God Knows I Could Use the Lift

Dear Will:

On January 9th I stood in the Lihue airport on the island of Kauai and said goodbye—again—to my daughter Bryn. As you may recall, Bryn lives in Wellington where she dances for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. When she first moved there around 14 months ago, we were a little bit frightened and more than a little bit nervous, but we shared with her the eager anticipation that comes with adventure. She was only 19 but about to take on an exotic new job in an exotic location. For all of its attendant anxiety, the whole thing was very exciting for all of us.

A year later, much of that excitement has passed. The mystery is mostly gone, the unanswered questions mostly answered. And so the job is just a job, and the location, though still exotic, seems (somehow) much farther away. Our farewell in Lihue felt different as a consequence. Instead of eager anticipation for that first communication from afar, we stood there wondering when we might see our daughter again. We all cried. I didn’t like it.

I thought at the time of our many friends who have stood by similar ropes at similar airport security lines, sending their children off into the great unknown as they embark on full-time missions for our church. Within the last several months we have seen seven members of the Santiago Creek Ward head out to serve: in Washington, Texas, North Carolina, Chile, Scotland, Croatia, and New Zealand. All seven have left behind anxious loved ones. And all have left eager to serve.

In return, the Church has sent to the Santiago Creek Ward four exceptional young people from around the United States: Sister Laulusa (Ohio), Sister Longhurst (Idaho), Elder Long (Tennessee), and Elder Parent (Michigan). They are bright lights who are full of faith and dedication. More to the point, they carry with them the Spirit of God—you can feel it in their presence. And because they have been commissioned of Christ, if you spend any time with them at all and get a chance to hear their uplifting message of hope, one of three things is likely to happen:

  1. You will feel an increased closeness to God.
  2. You will gain a greater sense of peace and happiness.
  3. You will gain an increased understanding of your purpose in life.

I realize those are bold promises, but I do not make them casually or without basis. I’ve been around these young people, and I know. Which is why I suggest that if you are interested in any of the things I listed above, you should invite them into your home some time. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. Maybe you could just have them over for dinner or something and spend a few minutes getting to know them. Imagine drawing closer to God and receiving a greater sense of peace and happiness in exchange for a ham sandwich and cup of milk. That’s not a bad deal.

Just the other day, in fact, I was sitting at the office when a familiar song by Simon and Garfunkel came onto my computer’s music feed. It’s a song my daughter and I have sung often (and poorly) while sitting side-by-side at the family piano. The melody disrupted my concentration, and a great sense of melancholy settled over me as I thought about my girl and how long it might be before we’ll be seated side-by-side again. And while Sister Longhurst and Sister Laulusa may be poor surrogates for my own 20-year-old girl, that song seemed as good an excuse as any to invite them over—and soon. It would bless my family. And God knows I could use the lift.

PW

Seek Ye First

Dear Will:

I have a friend whom I admire deeply. He is not a man of great social station or professional credentials, nor is he a man of letters or great wealth. As a matter of fact, as so many others around us, he is currently in the midst of great financial upheaval. At a time in which he should be contemplating retirement, he is contemplating bankruptcy instead.

And yet. . . .

I admire him because of his humble faith. He is not the sort who thinks he has all of the answers. To the contrary: He often asks the sort of candid questions that reveal his own insecurities and ignorance, questions which may make others squirm a little due to their honesty. He also has a genuine desire to serve others in spite of whatever personal inconvenience it might entail—not to be seen of others or because “it’s the right thing to do,” but simply because he genuinely wants to help. I’ve known him and watched him for over a decade, and during that time no one has inspired me more to be a better, more genuine person.

Two or three weeks ago, my friend stood in a church meeting to share a profound statement that has caused me much reflection since. I am well familiar with his current financial woes—woes which were brought on, he admits, by some foolish choices that he made in spite of clear counsel to the contrary—so I was not prepared for what he said: In spite of their misfortunes, he said, “my relationship with my dear wife is better than it has ever been.” The reason? Because they are embracing the gospel.

How many marriages have been ruined by financial troubles? How many relationships are unable to withstand the pressures that come from modern living? And yet this couple have found happiness in the midst of difficulties, closeness in spite of heartache, renewed faith even as they are losing so much of what the world would consider important.

My friend and his wife are a living manifestation of a familiar verse of scripture. It was King Benjamin who said to his people: “I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (Mosiah 2:41).

Of course, my friend does not yet enjoy the temporal blessings King Benjamin alludes to. Or does he? The calm with which he faces his financial difficulties is astounding—another reminder to me that there is much more to life than money or status. I don’t really know the full extent of the challenges which lie before him, but I can tell you this: He and his wife are going to be fine. I have no doubt in my mind.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God” is what Jesus said, “and all of these [other] things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). It’s important advice to all of us as we face the economic challenges associated with a prolonged recession. And the promised blessings that come from following that advice are of greater worth than anything you or I can imagine.

Would that we each might embrace the gospel and enjoy the happiness which follows.

PW