Monday, March 30, 2009

Childlike Submission

I had an interesting teaching moment with my children the other day and thought I would record it on my wife's blog. I felt I needed to explain to them something essential to understanding the nature of life and God and an opportunity presented itself. I wasn't exactly sure how they would take it and how much they would truly understand. 

For background, a few months ago we found out that a family in our ward/congregation was pregnant with a baby boy. That baby, it was found, had medical problems in utero and there was at least some risk to his chances of survival after birth. We told our girls to pray for the baby and they prayed for him faithfully in our family prayers. We fasted for their family, hoped for a miracle and continued to pray for the family over a month or two. It was beautiful to hear the innocent faith of our girls as they prayed for the Gubler baby (and even funny to hear Lauren to pray for the "goog-a-ler baby." Last week, we found out that the mom gave birth to a baby boy (Dax Gubler), who lived for 12 hours and then passed away. Our hearts ached for them and we remembered our pains suffered in the confines of a sterile hospital. 

Now to the conversation: we gathered around and Stephanie and I explained to the girls what happened to the Gubler's baby. I then explained that sometimes we pray with faith and ask for something but God does not give it to us. Sometimes He has a different plan. Sometimes we ask for a miracle but He has a different plan. I asked the girls, "should we be angry?" "No," came the response. "Do we stop believing in Him?" "No."

Stephanie talked about the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane saying, "if it is possible, let this cup pass from me." In other words, Jesus wanted to know if there was some way for Him NOT to suffer. Yet He said, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." He ultimately said, even though this is what I want I will bend what I want to what YOU want. 

We talked about how we prayed for Camille and yet God had a different plan. We prayed for this baby, but God had a different plan. Some times, God has something special in mind that is different from our desires. My girls, somewhat surprisingly, were very understanding. They had no qualms or questions. They understood that God knows best.

Afterwards, I thought about how many adults are spiritually wounded by not having their prayers answered. How a loving God can let something so terrible happen. It is true that terrible things happen to good people--even people that are praying with true faith for deliverance from that terrible situation. And yet, that prayer goes seemingly unanswered. Sometimes terrible things happen because people with their agency to act, perform terrible acts on others. 99.9% of the time, God will not intervene and stop that agency. We retain our power to choose. Other times, such as in the cases of health, God has the power to heal. I have seen that healing power. However, when it happened it was God's will. Sometimes the pain we experience from unanswered prayers generates an unexpected strength to conquer greater tasks ahead. 

I think a child understands the concept of submission to "God's will" more readily than an adult because they are so much more subject to the whims/desires of others, such as their parents. I remembered a scripture in the Book of Mormon that states, "For the natural man is an enemy to God...and will be...unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit...and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflect upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19)

As I sat reflecting on the conversation with my girls after the fact, I thought maybe this lesson is more often for us adults than for the humble children.


Anonymous said...

thank you.

April said...

Thank you for sharing. I needed that.

Heidi said...

The "goog a ler" family has appreciated your prayers! =)
Thank you for this sweet reminder and lesson you have taught your girls and then shared with all of us. Having you in their ward is a blessing at this time. Thank you for all you and your sweet little family have done for Don & Marcy!

~plaid said...

True. I definitely feel that if I could change my feelings of feeling subjected to "God's Will" to submissive I would be more at peace with it all. I have a hard time trusting that it really is the God I believe in who knew what was to come, and yet leaves us comfortless in so many ways. I think that children have the advantage of being able to oversimplify things. Black and white, wrong and right. Those of us who think so deeply struggle to reconcile all the seeming contradictions in "God's Plan" (such as how it took me YEARS to understand that the seeming contradiction between His commandment to Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the Earth could not be obeyed unless they disobeyed His commandment to eat only from every tree except the one that would bring on mortality and all of its experiences--that there was truly a purpose in this and not as much a contradiction in that He had provided The Way). I think that many adults are childish to believe oversimplified things instead of searching out knowledge and understanding. Some of us are thrust into these classrooms and faced with the realities. So as adults, there are a variety of ways we are childish yet need to work toward becoming childlike.

Megan D. said...

How lucky your girls are to have a father like you!! What a perfect teaching moment!

Christina said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Sue said...

Very true. If only all of us were as humble as our children, accepting God's will for us without question. We would sure weather life's storms more readily, wouldn't we?

Mimi's Toes said...

Very true lesson. Thank you for sharing this.

tiffunny said...

Thanks! I think i will steal many of your words and ideas & do this lesson for my children. I've been so busy trying to help out with things that I haven't even really sat down with them & talked with them about the loss of their cousin like I should have. You have inspired me that I must do this tonight. Thanks again for all you guys have done for my family!

kathryn_m said...

Hi Jon:

Thank you so much for sharing how you handled this wonderful teaching opportunity with your children.

I was 8 months pregnant with my 4th child when the 3rd, a toddler son, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder like his older brother. Needless to say, I was devastated.

Fast foward a year and a half and my 4th child, a daughter, was also diagnosed.

It was like my legs were cut from under me. I went through all the stages of grief and brought Our Lord along with me. It was a bumpy ride.

I pleaded, begged, bargained with Heavenly Father. Nothing. Then I got angry and demanded. I wouldn't "speak" to Him for weeks. Well, that didn't turn out so good either.

In the acceptance stage, I asked The Lord to strenthen my back to carry the load. During this time, our 3rd child's development soared! Within 9 months, he only had a hint of past problems. Currently, he is doing post grad studies after receiving an honors degree in chemistry. He is a very social, kind and loving young man who bears no evidence of his past struggles and, most importantly, loves his Lord.

I have given much thought as to why one child was cured and not the other two. Was it due to my submission? I don't believe so.

What I do believe is that it was God's plan all along. Why, I don't know but what I do know is this:

"God allowed in His wisdom that which He could have altered with His power."

It will come as surprise to no one that my prayers were for a cure. At first, that is ALL I asked for Him to do.

[I referred to Ray being my Godsend in Stephanie's anniversary post. I guess my story was meant to be told.]

At the time of Haylee's diagnosis, I was in a very unhappy marriage which crumbled under the stresses. I will spare you the details but it was when I stopped asking and, at times, demanding that God heal my children and instead prayed for Him to strengthen my back, that He brought Ray into our lives.

During my last pregnancy, I suffered a severe spinal injury so my prayers were both literal and figurative regarding my back. I was by then a single mother with a disability who had 4 children - 3 of whom also had disabilities.

My union with Ray was through God's hands. How many men would take on such a challenge and form a solid Christian family? I am so grateful for God's wisdom and intervention.

My back never did get much better in the physical sense but how much stonger it is with Ray at my side.

Looking back, I can clearly see that had my children not had disabilities, I would never have met Ray for it was through our joint involvement in disability issues that we met. We lived in different provinces.

We celebrated our 17th anniversay last week and, like you guys, our love deepens with time. Our children are as blessed to have him as their father as I am to have him as my life's partner.

My life's struggles have humbled me and brought me closer to our Father in Heaven. There are still lots of things I don't understand but I TRUST.

Thnx for this opportunity to share!

Jonathan Waite said...

Thank you for sharing. Good for you in making it through the tough times. Interesting how it's easier to reflect on the experience after the fact when the storm has passed but very difficult to be objective when the winds are howling. You said,

I pleaded, begged, bargained with Heavenly Father.

Yes, I remember doing exactly that in the hospital with Camille. Accepting His will can be so difficult sometimes. I would have gratefully given my left arm (or whatever) for her to survive but that was not the sacrifice He had in mind.

kathryn_m said...

Hi again Jon:

Yes, you are so right.

At the time, I felt my prayers went unheard and "unheeded". Mighty presumptuos of me, huh?

It was only later that I came to realize that Heavenly Father was listening closely and did in fact answer me prayers - just not in the way I had wanted at the time.

In my anger phase, I remember vividly sitting at my table at 3 in the morning and saying: "Ok Lord, not bad enough that my back is broken but then you give me a load that even Hercules couldn't carry".

A week or so later, it was: "Ok, seems this ain't working so I guess what I need to for you to strenthen my back".

I met Ray a short time later.

Amanda said...

It's sometimes hard for us to see what His plan is for us. It's even harder when we see good and rightous people who have to suffer.

It's wonderful that your children were able to accept God's plan so completely. We're so trusting when we're children, it's such a beautiful innocence.

Mari Burgess said...

I've learned through trials in my life that its not the trial in life that matters it how you deal with it. I used to understand and believed that when trials come into your life that if you pray that Heavenly Father will "Give you rest" like it says in Matthew 11:28 and that He "...Comes quickly" (D&C 54:10). I always believed that... until He didn't come "quickly" for me....where was my rest, wasn't I just as important as those whose trials were lifted immediately? It took some time to understand that the rest He brings isn't always the answer WE are asking for, or in the time frame we want...the rest He brings is comfort when we truly trust and have faith in Him and in his plan, however thorny it may feel at the time. Faith isn't enduring till it gets hard or we've had enough, faith is enduring till the end...even if we don't get what we think we want. "He can move mountains of grief, and oceans of pain....but sometimes He lets it rain...He lets the fierce winds blow. Sometimes it takes a storm to lead a heart where it can grow." Tell your friend that she's in my prayers. Isn't it beautiful that perfect strangers can pray for eachother and be heard?