Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blessings Predicated

Doctrine and Covenants Section 130:21-21 states "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."

I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

I've been a working mother before. I think I understand the trade-offs. I hope I do. I haven't made the decision to go back to work lightly, though my motives aren't entirely unselfish either. 

I've also been thinking a lot about Eve. I'm not entirely certain which aspects of her story are allegorical and which are literal, but the parable of her choice can garner a lifetime of lessons. Eve might have decided to stay pure and perfect and innocent forever; or she might have chosen to lose her innocence and ease of life in order to have children, experiences, deep and sometimes painful love--in other words, humanity. These choices were juxtaposed to them. It seems to me that in their way (at least in the short term), both might seem like very good, if conflicting, choices. In the end, Eve moved forward with the best knowledge she had and a firm belief that she was doing the right thing.

I'm not sure that we have contradicting commandments, but we do live in a world with nearly limitless choice; so many of which are very, very good choices. And yes, some of these choices are more vital than others, but even among what is left of the best choices there is still more than we can possibly put onto our plate, at least at the same time.


Yes, I know.

I'll try to make a point here. I am pretty good at avoiding the sins of commission, particularly the biggies. It is also a little bit clearer to see the relationships between blessings and avoiding the big sins--chastity leads to happier marriages, keeping the Word of Wisdom generally leads to better health, etc. etc. Sins of omission are trickier: they don't require avoidance--if we are to not make mistakes here then we must actively seek out ways to do good. The thing with the sins of omission are that there is ALWAYS more to be done--another sister to visit and comfort, another child to cuddle, a husband to feed, a sick widow to visit, a friend to share the gospel with . . . well, you get the picture. There is no way to anticipate and respond to all the needs of all who come in our path. We are so far from perfect that not committing sins of omission is, well, impossible.

I think that every day we are like Eve in the garden, presented with two choices, equally appealing, but mutually exclusive. Heck, if it was only TWO choices I'd be thrilled.

For example, we spent a lovely afternoon with some friends on their boat. This friend and I initially bonded over our mutual love of Padawan (she was his primary teacher). We could not be more different. She runs marathons, and though older than me by probably four or five years, she looks (and probably feels) younger. In the past 18 months she adopted a set of newborn twins, though she probably thought for years that children were a thing that would never happen for her. She is generous to a fault and a delight to be around. She could hardly wait to quit work and stay home with her children.

I spent the last two years training my mind instead of my body. It shows. I feel more confident than ever going into my new career, but my body is tired and worn out. I overeat and would like to lose weight, but I'm not sure I'm willing to put in the time commitment it would take. Or to feel hungry. I do love to cook and eat. I have also tried to spend the last 18 months doing good. I feel like going back to work is part of what I was sent to do in this life.

What I am saying is that my lovely friend and I are like chalk and cheese. Our personalities have led to vastly different uses of our time and talents and energies. We have the gospel in common, but little else beyond that. And I think we have both been very blessed for our efforts; however, I would not say for one moment that we have been blessed in the same way. I'm also using the word "blessed" to mean basically any material or non-material thing either of us have in our lives. After all, it all belongs to the Great Giver anyway.

This really isn't meant to be about my friend and I . . . it is about a principle. It is true that our Father has promised all that He has, but I'm also pretty sure that he doesn't mean "right now." After all, I want my own children to have a rich, full and happy life one day. But I recognize that this life doesn't come by having it handed to you. The truly good life comes from experience and struggle and heartache and disappointment and getting up and trying again and knowing what it feels like to win some days. As we navigate our way down the myriad paths and choices of this life, I think it is important to remember that we must lean to God in our weakness and stop thinking perfection is possible on our own.

Many years ago a football player at BYU who went pro (no, not Steve Young, thanks for asking) gave a fireside about the above referenced scripture. He spoke eloquently about the blessings that his family received during his NFL years--blessings from being generous with their offerings, keeping the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity, and the blessings of self-reliance. But, he cautioned, in the midst of all that, his family (and himself most particularly) did not enjoy the blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It was hard to remain un-spotted from the world. He did not express regret for supporting his family with the best talent he had, but he was not foolish enough to ignore the price paid either.

I know that in short order, many of the blessings of stay-at-home momming will be denied to me. As they should be. But I also know that there will be other blessings associated with my work and new-found source of income. We can more aggressively save for missions and be more generous with our offerings. We will work on self reliance in the form of more food storage and saving against retirement. We will finally take care of much needed car repairs (or replace the old beater) so that we feel safe and secure heading to work again. For now, this is the choice I'm happy with and feel that we have been led to.

It doesn't mean that other paths, blessings and experiences won't be closed to us.

This is rambling, and it is late. Sometimes I write to figure out my thoughts. Sometimes my thoughts keep circling and circling. But then, after all, the word "essay" comes from a French word for to "to try." Success is just a perk.


Melanie said...

Thanks for providing me with a good and much needed dose of perspective this morning!

April said...

Beautifully written, STM. And very true. I also feel that I have chosen different blessings from some of my friends. Sometimes I regret the blessings I may have given up, but I chose the blessings I have by obedience to a different commandment. And they are good blessings! I have lots of time to pursue others in the future, I hope. Blessings to you in your new adventure!