Maybe because recently I have found myself thinking this thought "they will get what they deserve" or "what goes around comes around" or whatever horribly judgemental thing we tell ourselves when we see someone "get away with" something that we perceive as wrong. Is there some cruel human part of me that hopes that others who do things that seem mean, hurtful, dishonest, or evil will get some type of "pay back" for those actions? And is that what I think is on God's agenda? As if He does not have better things to do than go after the people who are hurting others and punish them. Does He?
After reading this article I realized He definitely does. Going after the rest of us.
I love the example He gives of the followers of Alma who "established a Zion community in Helam but then were brought into bondage. They did not deserve their suffering - quite the contrary - but the record says:
"Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten His people: yea, He trieth their patience and their faith.
Nevertheless - whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was was with this people." (Mosiah 23:21-22
(P.S. My spell check is loving all of these putteth and trieth and other fun words!)
Here it is. The answer to my most difficult questions right in front of me. "why me?"
Why when JT is working so hard is he not accepted? Why have I watched us move up on wait list only to be denied? Why do I hear his colleagues saying in shock that they wrote him good letters of recommendations, that he is the top choice and even they are not being heard? Why - when we are doing all that we should do - why are we not being blessed?
But in reading this article I realize that God is not out looking for those who "deserve" it so that He can "let them have it". He is looking for those who "deserve" it, and chastening us. So that when I am ready, he can "let me have it". All of it.
The other story Elder Christofferson shared was about President Hugh B. Nibley. (It is just too good to paraphrase)
"He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”
Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.
“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …
“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”5
I remember hearing this for the first time in April and wanting to cry for the sad little tree.
I love picturing President Nibley shaking his fists at Heaven. Maybe because it is something I think I have done in the last two years. I have asked Why we have been led down this path, why we have completely changed careers and direction? Why someone so qualified as JT can be overlooked? President Nibley knew it was because the Gardener had a better plan in store. I am not sure at what point it all became clear to him. I look forward to that moment when we can look back and say "ah, that is why it happened this way"
For now, I am able to see that Heavenly Father does give us what we deserve. Not because "what goes around, come around" but because I deserve the chance to be pruned back so that I can grow. I deserve the miracle that the people of Alma felt when their burdens were lifted and they were finally delivered. I deserve the opportunity to put my faith in Him and let it be tested. JT deserves an opportunity to prove himself and his capabilities. He deserves the chance to fight for something he wants and loves and not give up when it doesn't go the way he planned.
We are being blessed. Not in the ways we expected. But we do get what we deserve - or at least what Heavenly Father knows we need.