Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The joys of eternity, wrapped up in daily consecration

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the October 1975 Conference.
I realized something on Sunday during our Gospel Doctrine lesson about the Law of Consecration. Someone gave a comment about how it can be hard to fully give your time and talents to God if you are worrying about how your efforts compare (positively or negatively) to the efforts of others. Often we resent those who don't seem to be "doing their share," but worrying about "shares" is precisely what the Law of Consecration is meant to help us avoid! Then someone else gave another comment that our seasons in life affect our ability to contribute in various ways. We give different things—different snippets of time, different talents, different amounts—based on where we are in our lives. It's hard for us to accurately quantify even our OWN giving, let alone understand the often invisible sacrifices another person is making. So it is not only unkind, but unjustified, to assume that our view of who is "doing enough" is even correct!

Those comments started me thinking about how the Law of Consecration works on a small scale in a family. As parents, we bring these babies into our families, knowing they aren't going to "do their share." Quite the contrary, they are going to cause extra work and effort and worry and trouble for everyone else! They aren't going to be economically useful, they aren't going to be physically useful, and they MIGHT not even be emotionally enjoyable—at least not for a long time yet! But we bring them into our families anyway. And somehow, even though you can't explain why in "pros and cons" terms, they bring an increase of joy.

As our children grow, they continue to consume many more resources than they supply. But in a family, it doesn't matter, because we consecrate our lives to each other. We don't tally up each person's worth based on what he contributes. We realize that each person's ability to give is based on his age—his ability—his position—his understanding. As parents, we ask what we can of our children, but still end up filling in most of the gaps ourselves. The labor isn't distributed equally, but we have faith that our loved ones are worth the disparity. Of course we try to teach them well so that someday they WILL contribute to the world and to their own families in a meaningful way—but even if they don't—and even if they NEVER "pay off" all the trouble and heartache they caused us—we love them and we consider them a worthwhile investment, simply because they are OURS.

I realized that our roles in God's family, living His Law of Consecration, are not so different. In many ways we are ALL those largely-useless children; each doing what little he can, but clumsily and with a lot of mess. But as life goes on, some of us do learn to be genuinely helpful once in a while. It doesn't really make us that special. We are still children playing at the real work of God. But we might do enough to feel justified looking at others and thinking how much more we are doing than they are. And that's when God asks us to trust Him. We're giving our time and talents and possessions to Him. He will work out what's fair. He probably sees new members of the flock, those who seem to just take and take and never give back, like new babies. It doesn't matter to Him if those people are contributing "enough." He just wants them to be nourished and loved while they grow, for however long that takes. He wants them given space and small opportunities to work. He wants them, eventually, to contribute just as much as anyone else, but He has infinite patience while they get there. He sees all the good that their future selves WILL contribute—and knows it will all balance out in the end. What we give. What we are given. It will be enough.

That was a long introduction to set up why I loved the quotes I loved from this week's Conference Session. Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a talk called "Love Takes Time," and talked about how expressing love means nothing without the accompanying actions:
Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience.
He continues:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “If ye love me feed my sheep” are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping.

Feeding is the providing by love adequate nourishment for the entire man, physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. Keeping is a process of care, consideration, and kindness appropriately blended with discipline, example, and concern.
In that context, I thought about what it means to "love" our families and our neighbors. And I thought how a person living the Law of Consecration would simply, constantly, offer these gifts of feeding and keeping to everyone around her, without undue concern whether or not she was giving "enough" (or "too much"). She would, like the widow and her mite, just give what she had at that moment in time. It might be a lot, or it might be a little, but she would give whatever it was. She would feed people physically and spiritually. She would clothe them physically and spiritually. She would "keep" them physically and spiritually, by demonstrating a steady and constant concern for their welfare. She would, in short, consecrate her time and talents and all she had, for the continuous "building up" of those around her. It just hit me that THIS SUMS UP PARENTHOOD. And more broadly, THIS SUMS UP CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. The Law of Consecration isn't some distant goal. It's what we're doing (or maybe I should say "learning to do") right now, where we are. And it's the METHOD by which we (continuously) demonstrate our love for God and His family.

My favorite quote from the entire talk was this:
True love is as eternal as life itself. Who is to say the joys of eternity are not wrapped up in continuous feeding, keeping, and caring? We need not weary in well-doing when we understand God’s purposes and his children.
You probably aren't surprised I'd like that, because it touches on one of my favorite themes: the connection of the mundane to the miraculous. And I can see how the work of a family—the small work of loving these exhausting, messy, unprofitable little babies—who will, as likely as not, grow into stubborn, exasperating, unprofitable adults—joins with and complements the big work of God. I can see how it is the actual way we show and make real our professed love of God. We do it by giving our all, consecrating our all—not just to "Him" in the abstract. But to HIS FAMILY. HIS CHILDREN. Those OTHER, exhausting, messy, unprofitable servants (of which we ourselves are some). It doesn't make sense or add up, really. Our Parents (and Older Brother) have done, and continue to do, all the real work. Our contributions are often weak, and unbalanced, and erratic. But when we engage in this "continuous feeding, keeping, and caring"—saying "I will give what I have" without worrying about how it will balance out—somehow, unaccountably, we gain the most transcendent joy.

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Great insights. Thanks so much for sharing. I'm serving in Primary these days and don't get much in the way of advanced thinking. I can see that I'll be looking at service and the Law of Consecration in a whole new way. Again, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you! It is always hard for me too when I have to be away from Sunday School or Relief Society for very long. I always mean to read the lessons on my own, but somehow I never do it. And you just can't duplicate the experience of hearing everyone else's thoughts. Unless you...read their blogs, I guess. :)

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  2. Oh goodness. First off, your Sunday school class gave much better comments than ours managed (myself included). Secondly, I WISH you could have written this post BEFORE our lesson so I might have shared these thoughts!! Such a good way to see and understand it!

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  3. Wow. I LOVE your correlation of the Law of Consecration as it relates to family. I am going to have to read this talk!

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