Popham Beach State Park, Maine

 

In a recent Worldwide Leadership Training Conference, attendees heard someone’s thoughts on “that thing that is of most worth to a woman in this life.” If someone asked you what that “thing of most worth” is, how would you answer?

Some years ago I went through a very tough time. Metaphorically speaking I felt like my ribs had been extracted. My pulses and rhythms still functioned, but my supports and protection were gone. My mother had just died. My kids were asserting themselves in creative and dumbfounding ways, following their natural call to become “agents unto themselves.” My husband was reorganizing his heart and soul, doing important internal work, but I had no idea where I’d end up when his “remodeling” was over. My soul felt like it was, to quote Yeats, “turning and turning in a widening gyre.”

In the midst of this untethering, our family joined another family for a week at a cabin in Maine. One day we piled into our cars and headed to Popham Beach State Park. As we pulled into the parking lot, the cassette player (yes, it was a while ago) blared John Rutter’s “For the Beauty of the Earth” loud enough to shake the minivan walls. It certainly fit the gorgeous setting.

The kids piled out of the car and dashed for the sand. My husband and my friend’s husband went off on a manly walk-about. My friend and I settled with the other sunbathers on beach towels. Since the tide was out, the water wasn’t that close. She read her book, and I—well, I stewed in the possibility that I could lose absolutely everything I valued. Not just in a cosmic way; it was practical, too. I was too far away to be of any physical use to my kids in the water if something dire happened. It wasn’t out of the question that my husband could decide just not to come back.

As I lay there pondering, praying, trying to keep breathing in and out (despite the lack of ribs), a passage of scripture came to my mind. It was Romans 8:35-38:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The first thing I noticed was the checklist of worries. I wasn’t too concerned about famine, nakedness, sword or principalities, but pretty much the rest of the travails seemed like present dangers.

Then I focused on the powerful bookend consolations: “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus the Lord”. I let the meaning sweep over me like soothing tidewaters.

I found out as we headed to the car after our afternoon at the beach that the real tidewaters had been up to no good.

My 8 year old (who had only just had his first swimming lessons) told me he had been standing in the shallow waters but got knocked over by a good wave. After much sputtering and angst he righted himself. It was scary for him, but in the end it was a successful accomplishment that improved his confidence.

The other two, along with our friends’ son (all good swimmers), had ventured further out. My 11-year-old found himself unable to catch up with the older two and began floundering. An attentive lifeguard caught him, brought him to the other two and helped all three of them get back to safer grounds. “There are undertows out there,” the lifeguard told them. “Sometimes they’re impossible to fight.”

Those three older kids were snickering and poking each other by the time we got the story out of them, laughter being just a cover for the fright of their close call.

My husband came back with our friend no worse for the walk.

I thought again about that scripture and the fact that I really could have lost at least one child that day. God wasn’t joking with His litany of things that could occur. God wasn’t telling me, “Don’t worry. I’ll take all these difficulties away.” He was saying, “If everything you treasure gets stripped away from you or life takes you or your dear ones to unimaginably hard places, I will always know and love you, Linda. I will always love you. Hold on to this truth, this hope. Hold on.”

That thing that is of most worth for this woman in this life is to live the gospel with a sense of God’s unwavering and radical love for her.
Complete sentence.
Complete life.

February 20, 2012

20 Comments

  1. Sage

    February 17, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this insightful and personal piece.

    Trials always come. Knowing we can have this love from our Father in Heaven gives me peace (or at least makes the fear recede).

  2. Angela H.

    February 17, 2012

    Beautiful, Linda. Thank you.

  3. Deborah

    February 17, 2012

    An eloquent and beautiful response to a remark that was deeply troubling. Thanks, friend. “Radical” is my favorite adjective to describe God’s love. A nun introduced me to the concept of Jesus’ “radical love” — thorough, drastic, and inherent.

  4. M. Ray

    February 17, 2012

    Nice essay.

    But you begin with “In a recent Worldwide Leadership Training Conference, attendees heard someone’s thoughts on “that thing that is of most worth to a woman in this life.” If someone asked you what that “thing of most worth” is, how would you answer?”

    It wasn’t just someone’s thoughts, it was President Boyd K. Packer who said “I have been very careful, and am very careful, to treat my wife with that respect and reverence that is due her in performing that thing that is of most worth for a woman in this life to live the gospel, to be the wife and the mother of the children of a worthy holder of the priesthood.”

    Your essay seems to sidestep the issue of whether or not you agree with what he said and whether or not he speaking as a mouthpiece of the Lord when he said it. Just saying it was “someone’s thoughts” makes me think you are downplaying it and I’m curious why.

  5. Linda

    February 17, 2012

    Good catch, M. Ray.
    I do think it’s up to every person to discern for themselves through inspiration what is of most worth for their lives. This was my confirmation, especially in the face of a situation that could have negated those other aspects Elder Packer added. I think it’s more an example of incautious wording. Women who aren’t married or who have no children could (and have) felt a knife twist. Perhaps there’s an institutional take as well as an individual one?

  6. Chris

    February 17, 2012

    This is among the most inspirational, beautifully-crafted posts I have EVER read. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Linda! You eloquently and powerfully describe that which is of most worth to you and what is of most worth to me: the love of our Savior.

    One of life’s greatest opportunities is recognizing and internalizing how deeply the Lord loves us. Then the challenge becomes holding onto that love when times are tough.

    1 John 4: 7-10 describes how much God loves us: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

    God’s love for each of us is greater than we can comprehend. I am in awe of his infinite love that was manifested when Christ chose to suffer incomprehensibly for each of us and then to give his life for us so that we may live forever with him. Thank you for inspiring me to trust more deeply in his love.

  7. Sage

    February 17, 2012

    M. Ray, I think Linda handled that wording well. She isn’t negating what Pres. Packer said. In her essay it was apparent her marriage was having troubles. If we place our worth first in our marriage, then when troubles come (and most marriages will experience some) we will lose hope, faith, happiness and not have the strength to keep loving. But if what is of most worth is our love, faith and connection with our Savior, then we will be built on the rock of salvation.

  8. Kirsten

    February 17, 2012

    LInda,
    I really needed this today. I love that scripture in Romans and really needed to hear it again. Amidst my struggles right now, this gives me perspective and most importantly, hope. I feel as if the tide is pulling me and my family under and this reminds me that no matter how difficult things get, I need to have faith and hope… and hold on. My Father in Heaven and my Savior love me and will always do so.

  9. Jennifer

    February 17, 2012

    What a beautiful post. That scripture in Romans always gets me teary. It’s so touching, and so true. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Melissa M.

    February 17, 2012

    Linda, this was a beautiful and meaningful post, and I could relate to so many of your feelings. I think I am finally learning this same lesson—that no matter what is stripped away from me or what surprises life hands me, I can find consolation and hope in the Lord’s love for me. This knowledge has sustained me through some storms over the last few years. Thank you for sharing your experiences in such a lovely and poignant way.

  11. Sharlee

    February 17, 2012

    Beautiful.

  12. KDA

    February 17, 2012

    I love that passage from Romans, but I can see it anew in the way you made it come alive through your post. Thank you for being frank about your struggles and for sharing a tender moment of connecting with the divine.

  13. mmiles

    February 17, 2012

    Thank you Linda.

  14. Jewel

    February 18, 2012

    “Like.”

  15. Sandra

    February 18, 2012

    yes. I love reading all your your beautifully crafted words. You are the visiting teacher I wish I had. You just get it. Thank you, Linda.

  16. Melody Newey

    February 18, 2012

    What a wonderful post. Simple and profound.

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. And I really couldn’t agree more “the thing that is of most worth” without a doubt: the love of God. It binds us to everything good and beautiful in this world – our family, children, friends, nature, art.

    Reading this warmed me. In every way. Thank you again.

  17. Linda

    February 18, 2012

    Thanks for all your generous words, ladies/sisters. I have learned that in the absence of ribs, support from ones sisters is support indeed!

  18. Grandma Honey

    February 18, 2012

    Beautiful Linda.
    It’s through the trials of my life that I have felt His love the most…or I should say ‘understood’ it best. I’ve learned that He parents like we do…giving a bit more comfort to His children who are hurting. That has been my experience anyway.

  19. Kellie

    February 19, 2012

    Thank you for this, it is a beautiful lesson to share.

  20. Sinclair

    February 20, 2012

    I have also felt those pains. My mother died years ago and years later my husband left our family for another woman. To say that what I felt as my world fell apart, over and over, was gruesome would be an understatement.

    The pain has faded somewhat and I’ve been pieced together again by Heavenly Father’s loving hands, but better. What has been of “most worth” to me has evolved and become my reliance on Heavenly Father at all times and in all things….beyond the cliche’.

    “That thing that is of most worth for this woman in this life is to live the gospel with a sense of God’s unwavering and radical love for her.”

    Amen.

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