Gospel Doctrine Old Testament Lesson #22; 1 Samuel 9–11. 1 Samuel 13:1–14, 1 Samuel 15, 1 Samuel 16, 1 Samuel 17.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6.)
I learned an eternal lesson about trusting God’s plan over my own perspective. You can read the story here.
But, I also think that injunction is only half the battle.
OF COURSE we should trust in the Lord. Our own human understanding is limited— inherently myopic when judging only from the angle of our human experience. However, we can’t just throw in the towel either. The real goal is that we, as nascent gods, develop perfect understanding. If we are to be like our Heavenly Parents, we must practice seeing as They see.
Then how to go about developing perfect god-like understanding?
I live in India where the model of raising children is very different. A colleague once told me of his current situation— his father was in the hospital and he wanted his son to take over the management of the family. The trick was, as my colleague told me, he had never made an important decision in his life. I was dumbfounded. He was about 35— whatever did he mean he had never made an important decision? He clarified, “I didn’t decide where to go to university. I didn’t decide what to study. I didn’t decide who to marry. I have never bought a house or a car.”
Now, I don’t tell this story to install feelings of cultural superiority. I tell it to draw an analogy. While we need to NOT lean unto our own understanding and disregard God, we MUST actually practice learning to function as a god would.
What does this mean?
Developing gods means we have to learn to have perfect understanding and this takes practice. Probably more than this lifetime, but let’s work with what we’ve got. And while there are many proactive ways to develop, today I want to consider the ways I inadvertently curtail my growth.
How do I (and maybe you) curtail spiritual growth?
1. Perhaps we defer.
Years ago (this has since changed) a friend said she had deferred to her husband a decision since he had priesthood. She understood that we have been taught that men and women are equal partners and take decisions together— but somehow she just defaulted into this. You may not do this. But in what ways do we defer seeking for spiritual understanding in order to enlighten our decisions? Who do we defer to? Now, there are times when something is not our stewardship and it is appropriate to defer. But I think there are other times when we defer simply out of habit, laziness or fear of responsibility. Perhaps we just defer to our own understanding, rather than seeking divine perspective. Perhaps we defer to logic or the press of time. Perhaps we defer to tradition. Perhaps we defer to the reality of the circumstances (hard to pay tithing when you can’t make ends meet already)— when really we know that our Heavenly Parents work in ultimate reality rather than just temporary reality I think of being a God as being the Ultimate Being of Responsibility, and that means we don’t defer our spiritual growth.
2- Perhaps we don’t even seek.
We are told to seek God in all things. But, I admit, I tent to only bother the master of the universe when it is big. And then, recently, I heard a talk where the woman jokingly asked whether we thought God only had a limited bandwidth. Like the omnipotent being in the universe could only handle so much. That made me re-think my default behavior. And, perhaps that’s not even the point. The point is that when I practice asking God, when I am having the humility to ask, then I am not only (*only*) building a relationship with deity, but I am also developing the ability to see from a god-like perspective. I am asking to develop my perfect understanding.
3- Perhaps we don’t trust.
Perhaps we find ourselves in a place where it is difficult to trust God. Where, simply, it is easier to leave our Heavenly Parents out of our lives rather than face the fact that we feel betrayed. Or we feel unsafe with the paths they have led us on. Perhaps we don’t trust ourselves— that we can actually get answers to questions or handle the answers that come. Developing perfect understanding demands trust in the learning process. And that can be tough.
4-Perhaps we don’t teach our children.
I think our Heavenly Parents constantly are teaching us. We have been told that all experiences work for our good. I think this means that everything we experience is part of our ultimate growth and development, which, I think, means we have some very energetic Heavenly Parents. I, on the other hand, have times when I am just too worn to teach. When I let opportunities go by to put out the oomph it takes to love and teach my children. Not only does that curtail their growth, but it curtails my own as well. The key pedagogy of life should be— how do we build a relationship with God so that we can practice becoming more godlike? If I am to become divine, then I need to continue to develop my parenting attributes.
5- Perhaps we judge.
I think one of the ways I curtail my perfect understanding is by judge others. We are told that God looks on the heart. I think that must be a key method of having perfect understanding. If we want to develop this same divine understanding, then we must practice not judging people based on their outward appearance, behavior or circumstances. I think I am better at giving strangers the benefit of the doubt over some of those I know and love best.
6- Perhaps we think short term or even get mired in the current reality.
Simply, the way things are is not necessarily the way things should be. And, the challenges we suffer now are not the sum of our lives. If we despair in the moment, then we are not seeing the long-term or even considering there is an eternal view. Our Heavenly Parents see in terms of eternity – not something I am very good at.
7- We spin into negative.
My sister-in-law recently posted to our family group a lesson she had learned at Liberty Jail. Joseph is not only suffering in jail but he is mourning the suffering of the Saints as well. God’s response is to tell Joseph to “garnish” his thoughts “unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). As my sister-in-law said, if we dwell on the virtuous then we have the energy to handle the rest. Now, I don’t have to handle jails and midwest blizzards. I have my own set of personal dungeons, but I think that’s an important point in not curtailing our spiritual growth. If we slide (and stay) in the negative, we can’t grow — we’re stuck.
I have shared with you a lot of the ways I curtail my growth. I am sure there are more. But, I think the challenge is that this week, I pick one. Maybe you could pick one too. Let’s find one way that we can make sure our time this week is spent in expansive ways. How can we practice our imperfect but important-to-develop perfect understanding? Lets practice being divine.