Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I have never felt like I was the submissive type. Or maybe I was for years and then one day that changed and I have never been that way since. It's all a very long and involved story, my life that is, but suffice it to say that I think I was a fairly submissive child, but have become less so as I have gotten older. I tend to think of it as a negative thing, no doubt as a result of my experiences with it as a young child. But really it's a good thing. I know that and yet I still struggle to embrace it as a character trait I truly desire for myself. I was reading today and this is what struck me:

" . . . yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." - Mosiah 24:15

Like I said, I'm not much of the submissive type, or the patient type and not always the cheerful type. I guess I have a lot to learn (no surprise there!). I am struggling with a medical issue that makes my life unpleasant. I recently, like last week, learned that there will be no change for the better in the foreseeable future. It affects every aspect of my life and for me is a great burden. There may be others who could shoulder it easily and never think twice, but that's why this is my trial and not theirs. I keep looking for what I am supposed to learn from this, hoping that once I learn my lesson something will be able to change. Unfortunately I am smart enough to know that may not be how this works. I don't understand the Lord's will. Frankly it is positively baffling at times. Some things make sense in hindsight, most do not.

I can't say that I have ever been patient or cheerful about submitting to my Father, but I have tried my best to submit my will to His. The best I can do is pray for guidance to know what He would have me do. In a recent talk I shared this thought:

So often in our lives we are asked and sometimes forced to endure trials that we cannot see a solution to. Sometimes even when we can see the end from the beginning we still can't find the connecting road to get us there.

Right now I feel like I am living in the first situation. I am forced to endure this trial with no end in sight. There was a time many years ago when I struggled deeply with depression, not just feeling sad, but dangerous depression. My mother in law loaned me a cross stitch that read: "In Time This Too Shall Pass." And it did. With a lot of effort and a fair amount of therapy I have my depression under control. That was a battle I could fight within myself. That was a mental difficulty, this is a physical difficulty. This is not something I can change or control with pure willpower. This is something else, this is something that will not pass. It's here to stay. And this is what my life will be like for the rest of my life. The thought brings tears to my eyes. So in all this, this desperation, how am I to find it in myself to cheerfully submit with great patience?

I suppose my usual answer will work. You just do it. I see something that I need to do, I know I am the only one who can, so the only thing to do is to do it. In my mind so many things are that simple, even when really they are anything but simple. I have the choice to submit to the physical, or to submit to the spiritual. It's going to be a very long and very hard road, but I won't be on it alone. I can't promise I'll be whistling the whole time, but I'll see if I can eek out a few smiles along the way. I guess with Christ in my corner, I can conquer anything.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Refiner's Fire

What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how [exact] and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Hamlet: Hamlet Act II, Scene II

Man is great and man is dust. Literally we are rather equal halves of both. On the one hand we have bodies that were originally formed from the dust of the earth. On the other hand, our spirits which give life to our bodies are the offspring of the God of the Universe. I have just finished The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. I must admit great surprise on my part. I never thought I would read let alone like a book about war. Yes, I do thoroughly enjoy books about war between vampires and werewolves, etc, but that's not real! This is of course the major draw for me. I dislike unpleasant things that are real. I understand that war and violence are a part of this mortal life, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. So I don't. All that aside, I really enjoyed this book. Enough that I bought my own copy of it, before I finished reading it. Those who know me well, will understand what that means.

For those who are as unfamiliar with this book as I was before I heard the title at a book club meeting, it is about the battle fought at Gettysburg during the Civil war. It is told from the perspective of several of the men in charge, mostly generals. That aspect was mildly confusing, but I got to know so many different characters on such a personal level that it really brought out what war was like in that time. It's not like movies and fiction books, where there is a very clear evil bad guy and there are a few scrappy good guys who have to pull off a fantastic victory. Both sides believed themselves to be right and it is easy to see both sides of the argument.

The northerners in part were fighting to stop slavery. Some men were fighting simply because there was some excuse and didn't really care what the fighting cause was. The southerners on the other hand were not fighting for slavery. They were fighting to preserve their right to live as they chose. I have never and will never condone slavery in any form, but the concept of fighting to preserve one's rights rings true to the foundation of this country. So essentially everyone was fighting for equal rights for different groups of people.

I have been reading a lot of pre-civil war history in A History of Us, Vol 4, with the kids and the author makes the point several times that one major reason that slavery needed to be stopped was that once it is legal for one group of people to be denied basic human rights, it is that much easier to put restrictions on others as well. Limit the rights of one and you limit the rights of all. In the end that and the grace of God, is why the north won. This country could not continue if the very base of why it was formed was being dismantled one bit at a time. It was a hard lesson to learn, but that, like I tell my kids, is why it is so important to read about history. If we don't know where we've been, how will we know where to go?

At the beginning of the last day of the battle, the Union troops led by Chamberlain are resting and preparing for a day of battle. They notice the fight beginning at the far end of the army more than a mile away, they have been through great trial between exhaustion, lack of food, and long days of marching or fighting. Chamberlain is worried about his men, he is mourning the loss of all the men whose bodies he can see littering the field. He lost almost half of his men during the previous day's battle.

They were dwindling away like the sands in a glass. How long does it go on? Each one becoming more precious. What's left now is the best, each man a rock. But now there are so few. We began with a thousand and so whittled down, polishing, pruning, until what we had yesterday was superb, absolutely superb, and now only about two hundred . . .

I can only imagine that this is similar to how our Father in Heaven has and does feel so often. After the great war in heaven, the first of many refiner's fires, sifting through for those who were strongest, most able. Then continuing as we enter and endure this earth life. War is a perfect symbolism for life. The survival of the fittest. Those who are fastest and smartest survive in war. Those who are strongest and righteous survive in life. I don't want to be pruned away. I don't want to be one of those who is whittled off, one who didn't make it. I want to be faster and stronger and survive the refiner's fire of life.