Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hiding from God Under our Pavilions

President Henry B. Eyring
I have been preparing to give a lesson to the high priests tomorrow. The assigned October 2012 General Conference talk is one from President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency. He titled it "Where Is the Pavilion?" It was the anguished question Joseph Smith once asked while he was incarcerated in the dungeon cellar of Liberty Jail in the cold damp Missouri winter of 1839. He believed God had abandoned him.

There are times in our lives when we, like Joseph Smith, feel betrayed and abandoned by God. President Eyring suggests God never abandons us. Rather, it is we who separate ourselves from His loving watch care and desires to bless us by what President Eyring defined as "a pavilion of motivations." It's an interesting choice of words. What is it about our motivations that separate us from God? He expanded with the thought, "Our own desires, rather than a feeling of 'Thy will be done,' create the feeling of a pavilion blocking God."

"God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to His will and His time," observed President Eyring.

This matter of submitting our will to the will of our Heavenly Father is tricky stuff, to be sure. It seems God is determined to help us understand that we, as little children, must submit our will to him "as a child doth submit to his father," since it comes up so often in Holy Writ. In another passage, we are admonished, "Cast off your sins, and [do] not procrastinate the day of your repentance; . . . humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest." (Mosiah 3:19; Alma 13:27-29).

Being submissive and meek makes us keenly aware of our blessings. I felt to say based upon my own life experiences with President Eyring, "I was blessed to know that whatever success I had in my career and family life was a gift from God."

This week marked a "dubious" milestone for Patsy and me. Our eldest grand-daughter Tessi gave birth to an infant daughter. They named her Quincy Aida Wood. That makes five generations of our family now living on planet Earth! What a breathtaking thought! This little girl threatened an early arrival a couple of months ago, but as we united our faith and prayers as a family on her behalf her delivery was delayed until she could be born full-term at a healthy 8 lbs. 1 oz. with a full head of black hair! I don't think we ever recover from the miracle that is birth, no matter how many times we witness it. And our gratitude finds a way to expand exponentially.

Sometimes we lose sight for a season of our blessings. President Eyring suggested that happens when "[our] desires for professional success might have created a pavilion that would make it hard for [us] to find God and harder for [us] to listen to and follow His invitations." He reflected, "My personal ambitions might have clouded my view of reality and made it hard for me to receive revelation."

As you reflect on your own life, how often can you find a time when "my desire to know and do His will gave me a soul-stretching opportunity?" I thought of one in recent years. My world had turned upside down almost overnight when a long-sought fulfillment was snatched away at the finish line. I found myself adrift in the aftermath of the worldwide financial meltdown, having to search for employment late in life.

I reached out for help from the Employment Resource Center sponsored by the Church. To make a long story shorter, I was invited to accept a calling with Patsy as a senior missionary couple to serve as the Chair of the Professional Placement Program. I found it so ironic. I wasn't considering myself retired and certainly not eligible to be called a "senior" missionary. I still had years of work ahead of me. However, I learned a valuable lesson about service. It could not have come at a worse time in our lives. I needed to focus on my own employment needs. How was I to be able to give precious time I didn't feel I had to serve others in their search? As I helped others network into new opportunities, I found few were helping me. "Where was I to find answers to my own problem?" we wondered frequently. I learned that service to others of any kind is rarely convenient.

As the months in that assignment unfolded we found marvelous fulfillment not only in helping others, but it seemed our own prayers were being answered. Marvelous lasting relationships with those we served were forged out of the fires of our shared adversity. I was fond of reminding those who showed up week after week, "Look around, you're in good company. Don't let your temporary unemployment situation define you."

And so it was. My heart was drawn out continually as I watched the suffering of those we served. My own appreciation for my blessings was heightened. I found joy again. From the joy came new hope for the future. None of it happened overnight. In fact, it has taken years since it all happened to fully appreciate just how blessed we have been. And isn't that true for all of us? We are rarely able to discern the blessings while we are in the crucible of our suffering. Only looking back do we fully appreciate that we were not consumed in the fires of adversity, only singed a little.

I also learned perhaps the most valuable lesson of a lifetime. "We can't insist on our timetable when the Lord has His own." While we often have an agenda for goals being reached on the timetable we set for ourselves, God is often interested in a completely different timetable with eternal objectives. We are in such a rush to get things done here and now, and He is willing to wait upon the harvest a bit longer. Said President Eyring, "We remove the pavilion when we feel and pray, 'Thy will be done' and 'in Thine own time.' His time should be soon enough for us since we know that He wants only what is best."

It seems God is willing let us simmer on the back burner as long as it takes for us to submit. He is willing to be invited to move us to the front burner when we are ready to accept His judgment for what is best for us. "Submitting fully to heaven's will. . ., is essential to removing the spiritual pavilions we sometimes put over our heads. But it does not guarantee immediate answers to our prayers." And I found that to be the case also. When you're building for eternity, it takes time for the cement to cure a bit in the weather.

Who could doubt the time it took for Abraham and Sarah? God had purposes in mind that had to be fulfilled first before the promised blessings were realized in their lives. "Those purposes included not only building Abraham and Sarah's faith but also teaching them eternal truths that they shared with others on their long, circuitous route to the land prepared for them. The Lord's delays often seem long; some last a lifetime. But they are always calculated to bless. They need never be times of loneliness or sorrow or impatience. Although His time is not always our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps His promises." I wondered how many childless couples there are today, and how many single women, who would give anything for the promised blessing of posterity. Sarah-like faith is to be prized as we wait upon Him. And that requires patience.

Paul reminds us, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:26-29).

Abraham-like, we are often required to remove our "pavilions of motivations" by waiting patiently upon the Lord for His promises to be fulfilled. The harvest will come, even unto the fifth generation. Of that, I am sure.

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