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.

PW

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

What About Jesus?

Dear Will:

Last Sunday was Fathers’ Day. My kids made me this breakfast that was like a cross between scrambled eggs and French toast—a concoction called “Egg-ceptional Breakfast Bake” that Bryn, my nine-year-old, found in a cookbook entitled New Junior Cookbook. I also got treated to a talent show that included a piano improvisation by Seth (who’s five) and a dance concert involving all three kids, only one of whom is a dancer. And it showed.

It was all good fun. Coming into the day, I told my kids that all I really wanted was some one-on-one time with each of them to talk to them about their faith. Specifically, I told them I wanted them to share with me what it is they believe in.

Seth went first. He said: “I believe in God. I believe that Dinosaurs once ruled the earth. And I believe that human beings lived during the Ice Age.”

OK. Then I asked him, “What about Jesus? What do you think about Jesus?”

“Good,” he said. And that was that.

Jesus himself once asked his disciples (essentially) the same question I had asked Seth. The ensuing exchange was telling, even though it contained no apparent references to T rex or any of his cronies:

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  (Matt. 16:13-17)

That was a telling moment for Simon Peter. It was, as far as we can tell, his first recorded, verbal affirmation of his faith in Christ. And Jesus tells us that that faith was born of personal revelation, sent by the Father through the Holy Spirit.

It kind of makes you want to stop and consider the question yourself, doesn’t it? What about Jesus? If your answer falls anywhere between Seth’s and Simon’s, it suggests that you yourself have at one point or another been blessed with a moment of spiritual insight that is a rare gift indeed. John the Revelator said, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). You didn’t know you might be a prophet, did you?

I don’t know if I’ve ever shared with you before my own belief. Perhaps it has been implied in previous letters. But let me make it explicit here: I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only begotten son of God, my Savior and yours. His teachings guide my life, and his grace is sufficient, as the scripture says, to help me to receive eternal blessings in spite of my manifest shortcomings.

And I also believe that dinosaurs once ruled the earth.

PW