and being kind become a sustainable characteristic inside of us if we were the ones to decide when enough is enough?  Is it something we’re just pretending to do or something we do when we’re sure of the reward?  We have to be willing to do it in faith throughout incrementally tougher conditions that seem to suggest God has forsaken us.  Conditions that suggest that we will never obtain those loving relationships or a healthy body that make us want time to go on forever.  It’s not so much about what we’re going to receive, even though we surely will receive it.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” ~1 Corinthians 2:9

It’s more about who we will become. Who do we want to become? What kind of person?  And is there anything in the world—any kind of adversity or temptation that will convince us to change that goal?  I mean, when the heat of adversity and temptation gets hot, will we turn into a selfish weasel that manipulates others or sneaks around behind closed doors inappropriately to get what we want?  Will we stop having courage and being kind?  Will we make our kindness dependent on the kindness of others?  Will we say, “I’ll be kind only if they are?

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you...For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” ~Matthew 5:44-48

But even though I know all this, I still want to know: “Time, how long will you punish me?”  The answer I hear is:  As long as you hold on to this Desire of yours.  Are you willing to endure through time to obtain it?  Or will the waiting period be too much so that you are happier with a lesser Desire that won’t take as much time and thus adversity?  

For those of us who have already tried that lesser pathway, all we can basically say to our Savior is: “Nothing compares 2 U” and “To whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).  “After tasting of your fruit, every other Desire can’t seem to hold a candle. So I'm in for life...for eternity.

"Understandably, many have expressed that our Father’s promised blessings are just 'way too far away,' particularly when our lives are overflowing with challenges. But Amulek taught that 'this life is the time … to prepare to meet God.' It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. President Packer explained, ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.'  However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness 'of the multitude of his tender mercies' that we experience on a daily basis.” ~Linda S. Reeves, “Worthy of Our Promised Blessings”

I just think that second and third acts are about TIME.  I don’t think I have to wait until I die for that third act to be the story of my life.  That seems a little too heavy with grace.  Just wait till I die and everything gets better.  I know that's true for some unchangeable aspects of my physical health and other physical things, but I think I am continually going through spiritual first, second, and third acts incrementally, progressively. Mysteries are incrementally solved.  Things are gradually being put right in my understanding as I keep striving, experiencing, and listening for guidance.  I’m a firm believer that eternity is now as well as after we die and before we came to live here by the very definition of the word.

In response to my "How long?" question, I hear the Lord saying to me as he did to Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17) or as he said to all the people, “If you love me keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Now paraphrasing:  “If you love me, love others. This is keeping my commandment. Love them even if they don’t love you first.  Love them as if they were me.  Have courage and be kind to everyone.  Let that be your focus instead of focusing on when adversity will all come to an end.  And I promise you, between me and them you will have the relationships that make you want time to go on forever.

That's definitely more directed towards us women so here's the same kind of symbolic transition of a man.

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~Matthew 22:36-40

“Then said I: Lord, how long? And he said: Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate;” ~2 Nephi 16:11