Only That Day Dawns to Which We Are Awake

Dear Will:

I woke up this morning to a wet patio. Some time near dawn, it had rained.

There are few things as refreshing to body and soul as a summer rain (around here anyway). It cleans our smoggy air, washes dust from the street and sidewalks, brings welcome nourishment to our parched earth. I suppose in some way it does the same thing for each of us, providing clarity and renewal of spirit.

Happy though I was to see that some rain had fallen, I stood with a degree of disappointment as I looked out on my soggy backyard. It had rained and I had missed it—and who knows when it might rain again around here. I looked up, saw blue skies, and knew that the “shower” had already come and gone. If only I had gotten up a little earlier, I thought. If only.

Near the end of Walden (one of my all-time favorites), Henry David Thoreau says: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” If you want to benefit from new ideas, new thinking, altered perspectives, you have to be open and watching for the possibility, in other words. I think we’ve seen evidence of that in “the Arab Spring,” haven’t we? Thousands of people throughout the Arab world have witnessed and participated in a shift in thinking—the dawning of democracy—because when the moment arrived they were, as it were, awake.

It has caused me to ask myself how I would respond given a similar opportunity. Am I truly open to fresh perspective? If it’s true, as Thoreau says, that “there is more day to dawn,” that the sun is truly “a Morningstar,” am I sufficiently awake to perceive the light? You might even ask it this way: If God wanted to talk to me, would I hear or sleep right through it?

As I ponder all of this, I can’t help but think of something said in our last General Conference by Elder David A. Bednar. He was talking about the way that God communicates directly to his children—the patterns of personal revelation:

A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.

The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently “distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare.*

Like a sudden summer shower, light from God can come upon us unawares, and if we are not truly awake we’ll miss it altogether.

As I finish this note, I look outside to see that the clouds have gathered once again and drops have begun to fall. I’m heading outside to see and feel and celebrate the summer rain.


* You can watch or read the entire talk here. I highly recommend it.

Settling for a Tonka Truck

Dear Will:

Today we celebrated my son Seth’s second birthday. Throwing a party for two-year-olds is a little tricky since they are as likely to become interested in their shoelaces as in the activity of the moment. Recognizing that we would not have a whole lot of attention span to work with, my wife and I designed a lot of activities that could go start-to-finish in a few minutes and which could be abandoned without consequence should our constituents wander off to play under the kitchen table. We also had the good sense to invite just one other two-year-old to the party.

Everything pretty much went as expected. I felt a bit like a sheepdog from time to time, but for the most part the kids got into it.  (One piece of advice: Next time you’re entertaining two-year-olds, skip the piñata.) When it came time to open presents, you can probably guess what happened: After opening the first gift (a giant Tonka truck), Seth was pretty much done. We kept foisting other presents upon him, but we could easily have stopped after the truck and he would have been perfectly happy. There are still a half a dozen other presents remaining to be opened, but to be honest Seth really couldn’t care less.

His indifference is to be expected, I suppose, but I admit to feeling a little disappointed. We got him some really great stuff (a real Radio Flyer tricycle, for example) but he’s willing to settle for much less. Now I realize the guilty parties in this little tableau are the eager-to-spoil parents rather than the content-with-what-he-has toddler, but nevertheless it occurs to me that the whole thing is in a small way emblematic of a common, eternal phenomenon.

I’ve got a pretty good hunch that our Heavenly Father has a lot He would like to give us—in fact, we are probably incapable of conceiving the enormity of it. But His ability to give is constrained by our ability to receive. In the Book of Mormon we read:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.  (2 Nephi 28:30)

I wonder how often I have prevented God from blessing me because I have not taken full advantage of that with which he has previously blessed me. I fear that my indifference has deprived me of greater blessings. And I wonder to what degree my own lack of faith in this life may prevent Him from bestowing upon me the unfathomable blessings of eternity that He has promised “those who love Him.”

I’d hate to settle for the Tonka truck when He is prepared to give me a Radio Flyer—if you know what I mean. It may be a lame analogy, but it seems relevant to me, especially as I consider how easily distracted I become in pursuit of my spiritual goals. I guess in the eternal scheme I’m the two-year-old, and I’m hoping that you’re more grown up than I. Here’s hoping, in any case, that you’re quick to acknowledge the ways in which God has blessed you, and that He may bless you much more in the months to come.