Thursday, May 28, 2009

Building

I have these thoughts sometimes that I want to write about so I can get them sorted out in my own head. But I always feel like it takes me too many words to work through it. So I am going to try to be concise here, but bear with me.

Here are two verses of scripture (God is speaking): "And ye shall build it [the temple] on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it."
and
"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy." (Doctrine and Covenants 124:43-44)

Here is how I read what was happening in these verses:
  1. Some people had an idea of where to build the temple. It seemed like a good spot to them, but they weren't sure if it was "the right spot."
  2. God revealed to them that, sure enough, it WAS "the right spot." The very spot He had intended, in fact.
  3. (That means they were probably getting revelation and feeling spiritual direction on the matter before they even knew it. That's why the spot felt "good" to them in the first place, why they "contemplated" it at all. But they weren't sure at first if it was merely their own feelings or if it was God's will.)
  4. In spite of that coincidence of God's will and their own will (both wanted to build in the same spot!), God gave them conditions for success: "IF ye labor with all your might," THEN He would "consecrate" the spot and "make it holy"---that is, He would make that spot as good and right as they envisioned it would be.
Here is how I've seen this simple pattern carried out in my own life (obviously, there are also times when the pattern has NOT applied):

1. I think about a big decision, what "spot" to settle myself in for the next little while. I begin to develop a preference. I think, "This is what I feel like choosing." But I'm not sure if it's truly right; if it's God's will on the matter.

2. After a time, I receive some sort of confirmation that indeed, it IS God's will as well as my own. Sometimes this confirmation comes in the form of a sort of glimpse of where that path will lead. Not a vision really---more of a wish or hope, an "envisioning" of what will result from the choice. Obviously I have a vision, in that sense, of what will eventually be built on that "spot" I chose to build on; that's the reason I wanted to build there the first place. But I think this vision of "what could be" is enlarged, maybe, or focused, by revelation and the spirit.

---Now---here is the interesting thing. Once I have envisioned the eventual results of my choice, and even had them confirmed by the spirit, I might think, "I have seen the future---now I can wait for it to happen. Hooray!" But . . . . that's not right. Because in order to make this thing real, I must

3. "labor with all my might," so that God will actually REALize/"consecrate"/"make holy" that "vision" which was really just a hope or a possibility when I glimpsed it. In other words, if the beautiful results I "envisioned" (and thought were true premontions when I made the choice) are not happening yet---I just need to keep working harder, and eventually, God will "consecrate" my efforts and make that vision real.
[Of course I say "eventually." It's always "eventually," right, since we never know the timetable? :) But still a true principle, I think.]

And I'm sure there are situations where this doesn't apply---like of course there are times when our will and God's will DON'T line up, or where our "vision" of things to come is really just wrong. But I guess it just struck me that even when we ARE making the right choice, the choice God wants us to make, we're STILL not "guaranteed" anything UNLESS we work at it "with all our might." That's what makes the possibilities turn into realities. So maybe, if there's some vision we once thought we glimpsed, but it isn't becoming reality like we hoped it would, maybe the vision wasn't wrong or untrue---maybe we just still have more work to do on making it real.

Which is really not that revolutionary of a concept, I guess. But I can see it at work in my own life. When I was making the decision to marry Sam, for example, I tried hard to follow all the counsel I'd heard in Marriage Prep. classes and so forth: make sure you choose someone that is your best friend, but don't get caught up too much in emotion; follow your heart, but also make sure you follow the spirit; there is no "one and only," but "just anyone" won't do either; don't expect a bolt of lightning, but expect that God will answer because it's so important---etc. It's already hard to recognize true revelation, I think, and in such a decision you feel so much worry about getting it RIGHT---this one thing, I must get right!

So, I tried to go about it correctly. I figured out what I wanted to do, and I prayed about it and tried to listen objectively, and I wanted so badly just to KNOW the future. And I didn't get a vision, exactly---but I got something which is hard to describe, but which I'm sure is not an uncommon feeling. Kind of an "envisioning," like I said before. In some ways maybe it was merely a hope or a daydream: "Won't it be such fun---think of how cute our little home together would be---what an adventure, our kids will be so adorable" etc. But then it was more than that---it was kind of a conviction that these things could be, and a glimpse of how they might be, and an overall feeling of: YES---if you choose this---it could be something wonderful, astonishing, miraculous.

Anyway, that was enough for me at the time, and now, already, those good things I "envisioned" have been realized in many areas. But not the way I might have thought; not in a gentle, passive way like I was a spectator watching a movie of my future gradually unfold and become my reality. More like this: that reality has come as I have wrestled with it, as I have done things I didn't want to do or didn't know how to do, or as I have made mistakes and then tried to repent of them.

Just like the Lord didn't consecrate that spot of ground for the temple until the saints had "labored on it with all their mights." And when they'd built up that monument to the Lord, using their hearts and wills and possessions and time, then he was able to show it back to them and say: "See? Just as I promised you---just as you envisioned it---but now, through your labor, even holier."

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Someone deleted their comment, I see. It's because you're always getting people riled up with these controversial topics.

    Awesome trains of thought. I'd like to see more of this kind of stuff from you in the future. There might be a plate of cookies in it for you. We'll see.

    I liked it. It's been a frustrating/wonderful thing for me to see day-to-day the consequences of my decisions and behavior as a mother and wife. I have all this power to make my family life amazing and wonderful or dreary and miserable. The Lord has such amazing blessings for all of us if we work. Luckily the fact that I love my kids and husband so much drives me to keep trying even when I've been a brat all day or am exhausted or sessedlu or am feeling like it's not worth it to keep trying.
    I'm going to think about this all day. thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think about this very topic ALL the time. Am I being directed by the spirit? Or am I directed by my own feelings? And when I desperately seek direction or comfort, what happens when I fail to get it? Am I limited in my ability to perceive these helps? Or do my trials require this uncertainty? And what is my responsibility in all this? Anyway, you provided much food for thought, and I'm grateful for your spiritual insights. I just wish I had something thought-provoking to add. I'll leave that to you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you. Especially for the "eventually" part.

    ReplyDelete
  5. First of all, I understand so well writing out these sly epiphanies that strike and retreat so quickly. I say that I don't know what I'm thinking till I encase it in words, one way or another.

    Second, I'm thinking that there is a possibility that the site for the temple may not have been the only "right" one, that the Lord made it work, accepting the righteous and thoughtful decision of his children, and as they worked to bring about the good thing, he helped them, thus making it right.

    You probably could have married any number of men and been very happy, but you chose Sam, and the Lord had no problem with that. (I'm supposing.) So he says to you, if you work hard enough to make this the right choice, then I will help you both and it will be the "right" choice - if not the only "right" choice you might have made.

    I am only thinking out loud. I think I can wear your thinking very well, and see it easily in the mirror. When we try so hard to think things out, and to support those things with our righteous efforts, our wise and earnest intent, then the effort itself may be consecrated.

    Notice that you were not concise. Some things like this cannot be expressed in few tight words; they need to be talked around until the right shades and textures have at least been approximated. Hurray for the effort - write more, girl. I like your head.

    ReplyDelete