I often ask myself the question, “if someone has less knowledge than I do about the gospel, and does the same amount, does that mean that they have more faith?” Every time I think about this, I believe that the answer is “yes.”
I went to the temple today to do some work, which should have been a cool experience. I have somewhat found a way to streamline the entire process though so I can get in and out (and on to the rest of my day). “All blessings and glory be upon you for the new eternal covenants you’ve made, that’s great, now hurry up why isn’t my package from Amazon here yet.” This is in all honesty how my day went today.
Back up a bit, though, and there’s more context to this whole thing. Lest it seem like my spiritual experience may have been completely dwarfed by rampant consumerism, let me put that to the rest by saying it almost was by adding a few more examples of it getting wrecked. I blame Amazon. And the mall. And the bookstore. And then me … in that order.
First of all, I’m really into multimedia. I’m one of those people who when they go to the store and buy a DVD or a Blu-ray, that I inspect in my mind where I’m going to store it at home, and how I like the cover compared to the eight t-shirts I have of the same series. It’s a big deal for me. I’d been debating getting a Blu-ray drive for my laptop on and off for a few weeks, and have had a hard time making a decision. For some people, they worry about whether to have a kid or where to go on vacation. For me, it’s whether I want another piece of hardware. Very important.
I finally decided to go ahead and get one, and through the magic of the Internet and by the power of selfishness, I saw that Amazon had one that they’d do one-day delivery on. It was about 2 in the morning, and the only thing standing in the way between me and my precious was that I had to find the right size in millimeters of my current laptop drive so I could choose the right replacement. It’s moments of these I like to call “rage googling.” As in, the anger that is generated because I have to do some research before getting what I want (Never mind the fact that once you order something online, you’re immediately waiting .. I try to not think about things like that).
After about three minutes of searching online for the answer — which is a liberal amount in my case — I decided that I was now the expert on all things optical-drive-sized and I chose one and went with that. After all, if it was the wrong one, I could always *return* it right? Who cares about an even longer wait (I try not to think about that either), all that matters is I get to add to cart and click that shiny little purchase button. I decided I wasn’t still completely sure and I just left it in my cart.
Fortunately for me, I got distracted by something else equally cool in the multimedia world (old time radio, if you’re curious), and focused on that for about thirty minutes, before I remembered that I hadn’t actually placed my purchase. I humbly decided that perhaps I wasn’t the king of all things millimeters sized, and so I grabbed a tape measure and did my best to see if I could figure out what the actual dimensions of this thing was. After about three more minutes of trying to figure this out — which again, is a an unusual of patience in my realm — I finally got the answer because it happened to be the same size as an extra laptop drive I had lying around. Good thing I took the extra time, as well, because I had previously assumed the wrong size, and would have gotten the wrong thing! That would have been tragic to the now serious amount of traction my quick-purchase lifestyle had going for it. I got it figured out, placed the order, and smiled at the whole “guaranteed delivery date” would by by 9 p.m. that same day.
After I went to bed and got up later, I decided I’d go to the temple. Or more accurately, I had decided a couple of days ago that I would go, and this would be it. Today though, would be a new adventure … instead of going at *night* when it was always busy, I was going to go in the *afternoon*! Hark! My goal was to get in and out as soon as possible, because nothing says godly covenants quit like cramming it between errands such as getting milk and buying jeans.
I actually had two packages coming today, though, not just one. I had ordered a season of a new show I’m watching (I’m going to avoid the multimedia overload here and intentionally *not* say which show it was, take that!), and I had already gotten a confirmation that it’d be coming today as well.
Now, some people talk about having a sixth sense. Like you know if your baby needs you, or if your dog is about to pee on your carpet. Mine is knowing that the Amazon delivery guy is near. And I’m not talking about looking at your phone for notifications, either. I can just *feel* it. Some people have experiences where they transcend body and mind and make connections with other things in the universe. Mine is with some dude I’ve never met in real life driving an unmarked van. I honestly can tell when it’s his steps coming up to my apartment floor, I’m so keen on this connection. I’ve thought about making him some cookies, but I figure he’s suffered enough since I live on the third floor and sometimes I have stuff delivered three times in one week.
So I got a notification for the TV show series that they were on their way — that’s one package. The second package though, the Blu-ray drive, I hadn’t gotten any notifications other than the order had been placed. No arrival at the packaging facility, no out for delivery, nothing. My cosmic connection was telling me that my chances were dim that it was actually going to come today at all. I was kinda bummed. My spiritual connection was bugging me to remember I had planned on going to the temple, though, so I best be out and about doing that.
I started getting ready to head out by doing the important things like showering and shaving, and the secondary important things as well such as making instant pasta in my microwave and watching an episode or two of the series I was currently binging. If my package just so happened to show up while I was “preparing” then that would be a miracle, right? Sometimes God needs a little help with that stuff, and I’m always happy to do my part.
My inner tingling went off and I knew the Amazon guy was near. I let a hallow silence overcome my apartment as he approached, both in serenity and also hoping he won’t knock and wait for me to answer the door since some relationships are better left unexplored. Doorbell rang, I waited for him to clomp away, then did my best “Oh, did I hear the doorbell riiiiiiiinggggg” fake experience and opened the door and to my “surprise” found a package there. I should earn an Oscar for that performance.
I unceremoniously tossed the package up on my desk and went back to getting ready. For all my impatience, you’d think I’d care more when it actually came. It’s the waiting I hate, though, not the actual getting something. Before I was about to leave though, I decided to open it up just to look at it. I grabbed the nearest sharp object to open the package, which happened to be the screwdriver I used last night to rip out my optical drive of my laptop. Again, for someone so into the experience of getting something new, I had an odd way of caring whether I jam it with holes or not.
There was a slight problem. And in my experience, slight problems are severe threats to my laziness. Behold. I ordered the wrong thing. I got the show on *DVD* instead of *Blu-ray*. Big oof. My day was now slightly ruined by the fact that I got it on the wrong medium. Oh, well. There’s a temple session to be had, no time to worry about that.
I grabbed the names I downloaded off the FamilySearch website of the other Dibbs and put it on my phone, and tromped off to my car. When I got there, I went to their office to print the ordinance cards for the names I had (I don’t have a printer at home, which is odd, considering the amazing purchase adventure that’d be). Some older couple was there at the office as well, the husband was talking about how he had lost his FamilySearch password, and couldn’t get his family’s names printed. I rolled my eyes (but silently, to be polite). Your problems are no concern to me, old man, I could be missing a delivered package right now! I have to get in and out! While one office worker went off to find someone who could help him, another one printed off my cards and handed them to me. I wandered off, feeling a little bad for feeling so snotty, but shifted to curiosity wondering how the church would handle something like that since it was temple names they were trying to access. Good question.
Another glorious method I’d come up with when going to the temple to do ordinance work is to take only three names when doing baptisms or initiatories. If you show up without any family names, they will give you a set of five to do, and that obviously takes a lot more time than doing three does. Sometimes if they see you doing less, they’ll ask you if you mind slipping in more so you can round out the set. I’d already practiced in my head what I’d say if they asked me something like that in my case, and I’d turn it down politely as if a sandwich artist asked if I’d like more mustard. “No, no, I’m sorry but I can’t today.” I could win another Oscar for that.
That didn’t happen today, though. I had my three names and got through there rather quickly. All three of the names I had brought in today were ancestors, fellow Dibbs, and it’s honestly always cool to be able to do work for someone who has the same last name. It creates more a sense of connection it feels like sometimes. I mean, I’ve looked up lots of family names before and they don’t always have the same surname from my father’s and grandfather’s side, but for those that do, it seems to make it more real sometimes. So I did get a glimpse of an eternal connection there today, as I was hoping that they were happy that the work was being done for them.
There was something interesting on all their cards though. Each one of the three had had the baptisms and the confirmations done on separate days. And I don’t mean the next day. The one I was looking at was almost a year apart. And they both happened 12 years ago. I started thinking a little bit about what it must be like to be wait that long for something. I couldn’t wait an entire day for something to come, but these guys had to wait for years for the proxy work to be done for them. I realize that time surely must exist differently in the post-mortal spirit world, but .. there’s still a *wait*. I don’t know how I’d do if I were the one standing around waiting so long for something to be done … especially something far more important. I’ll admit I felt a bit of shame, but more a good sense of perspective. I started wondering a bit about how much time it’d take me to go through all the family names I have reserved right now, and get all their baptisms, confirmations, and initiatories done. If I went to the temple super early in the morning, and burned through five in one day, I could probably have them all done in two to three weeks. And since each temple visit when there would be nobody there would be really fast — say two hours max — it was not a lot of time. Say what you will about impatience, but it can have the positive effect of teaching us how to manage time.
I’d like to say I came to some glorious resolution right then and there while in the temple doing the work for them that I’d resolve to do better and go and actually *do* all those temple names at five in the morning for the next few weeks. Who needs sleep when this is eternal salvation we’re talking about? Heck yah! Sign me up!
Except it didn’t happen. I dwelt on the thought for a little bit, and eventually settled on the understanding that this stuff is important, and that grew in me a bit more.
I also wish I could say that it cured me of my rampant consumerist lifestyle, but that didn’t happen either. Halfway to my car while walking out to the car I was already checking my phone, and I did get a notification that my second package was out for delivery. Success! Kind of.
I left the temple with a bit more perspective on things, on how I have to wait for what I want … whether I want to or not. Hopefully in the afterlife when I meet these people I did their work for, they won’t do something sassy like show up with a package when I see them. Although to be fair, I couldn’t really blame them.
The work is important though, and it’s interesting how it really doesn’t take a lot of time — our time, my time, whatever. In one afternoon, while waiting for something on my own, I can do some temple work for someone who’s been waiting for years. There’s no telling how they’ve felt in that time for someone to finally get around to doing the work for them. I’m glad I could participate though, even if I was a little rushed and semi-selfish about the whole thing.
There’s a part two to this whole story, with the mall, the movies, and the guy who knows presumably less and does more. Another time though! Hopefully I’ll get to it within the next few years.
“Dear God, I’m broken.”
I was looking at the Ensign today, and I was noticing how all the people in there looked happy, balanced, and everything, and I thought to myself, “Man, I want to see an article that just says, Dear God, I’m broken.” I txted my friend about that and she said someone should write it. So I guess I’ll give it a try.
I have a hard time with … life. I don’t think I can really get more specific than that, because that pretty much covers it. Just daily living is a real struggle. I could go into more detail about how depressing and sad it is, but I don’t really wanna focus on that.
I was over at a friend’s tonight, and she asked how I was doing. I responded, “Well … you know.” And she said, “Yah, I do know.” She understands what I’m going through, because we have a lot of the same issues. It’s just life.
In those times of struggle and difficulty, where I really don’t feel like I can keep going, I often turn to the Lord, so frustrated and confused and all I can say is, “Dear God.” I often don’t say more than that. Those small prayers, though, are filled with so much emotion and sincerity, that I know he hears them. And that he is concerned for me. At times I often say, “Lord, help me to know what to even pray for, because I’m just lost.” I don’t usually get an answer to that one, but what I do tend to do is just chat with him and let him know what’s going on. In some small way, that I don’t notice, it somehow helps. I don’t magically jump off the floor with a renewed spirit, but I do somehow keep going.
I absolutely love these verses in Isaiah 5 (verses 1 and 2):
I have learned that the Lord always puts lists of actions like this in a particular order for a reason — they are not arbitrarily thrown together. And in these scriptures, I see how to order my life when it feels like it is out of control.
The first thing the lord of the vineyard does, is fence it. For me, this means that my priority is to set boundaries — where I will go, what I will do, and what I will not do.
The second thing is, he removes the rocks, or the things that will impede the vineyard (see also, the parable of the sower). For me, this usually means the things that have caused me to go off course for whatever reason. Not just spiritually. There are so many scriptures that apply both spiritually and practically, and there are so many principles that apply to both areas of life. Sometimes I set my boundaries too large, which is usually the case if I’m overwhelmed. There’s too many stones to move. I must have done something wrong.
I like to think there are three kinds of stones. Those that are small, simple things that we can take care of ourselves, really without much effort or difficulty (reading the scriptures, saying prayers, etc.). Then there are the medium-sized stones that require all our strength, either to maintain where we are, or to push us slightly forward. Finally, there are the boulders, the big rocks that I can’t move by myself, and I have to have the Lord help me to move them out of the way.
Once all that is taken care of, then the vineyard can be started, started with a transplant of the choicest vine (even at the beginning, we need an infusion of power from somewhere beyond ourselves).
Finally, a tower is put up, to watch over the vineyard and see that it is maintained properly (spiritual and practical habits become routine, and not just initiated). Last of all, we can begin to have expectations of reaping the rewards of all the work.
I like this parable because the Lord doesn’t start with the tower, or looking for the grapes, first. The Lord is very practical. He starts simply, and builds from there. There are two steps before the planting of the vineyard, and two steps afterwards. Equally so, when I fall, and fail, and sin, and err, I can’t expect to just climb back on the tower and hope everything’s going to be great again, and just wait for the nice grape juice to just flow my way. I have to start all over. It’s usually because I’ve crossed some boundaries that I need to start all over, so I have to spiritually reset myself and go back to the beginning.
There’s another scripture I like in the Book of Mormon that mirrors this same principle, in Alma 28:1:
The background for this verse is that the people of Ammon were refugees, and had fled to the Nephite country for security.
I think the order of priorities again, is interesting. They don’t start with setting up the church first (filling your life with good, regular things), but instead, get the people established. There’s little chance for spiritual growth if my practical one is completely out of whack. There’s a great church video I saw once, that said, “You can’t draw water from an empty well.” That’s always stuck with me.
At church today, I was looking at the presidents of the Church manual, and I saw this quote from Joseph Smith, that I really liked. “Let us this very day begin anew, and now say, with all our hearts, we will forsake our sins and be righteous.” Now, normally when I would read that, I would be like, “heck yeah! I’m gonna do *all* the good things, *all* the time! Woo hoo!” But reading it as I did today, as I’m going through a rough patch, I read it in a much more sincere, and practical, and simple way. One where the Lord is quietly saying that we are going to start from where I am now. There’s no need to build any towers just yet.
Going along with that, it’s easy I’ve noticed to get excited about wanting to do the right thing. Excitement can have energy at the offset, but the strong emotions fade with time. Maintaining a gospel-driven life is not powered by a momentary elation of dedication, but rather through daily decisions of continually desiring to do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances.
So, starting over again, I sat down and flipped open an issue of the Ensign magazine that covers the General Conference talk. I read a bit of it, and went about my way just doing little stuff around my apartment like cleaning it up to just get going back in the right direction.
What happened next is hard for me to explain. I had decided to do the right things again, but I didn’t think about it. That is, I didn’t say to myself, “well, if you do this, the Lord will bless you, and you’ll be happy.” That thought never occurred to me … I just *started* doing it knowing that living the gospel would set things right by themselves. When I thought about that later, I realized that I had a testimony of it, because I had instinctively acted on that knowledge.
Cool stuff. 🙂
Filed under Personal commentary