Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Musings

When we first went to college, we went in order to major in musical theatre but half-way through the program we changed our minds. Once we were married, we took some time off to save up money and really think about which careers would be the best fit for us. One day I jokingly suggested to PJ, now that he was LDS, we could go to BYU. That joke became reality and we just graduated from BYU-Idaho in April.

Huge life decisions are so easily told in hindsight. The details of the daily prayer to seek guidance or the nights of lost sleep are forgotten with the triumph of that one idea or choice working out to be a good one. When we had applied to BYU-Idaho and received our admittance letter, there was a lot to prepare for. How were we going to get from GA to ID? How much did we need to save? Where would we live? Did we know anyone in ID? Would our cars make it out there? Would we fail and then need to figure out ways to get back to GA after a semester? There were so many questions, especially from family members such as "Why Idaho!?" In truth, the decision made no sense. We were both working full time and within a couple of miles of really good schools. There are logical reasons to attend BYU-Idaho over other schools such as lower cost, but that was not even considered when we applied. As trite as the answer is, it still rings true: It was the Lord's will for us.

In our years at BYU-Idaho, I often thought of the ancient Israelites. Especially three days into our journey when we woke up in Nebraska to snow. It doesn't snow in Georgia but maybe one or two days out of the winter. When it does, the whole town shuts down and as long as there is snow on the ground, even if the roads are clear, people stay home. Apparently when we woke up in Nebraska, it was the first snow storm of the season. So as we were driving on I-80 West in white-out conditions, I could totally see myself asking God "Because there were no graves in [Georgia], hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?!" Even though it was only four years in Rexburg as opposed to the forty the Israelites spent in the wilderness, there were many times I looked back to Georgia, like Israel looked to Egypt, and remembered the "fish... cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick" as I was eating my fill of potatoes. Unlike the Israelites, the day came that we were able to go back to Georgia to live when PJ did his internship. Once there, I realized the Lord had been working on us and, even though we weren't slaves previously, we were not in our promised land. We had fully believed we were going back to the south when we finished school, but after a couple of dead ends with the job search, we finally said "the prayer". The prayer which is usually uttered once you know the answer but have been trying to hide it from yourself so you won't have to acknowledge it. The "not my will, but thine be done" prayer.

That's the funny thing about having faith in the Savior is that you must constantly be reminded that He is in control. When discussing faith in the Savior, there are so many things you could mean. Faith that He lives, faith that He is the Savior, faith that He will answer your prayers, faith that He knows who you are, faith in His Gospel, and the list goes on. When Paul taught the Corinthians, he explained that when we are baptized, we are baptized into one body and further explains how important each part of the body is. Just as the eye serves a different purpose as the hand, the “eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you… but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.”  Just as this can apply to serving in the church, this teaching reflects the second great commandment to love and serve each other. With faith in the Savior and the change of heart which comes through accepting Him as our Savior, we should feel compelled to not only help one another, but to put other’s needs before our own.

Isn't that so different from the messages we hear today? Between TV advertisements, motivational speakers, and music lyrics, we are told "You deserve it", "Don't care what other people think", "Do what's right for you", "Let it go", and the list goes on. These sayings are catchy, and, when we've had a hard day, sometimes empowering, but in all actuality very opposite from Christ's teachings. These sayings tell us, rather than looking to Christ for His will in our lives, truth lies within ourselves. What we decide is right for us, we should do regardless of how our actions effect others, including the Lord and his kingdom. There are three people in particular in the scriptures who followed these sayings very well.

Samson: a covenanted servant of the Lord and a judge in Israel became entrenched with a woman outside of the Israel covenant. After his parents tell him to try to find a woman within the camp of Israel, Samson tells them "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well". She was eventually murdered but Samson met another woman who would eventually be his total demise after he breaks every covenant he made with the Lord.

David: the greatest king to ever rule in Israel was also overcome by a beautiful woman. Following his heart and doing what was right for him in the moment, he took her and conceived a child with her while her husband was fighting in David's army. Wanting to cover up what he did, he had Uriah killed and eventually David's kingdom fell.

Finally Judas: anointed of the Lord to be His apostle took heed to what no man thought as he sold His Savior for 30 pieces of silver. The ultimate example of "nothing personal, just business".

In contrast, the people we look up to the most in the scriptures exert complete faith in the Lord and take the teaching literally that "whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it". A famous heroine in the Bible came across this advice when her uncle told her to save her people. When Mordecai discovers Haman’s plan to have the Jews killed, he tells Esther to go in to the King and talk to him to which Esther responds with her fear that the king may have her killed if she goes in to him without the King summoning her first. Mordecai then tells her “Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest they peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed…” In other words, if you do not do this in order to save your life now, you will eventually lose it when someone else comes in to deliver this people. Having faith in our Savior requires us to forget ourselves and go to work.

Thus, faith in the Savior entails action. James teaches us "Even [if we have] faith, if [we] have not works, [our faith] is dead... be ye doers of the word and not hearers only". Paul teaches us that "[we] are not [our] own For [we] are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Since we aren't our own, Paul further states "servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God." Finally, when Paul was teaching the Romans, Paul teaches "shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why has thou made me thus?"

When we take these scriptures and teachings seriously, we find when we exercise our faith in the Savior, we ask more “what would thou have me do” and less of “didn’t you hear what I asked you to do for me before?”. We find we “kick against the pricks” less and learn to accept the plan which has been planned by the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and almighty God whose universe we reside in. The times I do this in my life are the times I feel the most at peace. I do not feel a need to craft a plan of my own or control the outcomes I think would be best. So often when I allow the Lord to do His job , my life is nothing what I expect it to be, but better than I could have made it on my own.

One reason I know this is true is that I made a life plan and even put 25 cents on it that it would come true. It looked something like this: I would get married, move to Florida, live in an apartment until I was either pregnant with my 2nd child or had the 2nd child. Then we would move to a house and I would be playing outside with a child when I would see a bright light and the bright light would be the Savior coming. As you can see, my life did not quite work out that way!

The phrase “kicking against the pricks” became really real to me when I was at my first college. Kicking against the pricks comes from the machinery farmers had in Biblical times. Oxen were hooked up to a yoke and goad which contained a “prick” on it. The farmers would use the prick for the same purpose horseback riders use a whip- to make the animal obey the master. Sometimes the oxen would be angered by the prick and kick out against it only driving the prick further into the flesh of the animal. When I was in my Musical Theatre program, the feeling became stronger and stronger that I was not moving in the right direction. I continually auditioned for shows, tried to get professional jobs over the summer, and it became more and more of a burden. I could feel the yoke begin weighing heavier and heavier and as I resisted the Master’s command, nothing good came of it. When I finally dropped the program and eventually went to BYU-Idaho pursuing a different program, I was relieved to feel no resistance. As I have come to trust in the Lord more and more, peace comes to me by following His guidance for his yoke truly is easy and His burden truly is light.