The other night I was feeling a bit discouraged about my life. As I said my evening prayers, I felt prompted to check my phone. It was sitting right there; I could see the little light flashing.
I thought, that’s silly. Why would I need to check my phone now? It’s bedtime. But I did check it.
The little light was flashing because one of my friends had responded to a complainy post of mine on Facebook. Basically, he told me that I should stop whining and get up and do; that I was still in my twenties, for heaven’s sake, and my life was far from over. It was a good kick in the pants. It was what I needed to hear.
And the funniest part is, it felt good to get a good kick in the pants on Facebook. I felt from God that I was loved and that I was not forgotten about. I am always grateful when the Lord chews me out with love.
The other night I was wrestling with what I thought was a difficult question and asking the Lord, “Why? Why is it this way?”
Instead of a direct answer, I saw a picture in my mind of my baby son crying. And I understood: my son’s relationship to me is like my relationship to my Heavenly Father. The father in each case understands things the son does not, cannot understand yet. I could try to explain to Baby why he has to go to bed, but it wouldn’t help much. Sometimes all my Heavenly Father can tell me is “It’ll be okay, son.”
Baby’s only three months old, and I’m already learning so much from him.
I first remember trying to learn about the difference between justification and sanctification during a New Testament class at BYU. We talked about it a lot, but I never seemed to be quite able to internalize what the difference was (including when it was asked as a test question). I’ve still tossed the words around as they’ve been used in a couple of talks and books since then, but today in Sacrament Meeting I finally understood what they mean. Maybe I’m finally listening.
The speaker today obviously knew her stuff. Toward the beginning of her talk she was looking for a definition of justification in her notes. She looked for a few seconds, then, deciding she wasn’t going to find it by looking, defined it on the fly.
It more or less ran like this: Justification is when your sins have been forgiven and you are, in that moment, without sin. But it doesn’t mean you haven’t sinned, and it doesn’t mean you won’t sin again. It simply means that, in that moment, you are without sin. Sanctification is deeper: it is becoming the kind of person who doesn’t want to sin. It means that, once justified, you will never sin again. Both are gradual processes; both require the Atonement of Christ in order to happen. And I guess I have plenty of work to do toward both!
So, anyway, the talks in church today were really good. I would have thanked the speakers in person, but I was in Primary and they weren’t. Oh, well.
The other morning as I was saying my prayers, “His Hands” drifted into my sleepy brain. I realized I didn’t know all the lyrics off the top of my head, so as I was eating breakfast, I looked up “His Hands” on Youtube.
I found the following video:
As I watched, I heard a voice inside me testifying to me that Christ did this for me, and I felt His love spread through me. It’s been too long. In that moment I remembered that Christ is stronger than all evil, than all the horrible things we do to eachother, than all the pain and suffering we go through in life.
I think I’m back.
So, earlier this year, we decided to plant a garden.
From humble beginnings it grew to be the envy of all our neighbors. (Garden-plot neighbors, anyway.)
For a good while, it was just our watering the plants over and over every day, watching them grow–
then came the first pepper.
There was also the yellow squash that grew straight up into the air. No pictures, but imagine it: a yellow squash growing straight up into the air. Eventually it got big and broke the stem off. That was the day we decided we had picked it.
And then there was one little cucumber.
Everything we planted started out small, of course, but this one cucumber never got any bigger. It never withered away, either, but it just sat there. Eventually my wife moved it out of its prime real estate over to the side of the box, where it continued to just sit there (I refused to let her throw it out). Another cucumber was moved into its original place, which, despite its having arrived a month later than everyone else, soon grew big enough to rival the other plants in the garden, and to have to be constantly picked out of the neighboring tomato plants.
One day, the little cucumber started sprouting another leaf. And then a couple more. One day it flowered. And then, a little cucumber even began to grow!
That was as big as it ever got. It was certainly nothing compared to the copious cucumbers and zucchine our garden spits out almost daily. But it was all that little plant could do.
Ever since the little cucumber started growing, it has reminded me of the parable of the sower:
But other [seeds] fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
Now, I know there are several interpretations of this passage, some of which are less well-inclined to the thirtyfold-yielding seeds than others. But when I read this passage, I think of those of us who, like this cucumber, contributed all they had, even if it didn’t seem like much.
The older I get (and I’ve got a ways to go), the more I see examples of people who don’t fit the Mormon “mold” but who are truly spiritual people, doing their absolute best to serve the Lord and keep His statutes. I have felt the Spirit listening to people who I know are imperfect, but who are nevertheless worthy of spiritual blessings–and worthy to teach me about them. I have had to struggle with my own place in the Kingdom; to realize that all my efforts, all the time I’ve spent developing godly habits, every time I’ve bitten my tongue or silenced my internal monologue in favor of helping someone else, difficult as they are for me, may never amount to much in anyone else’s eyes, let alone my own. But the Lord knows men’s hearts. He knows the sacrifices of the people who sit quietly in rows during Sacrament Meeting; things we will probably never know about each other. And the important thing to remember is that this:
in the Lord’s eyes; that even if one little cucumber is all you can come up with, it is enough for Him. And enough is all He needs.