Who likes to WAIT? “Waiting” recalls exasperating images of standing in a long queue at the post office or returning an item at Walmart. But I’ve been thinking about a different kind—a good kind of waiting spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “I will wait upon the Lord” (Isaiah 8:17). Making this verse personally relevant, I ask—What does it mean to WAIT upon the Lord? (1) I will wait upon the Lord like a server “waits” on a table in a restaurant. The server vigilantly watches the needs of his guests. When water glasses need refilling, he quickly steps up with a pitcher. He delivers piping hot food and clears away empty dishes afterward. He watches and attends his guests’ every need. I can WAIT upon the Lord by vigilantly observing and attending the needs of those around me. Waiting upon the Lord is to serve His children. (2) Waiting can also mean patience. The Lord’s answers come in His perfect timing, not always immediately. But I know that God loves me. He knows what is best for my growth and development better than I do. He is shaping me to become like Him. I am learning to trust His curriculum and His perfect love. I will WAIT upon the Lord in quiet service to others, and I will WAIT in patience for answers to my prayers.
When parenting our teenagers I used to ask myself: Am I doing enough to prepare them for the challenges ahead? Is our family prayer and scripture study making a difference, when their body language doesn’t always evidence it? Am I loving them unconditionally, teaching them effectively, laughing with them agreeably, and modeling behavior commendably? Consider this example of how our efforts really DO make a difference, even when we can’t measure them immediately from external cues. “People are like hyacinth bulbs. All we can do is make a good place for them to grow, but each person is responsible for doing his own growing in his own time” (Torey Hayden). Sometimes growth is a very silent thing, like what happens when we store hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator waiting for the planting season. It doesn’t look like growth is taking place at all. Our children are like that. We can’t always tell growth is happening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. In fact, providing a milieu of respect, love, and learning in the home is the perfect soil for development. Silent, imperceptible growth is taking place deep inside which will one day unfold into lovely blossoms. Our children will learn from what they see in the examples around them, how much they feel our love, what they hear, and what they experience as we teach and model correct principles.
I ask myself: What blessings have come from sacrifices made to fully live my religion? This blog follows the former one about sacrifices required to live one’s religion. I have discovered that blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. Each sacrifice is rewarded tenfold with an outpouring of tender mercies, miracles, and manifestations of God’s love and approval. Here are just a few blessings that come as a result of striving to live my religion with all my heart:
- Feeling peace of conscience that God is pleased—engulfed in His light.
- Extending my understanding and view of God’s eternal plan.
- Communicating with God. Hearing His answers.
- Feeling JOY and optimism—untouched by circumstance.
- Recognizing God’s tender mercies, even during trials.
- Feeling gratitude for everything.
- Recognizing God’s grace. Feeling His love and enabling power.
- Feeling the comfort, guidance, and companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Feeling personal growth beyond my own ability.
- Being enabled to let go of offenses.
- Rejoicing in seeing my family members grow in testimony and conversion.
- Witnessing miracles unfolding before my eyes.
- Being transformed, changed. Feeling clean.
And more—many, many more! Aren’t these Reasons to Rejoice?
Recently, my son asked: “What counsel would you give yourself if you were standing at a point 20 years from now?” After thinking a moment, I decided that I would tell myself to accept and celebrate CHANGE. I need that counsel because right now I resist change and crave familiarity. But change means opportunity for growth. With every change comes something new to celebrate. And from a mere physical standpoint, I need to accept the inevitable changes in health and appearance that come with aging. For example, yesterday I saw photos of myself from various angles which were very unflattering. After the initial shock, I lectured myself to accept these changes—rather than resist them—and celebrate the improvements that come with aging, such as greater understanding and wisdom, joy and compassion. Aging is part of God’s plan for our mortal experience. Instead of becoming discouraged or sad when familiarity is pulled out from under my feet, and agonizing challenges emerge, I will look for God’s tender mercies. I will focus on the sweet moments and miracles. I want to reflect joy and celebrate each day. I want to change—to become better, not bitter by the things I experience. That’s the counsel I would give myself from a 20-year vantage point.
The Lord measures growth, not height. He celebrates our progress and desire to improve. We should do the same when evaluating our marriage relationship. Ask: In what ways are we getting better? My sweetheart and I have always loved each other dearly. But we weren’t at first what we have become today. We have been continually growing with stronger bonds of endearment, trust, understanding, and communication. This reminds me of hiking Mt. Timpanogos years ago. As we trudged up the steep slopes, my eyes were focused on each step. The higher we went, the more labored was my breath. Because my eyes were focused on stepping carefully along the narrow path, I didn’t enjoy the perspective of our vertical ascent. Then we stopped and turned around. We were amazed to see clouds hovering far below, with the long, winding trail disappearing underneath. Had we really come this far? We hadn’t yet reached the top, but we stopped to celebrate where we were at that moment. In our marriages, we need to occasionally stop and turn around—and view how far we have come. Ask each other: How have we grown, individually and as a couple? What wonderful traits have we discovered in each other over the years that we didn’t know at first? Take time to appreciate and celebrate where you are at this moment—this very moment!
What do you think of this definition of repentance? “It occurred to me recently that life is repentance, that progression and improvement and growth and maturity and refinement are all forms of repentance, and that the God-fearing live in a constant state of repentance…[having] desires for holiness and purity, longings to feel quiet confidence before God” (Robert Millet). This perspective helps me to see repentance as an ongoing attitude and movement through each day—a merging of all my thoughts, acts, desires, and longings. Repentance is my soul’s gradual unfolding and refining. Repentance requires a healthy dose of “divine discontent” to see my faults with an earnest desire to overcome them, and “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20) to maintain confidence that Christ’s atoning gift enables me to become holy. Understanding repentance in this way brings peace—another Reason to Rejoice!
I have often fantasized about a tensionless state where there are no deadlines, no stress. Isn’t that the ideal we all seek? Isn’t it good to reduce stress in our lives? Victor Frankl (from Man’s Search for Meaning) disagrees: “If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the arcs are joined more firmly together. So if therapists wish to foster their patients’ mental health, they should not be afraid to create a sound amount of tension through a reorientation toward the meaning of one’s life.” He summarized, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal.” I guess I don’t mind stressful work if I can see a worthy purpose—if it pushes me outside my comfort zone to be learning and growing. When Michelangelo was asked if carving stone exhausted him, he replied that it did not; rather, it filled him. Any effort with a worthy purpose produces growth. That’s why God allows adversity and challenge in in our mortal journey. So instead of yearning for a stress-free existence, I should smile and ask, “What am I learning from this?”