Monday, August 04, 2008

A new perspective

This is the general substance of the lesson I taught in Relief Society yesterday. As is usual, the teacher learned more than anyone else in the process.

Imagine that you are witnessing a terrible storm. Ominous black storm clouds are billowing across the sky, the wind is blowing, the trees are shaking, rain and hail are pounding in sideways, lightning streaks across the sky, thunder makes the building shake. There is no trace of sunlight or blue sky. Such an image brings to mind feelings of insecurity, possibly peril, and to the extent that I can’t see the end of the storm in any direction, a feeling of hopelessness.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City. Our plane had been delayed because of such a storm. Later, after we’d been in the air awhile, I looked out my window to notice that the storm wasn’t past, we were simply flying around it, and since we were at an altitude of 40,000 feet, we were also above it.

I saw perfectly blue atmosphere above us, just below us was sunny blue sky with a blanket of feather-white clouds, and one isolated, seemingly small black cloud alive with electricity. It was a towering, billowing, electrically charged storm cloud. I’m certain I know what it feels like (and sounds like) to be trembling inside a house when just such a storm passes over me. But from my window on the airplane, I was given a very different perspective than if I had been watching from a window on the ground.

Seeing the storm cloud from above was a truly awe-inspiring experience for me. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me before that moment that above every storm, however daunting it seems from the ground, is bright blue sky and a shining sun—a true constant.

Each of us faces individual and personal storms—whether it be as serious as sin or death, economic struggles, feelings of loneliness and depression, or the perceived expectation to be supermom (hehehe). Do we forget that there is shining sun and blue sky on the other side? Do we forget that our metaphorical “storms” are significant and purposeful when viewed from an eternal perspective? Do we lose track of what is most important and give in to despair? or do we draw upon the gospel of Jesus Christ for hope and strength?

Given our knowledge of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, we know there is purpose in our trials, and there is a way to if not overcome them, endure them in faith.

“We mortals have a limited view of life from the eternal perspective. But if we know and understand Heavenly Father’s plan, we realize that dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways we are tested. Our faith in our Heavenly Father and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is the source of inner strength. Through faith we can find peace, comfort, and the courage to endure. As we trust in God and his plan for our happiness with all our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding (see Prov. 3:5), hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all we do. It can give us comfort in the face of adversity, strength in times of trial, and peace when we have reason for doubt or anguish.”

M. Russell Ballard, “Answers to Life’s Questions,” Ensign, May 1995, 22

How can we obtain an eternal perspective? In 2003, my mom was in charge of planning the Benac family reunion, which takes place every 3 years, and was gong to be held at Aspen Grove. In the registration process, you can prioritize the week you want your group to attend. She gave first priority for the week of the 4th of July, but our family was scheduled in early June, the first week of the camping season, and Mom’s very last choice. It was inconvenient for many and we considered this an unfortunate turn of events.

If we had had the luxury of the eternal perspective, we would have been grateful that we didn’t get what we wanted, for Grandpa’s health began to rapidly decline in the months before the reunion; the second week of June turned out to be his last week in health good enough to preside over a family reunion, and by the first week of July he was in a coma. He died on July 11. The Lord is mindful of us, and our “storms” are given to us for a reason, even though we may not understand or even know the eternal purposes for the things we are made to endure.

"Wherever you live on this earth and whatever your life’s situation may be, I testify to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the divine power to lift you to great heights from what appears at times to be an unbearable burden or weakness. The Lord knows your circumstances and your challenges. He said to Paul and to all of us, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” And like Paul we can answer: “My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we may claim the blessings promised in the covenants and the ordinances we received when we accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 18–21

I am so grateful for my knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and for a loving and constant Savior! We may not understand now, or next week, 50 years from now, or in this life at all why we are made to endure what we are, but there is a plan for each and every one of us--and just like the sun is always shining, so is the Son of God offering “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).


Jessica said...

Thanks for that beautiful insight.

david & michal coombs said...

this was just beautiful, jenny. don't you love the little nudges of revelation we get to keep going?!

angela michelle said...

Thanks for writing up that story. That family reunion was definitely a blessing.

Elizabeth said...

Well put, Jenny. As has been said, beautiful insight, effectively and dramatically described.

I was pondering something similar yesterday, about how we usually don't know the extent of the effect (for good or ill) of our actions. I was reading Sheri Dew's talk from this year's Women's Conference (see talk here) which was the basis for the presidency lesson in our ward on Sunday. In her talk, Sister Dew tells of a dramatic miracle that happened in her life that allowed her to do something for someone else. And it wasn't until she got a thank-you note from that other person that she realized how big of a difference she made in that person's life. Sister Dew said, "We rarely understand how the Lord uses us." And I thought, I guess that is part of why thank-you notes are so important, because sometimes they help other people realize how the Lord used them to bless us. And I guess that is part of why the Spirit is so important, it helps us see things from the eternal perspective above the clouds and from other people's perspectives so we can help them.

Question: Is that your picture of the lightning storm? It is a cool picture, and I like how it shows both the calm and the storm.

Jenny said...

Unfortunately, this is not my picture, and this is not my storm, but it was as close as I could find.

Thanks for your comments.

Rebecca said...

That is so beautiful, Jen! Thanks for writing it up. It helps to have that reminder of different perspectives for life. I love those quotes...