My Divine Editor knew me so well that He could hear the real needs of my heart and soul and reframe the question for me.
Throughout the scriptures Christ teaches with parables. “A sower went out to sow some seed…,” He says. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…,” He says. “The Bridegroom cometh…,” He says.
There is something potent in approaching an intractable problem from a sideways angle. Parables do that. Rather than lecturing His followers about their particular sins or skewed thinking, he told these kinds of potent stories and let His listeners mull, ponder, seek and apply fresh ways of thinking to their challenges.
Here’s a parable from my own life.
Years ago I was a student of Tae Kwon Do. At a certain point in my instruction I had to break a board to advance to the next level. I worried and fretted and practiced and breathed deeply. I remember my instructor’s counsel that one needs to focus 6 inches beyond the board. If a student focuses on the point of impact – when the arm or foot makes contact with the board – the arm or foot will hurt and the board probably wouldn’t break anyway. With all that in mind, I broke my first (second and third board) with no problems and no pain. I was on top of the world.
The next time a board breaking opportunity came up I was optimistic, ran through my mental list of to-do’s, took the correct stance and … SLAM! My arm hurt and the board didn’t break. What was going on? I tried again. And once more, failing both times.
Then my instructor shouted “Try a front kick!” Baffled by my inabilities, I changed my stance, stopped thinking, aimed my foot 6 inches beyond the board and – as though it were butter, the board broke. I’m still not sure why. The physics must have been right. My instructor knew I had it in me, but the approach needed some tweaking.
Perhaps there was something about not overthinking. Perhaps there was muscle memory in my legs and feet from months of practicing without boards. Perhaps the positioning of the guys holding the boards was better. All I could do was bow my head in gratitude, fist bump and say “Yessss!”
There have been occasions in my life when God has thrown some unexpected answers my way when all the usual, expected methods fail to work.
For example, also many years ago, I was in a bad patch when a dear friend had suicided and another friend died in a plane crash. I was in a pit of grief. All my tethers to “truth” and “order in the cosmos” seemed frayed. It was also at this time that a scholar with a former Mormon background waxed on about how there were so many ways in which the Book of Mormon could not be an ancient volume and was riddled with inaccuracies, etc. That just added more confusion to the mix of my existential void.
Still, relying on the muscle memory of prayer and holding to the iron rod of visiting teaching, church attendance, and scripture reading during this funk, I prayed – night after night after night for weeks – for the witness promised in Moroni 10:4.
Imagine my surprise when one night, after I’d gotten up off my knees and went to brush my teeth that I heard “as it were” words in my head and heart saying, “You’re asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is ‘Where does God want you’?”
My Divine Editor knew me so well that He (for lack of a more complete pronoun) could hear the real needs of my heart and soul and reframe the question for me. It was an iteration I never would have thought was “okay” to ask. When I asked that question, the answer came quickly and clearly.
And here I am.
God essentially told me to “Try a front kick!” Knowing that God knows me so intimately and will answer my prayers in a way that works well for both of us still makes me want to jump and shout “Hallelujah!”
Plenty of others have had the Moroni 10:4 challenge answered in more standard ways. When I get caught up trying to suss out the answer to the musical question “Oh Say, What is Truth?” I chuckle. In my own core, to preserve my integrity, I have to go by what I feel – and sometimes “hear” – God telling me, even if it’s sideways or with a front kick. These are the truest things I have ever known.