"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Airplanes and Charity

12:46 was the time that my flight was supposed to get in. It was going to work perfectly.  I would get in at 12:46, I didn’t have to wait for a bag or anything, so I could just go right outside to find my lovely friend who was waiting to pick me up. We would take our quick twenty-minute ride to the Salt Lake temple and I would be super on-time, early even, to the beautiful temple sealing that was to take place at 1:40. That was the plan. I knew it was a little risky, but most flights usually arrive early and I figured with a little faith, all would work out.

I had been praying for weeks that everything would work out with my flights so that I would make it to the temple on time. Cue the “get me to the church on time” music (points if you can name that musical!). 

Initially, when the flight from Phoenix was a little late in leaving, I didn’t think too much about it. Even when they announced that there were some mechanical problems, I wasn’t stressed about it. I had confidence that the Lord wouldn’t let me miss the wedding. It would be just fine.
But, as we waited for parts and as it kept taking more and more time, I started to feel very anxious. Our departure just kept getting pushed back and back. We took off an hour later than we were supposed to and so if we arrived an hour later than planned, I was going to miss the wedding. I’m not great at math, but I had figured out that 12:46 + 1 hour= 1:46. And 1:46> 1:40. I don’t know how to express that last part mathematically, but hopefully that gets the idea across!

As I sat there fretting and worrying, the lady next to me asked me something and I think I told her I was anxious about making it to the wedding and she responded with, “Yeah, looks like you probably won’t make that.” Thank you random stranger lady for your kind and comforting words. And thank you for teaching me to ALWAYS lie to strangers on a plane when it comes to them making the wedding that was the sole purpose of their trip.

With her words ringing in my ears and the time slowly ticking closer to 1:40, I will admit that I started to feel a little hurt. I had been praying for this and asking for this to work out since I purchased the ticket. How could this have happened? Of all the flights I have been on recently, there haven’t been any problems. Why would this happen?!
Then it just kept taking forever and forever. We didn’t land until 1:30 and at this point I was distraught. I think I was on my feet before the plane even fully landed. The nearest flight attendant seemed to be so shocked by my behaviors that she didn’t even react as I was on my feet, getting out my bag from the overhead compartment before they had even given us permission to undo our seatbelts.

I very ungracefully and ungraciously shoved my way to the front, muttering “Wedding! Late!” as I shoved past people. (*I like to think that I am a fairly well-mannered individual, but I was legitimately shoving past people towards the front of the plane. Even I was shocked at my own behavior.)  I was the first person to reach the door and it wasn’t even open yet, but the second it was, you best believe that I sprinted through the airport, church clothes and all, arms pumping, all the way to the waiting car. People were like diving out of my way and I was shouting, “Trust me, I’m a limo driver!” as I ran past. Not really, but maybe some of you got the reference.

I had discovered that they were running a little late with the wedding, so there was a chance I would still make it. My dear friend drove safely and swiftly to the temple and dropped me off at the curb. I did my best Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow impression as I ran in my heels to the temple door. Then I let my fast-walking skills kick- in through the temple halls. I tried to keep my patience with the ancient temple worker who was having a hard time hearing my question as to where sealing room 13 was… (Are you two still living? Just kidding! I’ll probably get struck down for that one…). I fast walked to the room and the temple workers outside were unsure as to whether it had started, so one of them peeked in…

And miracle of MIRACLES! I wasn’t there until like 1:50-something, but they still hadn’t started! They let me in and within a minute or two of being there, the advice-giving time ended and the ordinance started. I made it just in time.

I discovered later that the mother of the groom had forgotten her temple recommend and that was why the ceremony was late in getting started.

Though I was super pumped up about being on-time to the wedding, it also made me feel a little guilty. Because the first moment that it seemed like I was going to miss it, when the plane problems were not being resolved, I doubted in Heavenly Father. In my head it was kind of like this, “Man. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks and I’ve been praying for it. How could it not work out?! Why would Heavenly Father let this happen? He knew how much this meant to me. How could our plane be late?!” I let myself lose that trust in Him and His wisdom. 

In my mind, it was like I had this plan for how things should happen. The plane would leave on time, the connecting flight would be just fine, traffic would all be swell, etc. And when my plan wasn’t happening, I immediately doubted. I was walking on the water and then I wasn’t anymore. 

But Heavenly Father’s plan was maybe something like this: first plane will be fine, second plane needs to be fixed so they all don't crash and die, Daniel's mom will forget her recommend, Tara will run through the airport and she is slow at running in heels, so the sealer's advice will go a little on the long-side before the actual ceremony begins. 

Okay, so, maybe it isn't exactly like that. I don't actually know what "the plan" was and I will probably never really know. And I bet throughout my life, I will probably rarely know the actual plan. But, whatever the plan was, Heavenly Father got me to the temple in time for the wedding. 

This moment with the planes and the recommend and the Lord’s plan not being my plan all felt like this microcosmic parallel to my life and I realized that in a lot of ways, I haven’t been putting my trust in Heavenly Father like I want to. It’s like that difference between “believing in Christ” and “believing Christ.”

Over the past year, I have felt like I had all these different plans for my life. In my mind it was like, “Oh, this thing is happening to me, so I think I’m going to do this.” And then that didn’t work out, so I was like, “Okay, so I’ll try this next thing” and then it was like, “You really want this, but that isn’t what you are going to do.” Then it was like, “Go to Boston and do Teach for America,” and I was like, “Okay.” And then I started teaching and there was no way that I ever could have been prepared for the situation I found myself in. I hate saying that things are hard, but it was hard. 

And in that moment, once again, I felt a little hurt. Like, “Heavenly Father, I have tried so hard to do what was right and I’ve tried to listen to the spirit and be obedient, but why is this my responsibility? Why is this what I have to do? Why did it have to be so hard?” I had my plans and views of my life and how it should be and my trust in the Lord and His ways was tested a little bit. 

Somewhere deep within me, I hoped that it would get better, and I knew that Heavenly Father had a plan in all of this, but it felt like it was going to be two years of hard. With my limited view, I couldn’t possibly imagine how it would ever not be terrible. I couldn’t picture enjoying work at all.
But, luckily, the Lord kept working with me. I felt His love and support and also His patience. I felt like in a lot of ways I knew He expected me to keep progressing and growing, and I received direction as to certain areas I needed to work on, but I felt very reassured that He still loved me even though I felt like this broken person. I was not at my best and I knew that, but I also felt like I couldn't give more. I couldn't be more. I was doing my best in that particular situation and it wasn't much, but it was my best. 

In 2nd Peter (along with other places in the scriptures) there is this chain of characteristics and they all build on each other, and the chain starts with faith. All the other characteristics build on that foundation of faith, through diligence. I feel like for a while there, I was giving like the bare minimum of faith and obedience. All I could give was my obedience and nothing more. Everything else was too much. Or at least at first. But the Lord stayed with me and supported me and helped me start working my way past just mere obedience, just faith, towards the other attributes.

The little attribute chain ends with charity, “which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—but charity… endureth forever…” And I definitely had a long ways to go to build my charity in this particular situation in my life. I feel like loving people has never been a hard thing for me, but with my students this year… they tested me on my capacity to love. They still are, actually. But I feel like I'm at least getting closer to "brotherly kindness" on the scale, if not quite charity... 

It was funny to me, because in church one Sunday, this guy mentioned in his talk about how we will pray for certain attributes or whatever and the Lord will find ways to answer that prayer. Now, I know we have all heard joking about things like that, like, “Oh, I prayed for patience and then this situation happened and the Lord answered my prayer, just not in the way I expected.” So, while I have heard that idea before, when he spoke, I couldn’t help but remember the prayers of my younger self.

When I was a little girl, like elementary school status, I remember that I prayed for charity every day. I had read in The Book of Mormon about how we should pray for that, so I did.  I don’t think I quite understood how that whole thing worked. I think I was waiting to wake up one day and be like, “Dang! I’m charitable! Look at all the charity I have! I love everyone! And not just in a loving way, but in the purest, most Christ-like way ever.” I think it is the same way that you sometimes think that your sixteenth birthday will help you get out of your awkward stage.” Like, “Oh, I’m sixteen now, so I’m not awkward anymore and I woke up acne free and beautiful.” Just me? Oh, okay. Maybe I am the only one who thought that would happen for my sixteenth birthday…

But I’m sure other people realized a lot sooner than I did that praying for charity wasn’t going to suddenly make me this charity-machine. Just as my awkward didn't vanish at sixteen years. 

Sometimes I blame my younger self for my current situation, because Heavenly Father has definitely given me an opportunity now to develop my charity. All those years of charity-asking-prayers have been answered! Yay….

But anyway… the point is, I am a slow learner. And no matter how many times Heavenly Father reminds me that He is very good at what He does, you know, “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” and making sure we are in the right place at the right time, I forget sometimes. 

My Plan A that involves on-time planes and no traffic etc, is not always the Lord’s Plan A. But his Plan A is the best. Sometimes when I recognize that I have forgotten to trust in Him and sometimes when I don’t “handle” situations with as much faith and whatever as I would maybe like… I feel a little disappointed in myself. And it makes me want to do a little better the next time. Luckily, though, the Lord stays with me and I think He might be a little sad that I don’t trust Him fully at times, but I also think He is very forgiving and patient with that too. And you know what, those 2nd Peter attributes can be developed with diligence. Diligence always wins the prize. I'm not trying to lose this match!