My Dad really hates to be told what to do and my mom, in her own words, loves things that are “irreverent.” So you can see why obedience is a challenge for me, the product of their mischevious DNA.
In case you didn’t know, we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and some would say there are a lot of “rules” to follow as members of this church so you can see my predicament.
I often think of the counsel we’re given from Church Leaders as sort of “suggestions” and then craft brilliant arguments for why some of it doesn’t apply to me. Take “R“ rated movies for example. Some people should avoid them but I can handle them because I don’t have a problem with pornography or violence or swearing. Except for Bible swear words. You know, the ones they use in the Bible. Surely those are appropriate and necessary from time to time as long as there are no children around, right?
Perhaps you’re familiar with the analogy you’re taught as a young girl in the Mormon church that says, “If there is a cliff and you don’t want to fall off, rather than walking right along the edge, why not stay back a few feet?” I’m sort of an edge of the cliff walker and sometimes I’ll admit, I’ve fallen and it hurt like hell. See what I mean. “Hell” is biblical. Today there are some cliffs I completely steer clear of, but others I still like to peek over the edge of from time to time. The problem with this is, it’s an exhausting and dangerous way to live. On the outside I’m sometimes going through the motions while inside I’m having a toddler-like tantrum. You know what I’m talking about.
But recently I discovered something that changed things entirely. Perhaps it was an answer to my kids’ prayers (I have two rule followers who apparently take after my husband’s side of the family) or just the Lord deciding I needed a little help, but I had this realization that I thought I’d share just in case you are a rebellious woman too. And if you are, can we please hang out?
I used to think of the commandments as someone telling me what to do or what not to do. I choose to try and follow them because that “someone” happens to be God and His son, Jesus Christ. But then I realized they are not that at all. What they are, in fact, are nothing more than strategies. From the Ten Commandments to counsel given in General Conference. And while I don’t like being told what to do, I do love to work hard at a strategy. Even if it’s tough. Especially if it’s tough! Here’s what I mean.
If you have a goal, the best way I know to reach that goal is to list all of the obstacles that stand between you and the goal, and then write a strategy for each one, which becomes your action plan. For example, in my corporate job we used to have a goal around generating customer referrals to help our business grow. We might set a goal like, “Every employee should collect a minimum of 10 referrals per month from their customers.” The obstacles to reaching the goal often included things like:
- Employees felt uncomfortable asking customers to refer friends
- Employees often forgot to ask
- They didn’t have enough motivation to achieve the goal
Then we would developed a strategy for each obstacle:
- We will hold a training where the top three referral generators will share why people shouldn’t be afraid to ask and share when and how they do it
- Each employee will develop some sort of visual reminder
- Employees who reach their goal will get to wear jeans to work on Fridays the following month (I KNOW this sounds absurd but you would be AMAZED at what people will do for jeans in corporate America.)
SO, imagine Heavenly Father is sending each of us to Earth to get bodies, to grow and have amazing experiences, and to be challenged and tested. And the goal is for us to return to live with Him, but there are all sorts of obstacles to reaching the goal.
The many mistakes we’ll make
The temptations all around us
The confusing messages about what is “right” or “good”
Our nature as humans
Our tendency to question our worth
We can’t remember choosing to follow God’s plan
We have weaknesses and won’t be able to do all He’s asked on our own
Satan and his amazing marketing skills
Etc . . .
And so when this Plan of Salvation was developed, God wrote a strategy to help overcome each of these obstacles so that we could reach the goal. The first important part of the strategy is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His gift to us makes up for our mistakes when we repent, and His grace compensates for our weaknesses.
The commandments are strategies for the rest. We’re given a lot of strategy because there are so many obstacles to the goal of Eternal Life with God. We continue to get updated strategy as the world changes and society evolves. And last week as I was standing at the Redbox trying to choose between the really fantastic looking “R” rated film or nothing because the rest were all really lame looking, I thought to myself, “You can watch that movie if you want to, but it’s not following the strategy so it lessens your chance of reaching your goal.” Then I walked home and watched pre-recorded episodes of Jimmy Fallon. I needed a good laugh anyway.
Sometimes the Lord gives me a little glimpse of how His strategy works, other times I have to just trust Him and sometimes I still just creep on up to the edge of the cliff and spit. But I’m beginning to conquer my own inner toddler and that feels awesome.
One of the things I miss most about my corporate job is playing a small role in a massive strategy that will help us all reach a big, difficult amazing goal. When we did it I could feel proud of the part I’d played. When we missed it I could reflect on what I didn’t do enough of. I still like having goals like that in my life, but when I think about the counsel and commandments as strategy developed by Heavenly Father, it makes me WANT to follow it. That feels amazing and it’s taken me 40 years to get to this point.
Take THAT Lyman DNA. I own you now.
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