“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit!”

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“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit!” was the line that Han Solo said in Star Wars when Luke was trying to get him to help save Princess Leia on the Death Star. Luke Skywalker said, something to the effect of, if you help save this princess, “the reward would be … well, more wealth than you can imagine.”

We are told to dream big, to imagine, to reach for the stars, to wish upon a star.  All of these ideas are remarkable, and help a person begin to do the work.  The problem is that most of these motivational slogans don’t come with the tagline –  “Dream big: and follow that dream with more work than you can even imagine, and once there, it may not be the dream that you were hoping for.”   That is one of the paradoxes of life.

I once asked some friends, why did they think that God make this world to be such that we must continue in mundane, never-ending tasks?  For an example, you can work all day in cleaning or yard work, and it is totally satisfying to do the work.  But then, within what seems like a blink of an eye, everything that you have worked at is destroyed and you have to do it over again.  One friend gave an amazing answer – she said, “well, God had to give us something to keep us busy while we’re down here.” 🙂

Gordon B. Hinkley once said,

Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. [The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. … Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.  The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride” (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4).

Because I am a major idealist, the first time that I read that quote I wanted to cry.  I think that in my Han Solo moments, I have imagined that all things would be perfect.  Then, I find that President Hinckley was right.  It’s enough to make the idealist in me give up … if only I didn’t have so many ideas and dreams floating around!

But I’ve noticed something in my twenty something years as an adult … I’m getting better at the process of dream + work + problems = more work = dreams fulfilled, but not what I expected.

Working through the disappointment, toward the dream has made me better able to deal – both with the disappointment, and with the problems that tend to crop up along the way.  Something (say a glitch or mistake) that would have destroyed me a few years ago, seems to not have the same power over me that it did then.  I seem to be able to rub the smoke and dust out of my eyes or shrug off the delays and sidetracks better than I did when I was younger.

My daughter (age 8) is an idealist as well.  If she can’t have it her way, exactly as she wants it, she shuts down.  I keep telling her that things are not going to be perfect (in a watered-down President Hinckley-type speech).  I remind her that the only thing that she can do is choose how she is going to deal with the reality of her situation.  For example, I went out with her on a girl’s night on Friday (and we left my younger daughter on a Daddy-daughter date).  The next morning, we went to my nephew’s baptism.  Her sister got sick right before we left, and so her Dad opted to stay home with the younger and let us go to the event.

So, for two events in a row, I went with the older daughter and left the younger and Dad.  That afternoon, there was a neighborhood block party at a local Christian church that we had wanted to attend.  Obviously, little sister (sick with the flu) couldn’t go, but since I had left her for two other events, she desperately needed some mommy love and comfort.

Older daughter was incensed! Why couldn’t I take her to the party? (After all there would be games and treats and fun).  I said that she could go with Dad (who really didn’t want to go, but would have, if pressed).  She was furious.  She wanted to go with Mom!!!!  But circumstances would not warrant her desires, not matter how much she pushed.

Her choices were then –

  1. Continue to be miserable and make everyone else annoyed.
  2. Accept the circumstances, though disappointing, and try to make the best of it at home with family.
  3. Go with Dad, be miserable and make him annoyed.
  4. Go with Dad and try to make the best of it.

In essence, it could not be what she wanted, but there were plenty of other options available to her.

I say this, not to disparage my daughter, but to discuss our own moments when we are not gaining our imaginings from God.  How often do we rant and rave, or worse – give up, when we don’t have desired results?  Perhaps, it would be His good will to grant us our requests –  but not right now.  Perhaps there is another sibling on this earth who is desperately in need of the blessings that we are asking for and it is their turn to go first.

Meekness then, is the only attribute that will help when the imagination’s desires are not met.  Meekness to go to the Lord and ask why. Meekness to still move forward when the “why” is not readily given.  Meekness to accept others.  Meekness to accept counsel.  Meekness to follow promptings.

Consider this quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

Perhaps, brothers and sisters, what we brought with us as intelligences into our creation as spirit children constitutes a “given” within which even God must work. Add to that possibility the clear reality of God’s deep commitment to our free agency—and we begin to see how essential meekness is! We need to learn so much, and yet we are free to choose (see 2 Nephi 2:27)! How crucial it is to be teachable! There “is no other way” in which God could do what He has declared it is His intent to do. No wonder He and His prophets emphasize meekness time and time again!

Since God desired to have us become like Himself, He first had to make us free, to learn, to choose, and to experience; hence our humility and teachability are premiere determinants of our progress and our happiness. Agency is essential to perfectibility, and meekness is essential to the wise use of agency—and to our recovery when we have misused our agency. (Meekly Drenched in Destiny, BYU Address, September 5, 1982, for the full address, go here.)

Dream + Work + Meekness in Trial = more like the Lord … whose life here on earth surely was not of Princely Palace or Worldly Wealth.  It simply wasn’t Han Solo material.  But then, our prize in not for this life, is it?  Hopefully, when we end this life we can say, as Paul did:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

But for now, I’ll try to keep dreaming, and working … and maybe some of the experiences, work, and trials will allow me to see beautiful vistas and feel thrilling bursts of speed during the journey!

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By the sweat of the brow

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I’ve been thinking about work lately. Why is it that I can’t just enjoy my labors for a while? I do dishes and the sink is full, laundry is never done, weeds grow back within the week, just prepared one meal and it’s time to work on the next.

What does Father want me to learn through the monotony?

I asked a friend that, and she said, “Well, He had to keep us busy with something down here, otherwise we’ll get into trouble.” 🙂

I would spend my days creating if I could … writing, crafting, projects, etc. It’s work, but not the monotonous kind.

I just finished watching an episode of Hoarders a show on A&E in which a woman’s house was cleaned out.  She hadn’t thrown away anything in ten years.  As the workers cleared away the piles of rotting trash with shovels, she sat on her porch, never lifting a finger (except to look through the pile and pick out a few “treasures”).  Now, I understand that hoarding is a mental illness, and I am not putting down anyone with this problem.  I was just shocked that she sat, while others did her work.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a talk in General Conference, fall 2010 entitled, Reflections of a Consecrated Life in which he talked about the importance of work.  He said:

A consecrated life is a life of labor. Beginning early in His life, Jesus was about His Father’s business (see Luke 2:48–49). God Himself is glorified by His work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). We naturally desire to participate with Him in His work, and in so doing, we ought to recognize that all honest work is the work of God. In the words of Thomas Carlyle: “All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the Earth, has its summit in Heaven.” 3

God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion. I recall the Prophet Joseph Smith’s simple statement: “By continuous labor [we] were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance” (Joseph Smith—History 1:55). By work we sustain and enrich life. It enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience. Hard-earned achievement brings a sense of self-worth. Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires.

I guess that answers my question! What do I learn learn through work?

  • To sustain and enrich life,
  • helps us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience
  • brings a sense of self-worth
  • builds and refines character,
  • creates beauty,
  • and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God.

Thou Shalt and Drafting

One of my students, Ren Owen, recently wrote a paper about drafting (his chosen profession).   I was so impressed with one of his insights that I requested to share it here.  The following are his words, but are edited for clarity.

THE SHALL EXPERIENCE

I was drafting some details for an engineer and on his hand drawn copy I thought that maybe he had misspelled a word, so I used the word will. When he red-lined the drawing, he changed the word will to shall.

I thought it was strange because in my experience shall was a biblical word.

Thou shall not steal.

Thou shall not commit adultery.

I thought that it was funny and seemed foreign that when describing building material the word shall would be used.

The rebar shall be ½ inches in diameter.

The floor joist shall be placed 24 inches on center.

I laughed it off, but then I started noticing how often shall was used in the details. The more I thought about it, I realized that maybe the reason for using the word was because of its relation to the Bible. I figured that this was because of the severity of what could happen if a contractor didn’t  follow the specifications on a structure.  It  could be costly, even to the loss of life.  So, the builders should consider the specifications as if they were commandments.