Surrendering our Minds to God
by H. Wallace Goddard
She recounted one miracle after another. Several miracles of friends raised up to guide her spiritual journey. Uncounted “coincidences” that hooked her up with the Lord and His church. Even opportunities to testify to struggling members and non-members using truths unearthed in her years of exploration in the church. Miracles littered the landscape of her life. There was no denying that God was ministering personally and nearly-constantly to her.
Yet she resisted any suggestion that the Lord had ordained her for joy. “Joy is for others. Not for me.” She resisted the possibility that there might be anything but a hard life and terrestrial glory in store for her. “I could never make it.”
For each of us, God stands ready to part the Red Sea. Yet all we can think of is tired feet and endless tracts of wilderness. God invites us to warm ourselves at the burning bush. Yet the prospect of those sacred moments is eclipsed by the chilly nights we spend alone.
The natural mind is an enemy to God.
Not only does the disappointment and pain of daily struggles occupy more of our mental space than the miracles, such pain becomes the lens through which we view all the events of our lives. The miracles are reduced to a faint memory without personal meaning. The previous joys become merely a reminder that we have come down from the mountain to a valley of dull despair.
I think of the friend who had been married for over 30 years with many remarkable children. His family has blessed countless people. He is a man with deep insight into the gospel of Jesus Christ. He hit a rough place in his life. Unemployment. Uncertainty about the future. Discouragement with life. Contention at home. One day he told me that his wife was being unusually selfish and unhelpful lately. (The fact that he was discouraged and prickly may have been a significant part of the story.) He ruminated: “In fact, it seems that she has been selfish for years. In fact . . .” he thought back over the years “I’m not sure I ever loved her.”
Yikes! Today’s troubles not only burden the present but can cause us to re-write our entire history. A small bit of undigested potato can cause us to re-cast our whole history with despair as its theme. The load of joys and miracles is erased from the book of life and replaced with a smudge. “Human beings are inevitably the arsonists of their own happiness” (Robinson, 1992, Believing Christ, p. 116). And our way of thinking provides the fuel for that conflagration.
I wonder if our covenants with God are supposed to bind to His holy purposes not only our actions but also our thoughts. When I am baptized, I promise not only to serve fellow travelers but also to interpret all of my experiences through the lens of faith. I commit to see God and His goodness in all things. When I was sealed to Nancy, I covenanted not only to take out household trash to curbside but also to haul any unkind trash about her from my mind. I made a sacred covenant to see and emphasize all that is good about my beloved partner.
This very moment there are seven pictures of Nancy on my desk. They range from when she was one year old sitting with her brother Acel at Thorne studios to the family pose in the Great Salt Lake to the picture of her and me on the swing in the backyard with grandson Shad. Part of the burden of faith is to choose to see, remember, and cherish the sacred moments God has granted us. They should be the focal points of our lives. In the mortal journey, we can collect and savor joy. Clearly there are times when this will require some creative interpreting of our lives. Creative interpreting is a pretty good way of understanding faith.
When we make covenants with God, we promise to give Him more than a little time and our spare change. We promise Him everything, including our hearts-all our heart, might, mind, and strength. Even our private thoughts are to be filtered of ruminations and recriminations. Mortal assessments are to be replaced with heavenly perspective. Our view of others is informed
“by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:42).
There is nothing that will enlarge our souls quite like pure knowledge, that view of each other and our purposes that is filled with divine light.
So I collect picture frames and I fill them with joy, hope, meaning, and celebration. We can all frame our patriarchal blessings and hang them in our hearts. We frame a picture of the struggling child and focus on his finest moments. We frame a memory of a sacred experience and guide our lives by its truth.
The file box on my desk holds several hundred index cards each of them filled with the discoveries of a given Sabbath. I am not quite sure how to integrate all their truths into today, but I feel the blessing of having been entrusted with so many souvenir rocks and cones along the journey of life.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3, emphasis added).
Good counsel. We can languish in the valley of doubt or we can look to Jesus in our climb up the mountain of certitude for our rendezvous with God. We can fill our minds with the perplexities of mortality or guide our lives by recollected Truths and Joys.
Our jumble of mortal experiences can be understood with the template of fretting or the lens of faith. Either process will yield a coherent story. One interpretation burdens us; the other blesses. The choosing is ours.
We can see our lives as tragedies of failed character, as comedies of errors, or as masses of confusion. We can write our lives’ stories with tragedy as the theme and fill them with pain and perfidy. Or we can write our stories with God as the hero and growth as the theme. When we write a book of the latter type, we ask ourselves, “How could it have been any better?” And He whispers: “It couldn’t have. I blessed you from start to finish with just the right experiences to minister to your growth.”
Each day as we make sense of our lives we add to the story line. We let in more light or we groan in the darkness. Some of us cling to the miserable but safely-familiar plot line. Some of us open our minds to see His purposes. We all do it imperfectly. Yet, if we endure to the End, it will be glorious.
Nested in a familiar chapter is a stunning insight by a brilliant philosopher named Alma:
O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; (Alma 32:35)
Only the Light is real. May God help each of us find and cherish Light.
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