Faith and God's Domain
Faith is an interesting concept. Like love, it grows. It means different things to us at different times, and (hopefully) it matures as we mature and leads us to a higher plane of living. It’s kinda like that old song, “And he thought that he knew what love was…” I really thought that I knew what faith was.
When I was called into the Relief Society Presidency for the first time in 1994, Grandma Lyn sent me the book, “Love Is A Verb” by Mary Ellen Edmunds. It was such a nice introduction to the idea that love becomes charity when we DO something. Likewise, belief becomes faith when we take those first steps into the unknown. I have taken a lot of steps into the unknown the past few years and I have been overjoyed at the things I have found on the other side.
One of the things that has helped my faith grow immensely is internalizing the parameters of our agency and God’s role in His plan. As a parent, I am amazed at the restraint Heavenly Father exercises as he allows us to grow and experience this life. I try (and often fail) to keep myself from interfering with the agency of my kids. If I think I can save them some pain or frustration, I want to step in and “fix it.” I try to give them room to learn by natural consequences, but it’s really hard. So really I admire God’s respect for our agency. The only lines he has drawn are around life itself. He has given us specific instructions about how life should begin and how it should end, and there are dire consequences for those who step over those lines. Life and death are His domain---what I do from my first to my last breath is mine.
And so there I was, worrying about my brother Matthew being deployed in Iraq in early 2006. I remember being really particularly upset one day, and having the spirit calmly speak to me: “He will not die until he has accomplished his mission on earth.” Now, I kinda knew that already, but it started to sink in at that moment. We are all here to become like God (remember the Sermon on the Mount? “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”?). We arrive with cracks to fill in our characters, and through the application of the atonement of Christ to our life’s experiences, those cracks are filled and we become worthy of our Father’s presence. And only He knows when that mission has been accomplished and we are ready to move on from this life.
The lesson began to sink in even more as I watched two different TV shows—one was a show about freak accidents on the Discovery Channel, and one was a show about miraculous survival on Oprah. For some reason, watching those shows within a day or two of each other helped me to realize that these were not really “Freaky” or especially “miraculous”—each of these people had a mission in life. For those who died in “freak” accidents: mission accomplished; for those who survived, there was obviously still work to be done.
Suddenly it all made so much sense. I felt totally at peace, not only with Matt’s mortality, but my own and my children’s. While I still take caution and I’m always concerned about their well-being, I have a peace inside me knowing that the best thing I can do for them is to pray for them, and pray for me—that I can help them fulfill their missions and meet their potential so they are ready to meet their Maker whenever that time comes.
And the same goes for me. I am sure, like me, most people suddenly take much better care of themselves, take much more precaution when they become parents. We have a new reason for living—we want to be here for our kids. But I have so much less worry now that I know for sure that as long as we are striving to progress, our lives are preserved until our missions are complete. It’s like the hymn—“And should we die before our journey’s through, happy day—all is well/ We then are free from toil and sorrow too—with the just we shall dwell.”
To me, one of the most beautiful expressions of faith in the scriptures, and the most meaningful to me right now, is 1 Nephi 11:17. Nephi is being shown The Grand Vision, specifically the birth of the Savior, and the angel serving as his tour guide asks him if he knows about the condescension of God. “Condescension” is a big word, and I bet Nephi (Mr. Plain & Precious) was thinking, what? But here is what he said: “I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.”
Isn’t that AWESOME? A prophet of God basically said I don’t know everything, but I know he loves us…and that was enough. And you know what? I think it’s enough for me. I have been a “why?”-asker and truth-seeker and pattern-finder all my life—I want answers!—but Nephi has taught me to chill. I am able to act in faith much more often now because (a) I understand God’s parameters and (b) I know—I feel it in my heart for real—that he loves us and will only guide us in the paths that lead us back to him. We just have to trust, to follow, and quit taking short cuts or our own little roads because his ways don’t seem to make sense from where we’re standing. I’m not sure what’s around the next corner for me, but I have learned from experience that I will be okay and it will be for my good because my Heavenly Father loves me. And he loves you, too.