Sunday, January 29, 2012

Missionary James.

My little brother went into the Missionary Training Center this week. My parents and older brother flew out with him in order to drop him off. James stayed just long enough to finish the 2,000 piece puzzle I started and then he was gone. To Benin (ultimately). Despite earlier doubts we've realized that it really does exist. On this planet.
Sending someone off on a mission is a bit eulogistic. Which might be somewhat appropriate in this case. Do you know what lives in Africa? Nile crocodiles. And Honey Badger.
Though James is the sort of fellow who could walk safely between the jaws of a yawning hippopotamus without knowing he was in any sort of danger. No matter where we go he will find trouble and come out unscathed. He's survived being swept down the Salmon in a one-person ducky, almost getting run over in the streets of London, and being washed out to sea in the Gulf of Mexico. On the same Salmon River trip, James was trying to swim into an eddy behind a rock - which he did just fine - but his lackadaisical efforts at getting back to shore just didn't cut it. Downriver he went (again). When my dad and our guide caught up with him, he told them something along the lines of, "I thought it was time I became a man." He was 12. 
I don't think I'm qualified to say this but...welcome to manhood, James. Good luck out there.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Waiting on the Lord.

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

Contextualized in that way waiting still seems dreary...but doable -- a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunately, as you strive to keep an eye single to the glory of God, as you are asking and seeking and knocking the devil comes to meet you instead. And sometimes he comes at you so hard and for so long that you begin to doubt everything you once believed in. Yourself. Your relationships. Your God. Did I make the right decision? Am I doing the right things? Should I have moved to Salt Lake and stayed there for 7 years...really? Why did you tell us to adopt a narcissist and his lackey brother again? And where the cuss did you go anyway?

That persistent little devil keeps at you until you beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears because suddenly the slightest provocation stirs you to battle. You're a paranoid pirate and you've holed yourself up in a man-of-war. You must defend yourself at all costs...but all costs means you feel so isolated and empty that you find yourself looking around wondering where everyone could have gotten off to in this, your dark, dark hour. You wonder how you can make it back to the days when you thought, like Victor Hugo's Mademoiselle Baptistine, "If the devil came into this house, we'd let him do his worst. After all, what can we be frightened of in this house? There is always someone with us who is the strongest. The devil might pass through but the good Lord lives here." But the good Lord apparently isn't home and the devil is not just in your house but in your heart. And he is doing his worst. And you're no longer trying merely to get through the test of time but the test of now. And that test just might kill you. You're the first marathoner and the road to the fourth watch seems impassable. Even if you make it through this grievous ordeal you will probably just lay down and die at the end of it all -- forget about waiting on the Lord.

:deep breath:

...but...just when you're beginning to resign yourself to your awful fate, when you no longer have the strength to fight the inexhaustible and the desolate deep threatens to swallow you whole, a sliver of light reaches your drowning soul. You realize that, perhaps, at some point during your struggle for the infinite your waiting turned into hiding. And once you unlock the door to your gray room and meagerly call out, "Here am I," you hear the response, "Be still and know that I am God." (D&C 101:16)

Your futile flailing is over. The devil is gone. The fourth watch is here. And all you have left to say is, "Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray." Please stay. Because you don't know how many more watches you will be rowing through before this storm is gone forever.

But, of course, this is all purely speculation.