Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Learning


I have learned a few things lately in Seminary and I wanted to write them down so I can remember.

About a month ago in Seminary we were studying in the gospels. It's easy to relate to those that saw and heard Jesus and were healed by him, if we would have eyes to see it.   I told my students that they could get answers to specific questions and would see signs that God was there if they would look. A big part of that is of course reading your scriptures.  It is amazing how you can be reading a 2000 year old story and all of the sudden it answers a question you have today.

So we were in the Gospels. I was reading about the Pharisees and how much they hated Jesus.  All he ever did was good.  He went around healing and serving and teaching and loving.  Of course the Pharisees saw him as a threat to their livelihood and were hatching plans to get rid of him.  I was reading in John when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. You would think it would give some of the Pharisees pause.  Wouldn't they look at his works and see that he meant no one ill will?  And wouldn't they wonder if God truly was with him after seeing him work his miracles?  But they didn't.  In fact, they just hated him more because this miracle increased his fame and following.   Now they not only wanted to kill Jesus, but they thought they ought to kill Lazarus as well.  

Yes, they made their living by having people listen to them, but come on.  Why did they hate him so much?  He never did anything to them directly and probably had helped friends or acquaintances of theirs.  

I have know this story for a long time, but this time I understood it in a way that I hadn't before.  I understood that the Pharisees hated Jesus, not because of who he was, but because of who they were.  They were, for lack of a better word, haters.  Jesus could have done anything to serve or help them and it wouldn't have mattered.  They hated him because they had hard hearts and were beyond feeling.  It had absolutely nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with them.  There was no way for him to 'win them over' unless they changed who they were.  The feelings of hate they had were completely independent of whom they professed to hate.

For some, this might not be news.  I mean, who doesn't get that the Pharisees were haters, and haters be hatin',  right?

But this understanding struck my heart like a jolt of electricity and it helped me understand a problem I have been fretting about for a long time.  I have someone that I can't win over.  They hate me.  It has bothered me and in the last few years I have simply avoided them, but it has weighed heavily on me.  I felt a burden lifted to understand that sometimes people just hate.  They don't have to have good reasons.  And there is nothing I can do.  It's not up to me.  

Intuitively, this is nothing I haven't considered, but as I pondered this story, I understood.  I knew that the Lord was aware of this burden I had (I had talked to him about it at length, quite often).  And I knew that this was His way of speaking peace to my mind.  I'm not saying I'm like Jesus, because I am not.  I am certainly worthy of dislike.  I can be a real brat.  But I understood that I don't need to fret about this, because it was out of my control and the hate this person has for me is their choice.  Some people are just going to hate.  And I could now accept that and work from there.

On the flip side of this, I also understood clearly that dislike or irritation that I felt for others was MY problem, not theirs.  Any resentment or ill feelings I had were not at all justifiable and I needed to be sure to remember that.  No one needs to 'win me over,' nor can they.  I choose to love or hate because of who I am.

A needed lesson for sure.

In case you haven't guessed, I tend to fret and feel sorry for myself.  I have had a hard time feeling content for a while.  One thing I fretted over in the last while, was my mission.  It was a long time ago, and I have thought a lot about it with the lowering of the mission age.  I had wondered if it had even mattered that I went.  I know that it mattered for me, but I wondered if it really mattered to anyone else. I was a bit of a free spirit and a big mouth, and have wondered if my personality did more harm than good at some times.

In Seminary over a 2 week period, I invited the kids to pray that they could recognize that God knows them specifically as individuals and will answer their prayers in a way that speaks to them.  Jesus healed and blessed people one on one, not as a big group or as a class.  Personally. According to their needs. I asked them to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the personal love of God.  As the teacher, I try to do the same things I challenge my students to do, so I too had been praying.

This Sunday, I got a phone call from an Elder that served in my mission.  We were in the MTC together and were both from Arizona.  The first time we met was in a culture class about Canada and he was crying seeing pictures of the frozen ocean.  We became instant friends when I tried to console and commiserate about the cold with him.  We have the same birthday week and he calls me every year.  So I was surprised to get a call from him in February.

He told me that he had been talking just the day before to a family from our mission.  They had talked about me.  They were an awesome family that had been through lots of missionaries without committing to baptism (even though they held church callings!!).  There was something about them that I just loved and my companion and I hit it off instantly with them.  They were so easy to love! Even now I still love them. They had agreed to be baptized when I asked them 20 or so years ago and that experience was very special to me.  They told my friend when he talked to them recently that I had been special to them too.  I had mattered to them. 

My heart sang! Not only did I remember the love I had felt for them all those years ago, I felt that the Lord had heard the doubts in my heart and reminded me that I was loved, that I mattered. It was personal. It was an answer just for me, just when I needed it, just when I asked.

I had another experience just a few days after that.  I got a call from an old friend of mine and she suggested I purchase and read two books.  Both of them are the type of book I enjoy reading and find easy to learn from or relate to.  One called 'The Slight Edge' is basically an elaboration of the truth that through small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.  By doing the small things each day (when it doesn't make hardly any difference on just that day), we can make enormous progress over time if we are diligent and patient.  The second called 'The Happiness Advantage' is about finding happiness where you are.  I have wondered why I always feel like a square peg in the round Durango hole so often, especially when we had thought recently about moving.  This book reminded me that there are things I can do to shore up my own happiness.  One of the key ideas my friend liked was the necessity of cultivating friendships.  When life gets stressful I tend to 'buckle down' and try to get things done at the expense of my friendships.  This has certainly been the case since Kristine moved in with us last year.  While I know it was the right thing for us, I felt quite overwhelmed and never quite got ahead of all the things I felt I needed to be doing.  I put many things I enjoy on the back burner until I felt I had more time. According to this book, I am doing it all wrong. ;)  I need to be sure I am living after the manner of happiness first, then work at my list.  If done in that order, my load would feel lighter.  Definitely some truth in that book.

My friend said she had thought of me (even though she lives in a different city) when she read it and thought I might like it.  She was right.  Both books together were an answer to the problem I have had in my own mind of how to tackle all of my 'stuff.'  The Lord had again answered my prayers in a very personal way.  It made me grateful for a friend that followed through when it occurred to her I'd like the books even though I hadn't told her what I had been praying about.

To me, although they may seem like small things, the personal nature of each answer to prayer confirmed that God does know me.  And He wants to help me.  Often I just forget to ask.  I am grateful for the things I am learning.

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