Today, ‘long about mid-afternoon, something emotionally devastating happened to me. The details of it are not important. The important thing is that I was a total and complete wreck in every way. I wanted to talk about it right then with someone who loved me unconditionally, someone I could rely on to take my side (at least until I was ready to hear criticism). I wanted to call my husband at work RIGHT THEN.
Of course, this was impossible. He is overscheduled with patients and can’t answer calls. Even if I were to catch him between patients, he wouldn’t have the time to hear the whole story, nor the privacy to say what he would want to say to calm me down. I couldn’t talk to him about it until later, after dinner, after the kids were down.
So I prayed. It wasn’t much of a conversation since I wasn’t ready to listen and I didn’t have time to spend on my knees anyway. It was just sort of a shout out to God: “I’m here, and I need you NOW!” I didn’t feel any immediate help or consolation, but I was able to make it through the day.
And, as often happens, by the time I was able to talk to my husband about it, most of the hurt was gone. I had reached some sort of peace and greater understanding about the problem with the passage of time, and the report I gave him then was much different than it would have been if I had been able to reach him earlier.
One of my favorite poems is from Carol Lynn Pearson, called “Drama in Two Acts.” I quote the first stanza all the time to myself, because it describes exactly how I feel in the midst of trials sometimes:
I do not doubt
If someone blew–
I would go out.
But it’s the second stanza that is staying with me today:
I did not.
I must be brighter than I thought.
At the end of the day today, I was surprised to find myself still burning. I hadn’t been blown out after all.
I wonder sometimes if I run to the Lord too quickly, too. If it might be better if I sort of “kept these things and pondered them in [my] heart” for a while before I went rushing to the Lord to ask for help. Now, I’m not talking about waiting to tell Him about things, but waiting to ask Him to bail me out. Are there things that I could handle if I gave myself time? When is it appropriate to ask Him to change things about my situation?
I imagine that there are sorts of things that it might be better for me to wait a few hours before I ask Him to step in. I wonder if that applies for longer stretches of time, too. Are there problems I have that I would speak to God differently about if I waited a few days? What about weeks or years? I’m not sure.
I’ve always disliked that poem that so many people love, “Footprints.” You know the one—the dude spent some time during his life feeling wretchedly alone, but when he reviews his life with the Lord, the Lord tells him that during the times he had seemed to be alone (“only one set of footprints”), the Lord had actually been carrying him. Now, I have to say that I have literally felt the Lord carry me at times, so I don’t doubt this part of the poem. But I also have to say that there are times when I have felt very, very alone. And if I were to find out later that the Lord had been carrying me through that time, that knowledge would not change my memory of the level of pain that lonliness caused. What good does it do to know that the Lord is carrying me if I don’t feel Him near, or feel any solace at all?
But, so far at least, all of those times of feeling abandoned have eventually come to an end, and when I look back upon them I feel surprise that I was able to pull through it. It’s a strange feeling, almost as if I hear the Lord saying, “See, I knew you could handle that one on your own. Don’t be angry that I let you grow stronger that way.” I imagine Him saying this because it is what I do as a mother, letting my children go through some things, even painful things, on their own, because I know that they can handle it and that the process is important to their progress.
So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.
I’m still confused, though, about the role of pleading with the Lord to relieve my burdens or strengthen my back. I know it’s not wrong to ask these thing because Amulek tells us in the scriptures to “Cry over your flocks and your herds,” etc. (Alma 34). I’ve always assumed that this passage means that we shouldn’t hesitate to ask for good things to come to us, and bad things to go away. But now I’m wondering—could it be that Amulek is saying that we ought to talk things over with the Lord, tell him how we’re feeling, but not necessarily ask Him to change things—at least not until we’ve given it time and worked at it ourselves?
What do you think? At what point do we ask the Lord to step in for us?
BTW, the above quoted poem is from Beginnings and Beyond, by Carol Lynn Pearson, and is quoted with permission.