Sunday, March 29, 2009

His Stroller Was His Safe Haven

This weekend I volunteered at Friday Kids Respite again. This time, however, I got a little boy named Charlie. I read his binder and it turns out Charlie is autistic and has epilepsy, and after playing with him for a little while, I learned that he also has an incredibly short attention span. The moment his dad put him down, Charlie started running. He probably went from inside to the backyard to inside again about eight times within the first half hour.

About an hour into playing, however, Charlie had a seizure. His head suddenly jerked down in between his knees, his body tensed up, and his eyes rapidly flickered back and forth. The seizure only lasted about 25 seconds, but during that time, as I watched the nurse take care of him, I remember myself asking God, "Why did you give this beautiful little boy such a terrible disease?" Charlie didn't play for the rest of the night. The seizure had completely wiped him out. I have to say, I was confused why such things happen, why God afflicts innocent people with such ugly trials. Later, however, Charlie's mom came to pick him up, and it made me remember why. I could see that his mom loved him very, very much, and it reminded me of my own family, and the experiences we've had with my sister who is deaf. My sister has had to overcome some significant challenges recently due to her hearing loss, and I realized what a role her own trial has played in the lives of others, and in bringing my family together. We pray together for her, we fast together for her, and her life's trials have humbled our family like nothing else could. I truly believe my relationships with my family members would be radically different if not for the trials my sister faces, and the challenges they pose for the rest of us. I am truly thankful for the way she has touched our family, instilled more love in our hearts, and blessed the lives of anyone she encounters.

In John 11, there is the story of how Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. When Lazarus became sick, "his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (3-4). Jesus went on to perform a miracle--bringing Lazarus back from the dead, and strengthening the testimonies of those who were present.

I want to serve as a first-hand witness of the fact that God knows what He's doing when He gives people trials. I have seen how trials have been used "for the glory of God" and Christ. Charlie and my sister have touched my life. And I know that they have touched the lives of many others. They've made me a better person, and they've helped me understand, once again, that the purpose of this life is to grow and progress and return to our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Have 2 Lightsabers Under My Bed

All throughout the scriptures, we find references to light. We read about light in Genesis 1 when God declares that He made the lights in the heavens to "be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years..." (Genesis 1:14). This symbol pervades the Bible, all the way through the last chapter of Revelation, where we learn that during the Second Coming we will "need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light..." (Revelation 22:5). Why is light such a prevalent concept? Why have God and all the prophets emphasized the relationship between light and darkness? Why, in John 8, does Jesus declare, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life"?

To understand, I tried to imagine myself in a room filled with many different objects strewn across the floor. If I flipped the lightswitch off, and tried to cross the room, several things would happen. Because of the darnkess, I would not be able to see. Thus, as I try to cross this floor, I would not be aware of certain obstacles, I would not know where to step next in order make it across smoothly, and I might have to fumble and stumble around a bit to finally get across. Now, if I were to turn the lightswitch on and try again, my journey across the room would drastically change. I have an entirely different perspective now. Through the miracle of light, I can now look around the room and images and shapes will reflect back, allowing me to understand what it is that surrounds me. I can see those obstacles now for what they are, and I can determine how best to overcome them and reach the other side. Another significant difference is that I no longer must guess when I will hit the wall on the other side. Instead, I know where I'm going from the very beginning.

What a beautiful concept. I now better understand the profundity of the statement that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Surely, with his assistance, just as with the assistance of light, things become clearer, obstacles are better understood, the journey is smoother, and the end is in sight. What a simple metaphor, but what a glorious meaning! No man need stumble their way through life, for Christ is a savior to all.

"If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world" (John 11:9).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gushers and a Capri Sun

When Jesus sat with the Samaritan woman at the well, "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:13-14)

This account reminded me of another story in John 6 where Jesus feeds five thousand people with merely five barley loaves and two small fishes. When Jesus asked for a means to feed the people that followed him, Andrew told him of a young boy who had the five loaves and two fishes, and said "but what are they among so many?" (6:9). This opportunity allowed Jesus to demonstrate, once again, the principle that with God, nothing is impossible. With God and the Atonement of Christ, how could we ever want for more?

The disciples could not have fed those five thousand people without the divine help of Christ, just as I can not go through life without His divine assistance. I can bear solid witness of the fact that Christ is my foundation, my support, and my advocate. I can remember specific time periods in my life when I've neglected to recognize His hand in my life, and His role in my salvation. I've noticed that during these times, I always seem to be wanting. I think the two metaphors of thirst and hunger that Jesus presents are a profound portrayal of the feeling I get when I fail to rely on Christ. When my first priority is my relationship with God and Christ, and I put forth sincere effort to strengthen that relationship, I can testify that all other aspects of my life fall into place.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Apples and Oranges

In Luke 15, Jesus gives the parable of the prodigal son. I find this parable quite interesting--I don't think you could stop drawing new insights from it no matter how many times you read it. In my New Testament class, we discussed how today we've given names to all the parables Jesus presents in the scriptures. Sometimes doing this causes us to limit the moral lessons we extract from each parable, since we've titled it according to the most popular main point. I think this is definitely the case for this particular parable. It's title brings our focus to the one son--the extravagant, wasteful, prodigal son.

I think we learn a whole lot from the prodigal son. He takes his inheritance, wastes it away in "riotous living," and ends up starving due to a famine, and stooping to work feeding swine. Because of his mistakes, he is brought very, very low. He learns from it, he humbles himself, and he returns to his father in supplication to be merely his servant. This is a story we hear very often. Someone sins, this leads them to failure, they are humbled, and they repent. We know how this goes. I'm sure most people know what it's like to take the hard way and learn the hard way.

However, I believe we can learn a lot, if not more, from the elder son. When the younger son returns and the father welcomes him home with open arms, a feast, music, and dancing, the elder son faces a mountain of trials as well. Can you imagine the feelings of resentment, jealousy, and anger he must have felt? He had served his father for many years, and never had he broken any commandment. He had not chosen to take the hard way and learn the hard way. Why should his brother deserve a feast and not he?

These are different kinds of trials Jesus presents to us. There is the situation of the younger brother, who openly breaks a commandment and must repent. There is the situation of the elder brother, who must overcome intense negative emotions and attempt to receive his brother as Christ would receive him. One might think that starving and feeding swine would be the harder trial. However, I think my life more parallels the path of the elder son, and to be honest, overcoming the urge to judge your fellow man, write them off with contempt and self-righteousness, and condemn them to a punishment you believe they deserve, is quite spiritually draining. Jesus knows that. That is why he tells this parable. He realizes that there will be those who follow the prodigal son in breaking God's commandments and having to come back from it. However, he also knows that there will be those who will face the struggle of not succumbing to the natural man, and instead taking the higher road to follow Christ.

These trials are like apples and oranges. They're very different. However, each of them are difficult, and each of them are given for the same purpose--to teach us and help us come unto Christ.