Friday, 30 March 2012

When God is obvious

Answers to pleas and prayers come in all forms, but for me, the most poignant answers are always like a smack to the head from the Word of God. I can pinpoint 3 previous examples of this, and now I have a fourth. You see, so often as we read the scriptures, we must use our minds to help adapt the ancient traditions and stories to our modern lives. I have never met a Shepherd, but I can understand the metaphor and translate it to my own life. But, as I said, every once in a while when I am really desperate for understanding, God strips away all the imagery and metaphors and gives me a straight up, no holds barred, answer. And it is incredible.

Today this answer came in an article in our church magazine, the Ensign. It was written by the apostle David A Bednar, entitled "The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality." I love Elder Bednar's teachings, because his background in education resonates with my logical mind. In this article, he wrote about the enabling power of grace in our lives. The thrust of his message is that when we face trials in life, we are not always promised immediate deliverance. Rather, faithful men and women in the scriptures prayed for strength through God's grace (enabling power) to help them through the hardship.

The concept struck me profoundly. I felt immediately the truth of it. Elder Bednar quoted many stories in the scriptures of instances when people were granted strength to bear. It made me immediately think of my own situation.

I knew there was another little baby to join our family, but when I trusted in this feeling, I expected to be "blessed for obedience" by not being sick at all during this pregnancy, by being granted the physical strength to overcome the illness I knew so well with my other three pregnancies. When I fell sick at 4 weeks pregnant, I was disappointed, but continued on in faith, knowing there would be the typical alleviation at 4 months. When 4 months came and went, I grew disheartened. By this point, my doctor said that in all likelihood I would be sick the entire pregnancy. And I wasn't just sick, like with the others, I was so sick I was daily IV medication and hydration just to keep me going.

I was angry. This wasn't the kind of deliverance or blessing for obedience I had in mind.

Two weeks ago I passed into the third trimester. Something in me had held out hope that perhaps I might improve in this last third of the pregnancy. No such luck. And then, to make things worse, the last two days I have felt so bad I have been confined to bed once again, just like those early weeks and months. So today I was lying in my bed, tears welling from the discomfort and pain, and a sense of despair on how to face the next three months.

Having finished my book and with a migraine that prevented me from watching TV, I picked up the Ensign and started at the beginning. I read and read, until I got to Elder Bednar's article. This line stood out in particular: "As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed."

My mind was awakening; I was starting to get it. But each scriptural example Elder Bednar gave left me still lacking in understanding. I kept repeating to myself "but how can I change my circumstance? There is nothing in this pregnancy that can be done other than wait it out. I want this concept to apply to me, but I just don't see how it does." I felt more of that despair.

Then, toward the end of the article, came this paragraph, straight from Elder Bednar's life experience:

Sister Bednar is a remarkably faithful and competent woman, and I have learned important lessons about the strengthening power from her quiet example. I watched her persevere through intense and continuous morning sickness—literally sick all day every day for eight months—during each of her three pregnancies. Together we prayed that she would be blessed, but that challenge was never removed. Instead, she was enabled to do physically what she could not do in her own power.

I readily admit that tears filled my eyes. God knew my desire to apply this teaching in my life, but He also saw my frustration in being unable to make it fit. So he "struck me over the head" - no metaphors, no imagery, no likening of the scriptures - just a straight up answer to a desperate plea.

I find it funny that God knows I need this kind of obvious hint now and then. I am a lover and student of English literature. I love to read into texts, admire a beautiful metaphor, apply an ancient story to modern day life. You'd think I would be one of the last people who needs straight answers from the scriptures. And yet I am so grateful for this kind of clarity in the times I need it most. It is a beautiful reminder that God is watching over each of us as individuals.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Beautifully put! Reading this reminds me so much of my sister. She was sick every day of three pregnancies and when she felt that she was to have a fourth she to believed that she wouldn't be asked to do this again if it meant being sick again, but her fourth pregnancy was worse. She too struggled with depression and wanted to be healed.

Learning to endure the trials of life... I'm so glad that we have the gospel. I couldn't imagine trying to muddle through without it!