Today, I’d like to focus on “grasping the dash,” recognizing that something eternal is at stake in each event, in every moment of our lives. Genealogists frequently talk about the “dash,” all that “stuff” that happens between a date of birth and date of death.
To start, a touch of history drawn from a book titled “Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith” by Marvin Wilson; “the Hebrews did not hold to a circular concept of history tied closely to the cycles of nature.” What does that really mean? In my life, I’ve found myself at times falling into a mindless routine tied to nothing more than the clock and the calendar. I think that’s the point Mr. Wilson is trying to make.
“Hebrew history was not a monotonous, purposeless, and eternal cycle of happenings.” The Hebrews didn’t “view life as a race toward death in which one desperately seeks to escape from the clutches of time. Rather, in sharp distinction, the Hebrew view of time and history was essentially linear, durative, and progressive. In short, it was going somewhere; it was en route to a goal, a glorious climax at the end of this age.” Events in life mattered then as events in our lives should matter now. They are leading to a day when our world will be transformed as all evil is removed from the earth and righteousness prevails. Our Lord will then reign as King over the whole earth.
In that context, I’ve looked over my life to date and identified 10 nuggets of wisdom, things I’ve learned both as a father and as a son.
* (10) What you want to do in any given moment isn’t always the best thing for you to do; for example, I initially wanted to fly jets for the Air Force but ended up on ships in the Navy. My parents worked hard all their lives and didn’t always get to do the things they wanted to do. They did, however, do what was needed and were there for people when needed. They routinely worked hard, did a good job at whatever life threw their way and taught me that it’s far better to do your best, regardless of the circumstance, than to feel sorry for yourself or your consequences. They we’re true examples of guidance in Alma 37:34, “to never be weary of good works…”
* (9) I learned that one of the most valuable traits as a leader or team member is patience. Whether at home, in the workplace, or at Church, everyone has something to contribute and it’s our responsibility to know the people we work with and provide opportunities for each to contribute. We have a duty to help those around us feel and actually be successful in this endeavor called life. We cannot force people into a box of compliance or simply disregard them as irrelevant. By no means can we take away their agency or personal choice but we should instead provide worthwhile opportunities and encouragement to others as we feel inspired to do so. Persuasion, patience, long-suffering; these take courage. In today’s world it’s so much easier to do things yourself or force your will on others rather than risk accepting responsibility for someone else’s actions but, realistically, you may find things rather unrewarding, unfulfilling and lonely if you seek them out alone.
* (8) Fatherhood itself really has little to do with biology. As a child, I was the product of a series of divorces and remarriages. Easy to endure, no, but not insurmountable. The Lord recognizes that throughout our lives we will each have to deal with challenges that result from the decisions of others. He knows this and will support us as we endure and seek His help. I’ve served with men and women throughout my life, inside and outside both the Church and the military, to whom I look as “parents” in a sense. They’ve been there for me when I’ve needed an assist. I’ve seen goodness sent from our Father in Heaven through my fellow man and feel I’ve been blessed in being able to recognize it.
* (7) No earthly father is a perfect father. My grandfather, father and stepfather were all good, well-intentioned people. I learned wonderful things from each of them. When my mother and father divorced, my grandfather stepped up to fill in as a mentor. He was my best friend for many years. When my mother found the man who later became my stepfather, he took over and guided me to adulthood. None of them perfect but each had significant contributions that kept me moving along my path leading to this specific moment, to the decisions that made me the person I am today.
* (6) A 20-minute workout is better than no workout. I’ve often been guilty of not working out because I don’t have “enough” time. Similarly, I may not read my Scriptures or say personal prayers because I don’t have “enough” time. The impact is that once you lose control of your health it can be very difficult to get it back. I’m obviously not at the peak of health now but I am still better off than some members of my family for my age. Note that I’m talking about more than just physical health; this counsel applies across the board; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. All require work, effort and time to maintain. All require eternal perspective. We can fit fitness in to our routines if we choose to do so.
* (5) Enjoy the journey, don’t get lost in unessecary minutiae. It doesn’t always matter HOW things get done. I often want things to be scripted and perfectly planned before I proceed. I want people to do things MY way. When things don’t work out my way I have, at times, become frustrated. My stepfather, on the other hand, was a cool customer and remained fairly calm and cordial regardless of circumstance. From my perspective, he had done a little of pretty much everything, and had lots of experience to draw on. People wanted to work with him. He didn’t always like things that were going on but recognized things he couldn’t change and focused on those he could.
* (4) People you think have it all together generally don’t. Everyone has problems. Everyone has challenges. Don’t assume someone leads a perfect life because you don’t see them experiencing grief and aggravation. On the flip side, if someone is rude to you don’t feel obligated to return the rudeness. On the contrary, we’re counseled to do the opposite and show an outpouring of love, especially to those who are upset. Ultimately, I’m talking about resisting the urge to judge unrighteously, in the moment, in your moment, and in so doing end up coveting your own or another person’s life or situation. The Lord knows where you are and you’re given all abilities you need to find your way and be happy. We should each do what we can, whenever our path crosses another’s path, to ensure that, as those paths part, we’re both headed in the right direction.
* (3) Everyone is an individual and we each require unique guidance, unique training. My parents provided this for my siblings and me and we’ve tried to do the same for our kids. Fatherhood, and motherhood, are perfecting processes, two of many, and our Father in Heaven provides these experiences for us as we work our way towards perfection.
* (2) From the parable of the sower (Luke 8:15) we learn “…that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” I’ve learned that a good heart acts as an amplifier for Priesthood power. No matter the worldly status of the bearer, true Power of the Priesthood comes via a good heart. We should each strive for a good heart; a vessel for channeling Priesthood power in the service of the Lord. Again, it really doesn’t matter whether your male or female; anyone who’s attended the Temple or seen a Relief Society President in action solving a crisis knows that we all are capable of exercising Priesthood authority and leadership.
* (1) Proverbs 15:20 states “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.” As is typical for children, I was instructed on a number of occasions to 1) be nice to your sister and 2) be nice to your mother. Those lessons later extended to being nice to folks regardless of who they are and how they treat you. This is really nothing more than an interpretation of the Golden Rule; interpreted by me as “Do unto others as you’d have the Lord do unto you.” We simply need to be kind to those around us and realize that we’re all headed down unique paths, carrying our unique burdens, to what we hope is a common destination; reunion with our Father in Heaven.
In all, I’ve learned that earthly parents are an extension of, a vehicle for, the eternal love felt by our Heavenly Parents for each of us.
I have a modern day parable that tech-savvy folks will hopefully appreciate. As fathers, mothers, sons & daughters we’re challenged by network bandwidth. Prior to this life, we had direct “wired” access to our Heavenly Father in the pre-existence. Now, on the earth, we have cruddy WiFi that only seems to work part of the time. That said, are we moving to get the best reception or just waiting for someone to come along and fix the interference for us? Are we taking ownership of the communications problem or just living with it and assuming it can’t get any better?
Truth doesn’t have to remain hidden; we have the capability to receive guidance, light & truth from our Eternal Father in Heaven. He wants to communicate with us. Our Heavenly Parents want us to feel of their love.
Why does the family unit exist? These 10 truths or life lessons I’ve mentioned came to my awareness through a family unit of some sort. If not my own family then through other families that reached out to support me. These families functioned both inside and outside the “confines” of Church membership. The Plan of Salvation itself relies upon the existence of these family units. I have been given wonderful gifts from my Father in Heaven through the earthly influence of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters throughout my life.
Mosiah 13:20 states “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Similarly, 1 Nephi 17:55 states “…wherefore, worship the Lord thy God, and honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee.” This is a commandment with promise. As I previously stated, earthly parents are gifts from loving Eternal Parents. As we acknowledge the divine role assigned to parents and sustain them we will be blessed.
While fatherhood and motherhood both hold a key role in a successful life, these roles can most certainly be overcome for better or worse. We each have our agency and can make choices that negate any good influence in our life. We can also make good choices to counter past errors made by ourselves or others. Our future really is in our hands and we can choose the better path.
In order to travel, or complete any journey, we need a starting point and and end point. In this life, we are likely starting from different places but we all hopefully want to end up back with our Father in Heaven. That said, we all can be on a straight and narrow path that is unique to us. Everyone who walks through this life chooses a path for their journey. There is both a “way of the wicked” (Proverbs 15:9) and a “way of the righteous” (Psalms 1:6). Our Father in Heaven is very aware of which we choose (Job 23:10).
Day-to-day we can tend to get so wrapped up in worrying about what the Lord intends for us without realizing that its our decisions and choices that matter. We ask in desperation “I don’t understand, do you want me to do this or this; what do you want me to do?” At these moments we may need to worry less about trying to figure out what the Lord expects us to do and worry more about simply choosing what we think is right and seeking confirmation. He doesn’t orchestrate one single correct path for us and I find prayers for confirmation answered far more often than prayers for specific guidance. He holds agency very dear so He’s not going to override your agency or anyone else’s such that only one decision or one option is right for you and your future. Our futures lie in our hands. It is wonderful that He provides earthly parents to help us along the way.
Don’t be afraid to make a decision but do the best you can to make sure it’s the right one. The Lord knows the path we’ll take but forces us down no single path, that responsibility is ours alone. We can successfully navigate this life and can overcome hardships with His ever present guidance and love. We are all blessed with the capability to be happy in our given circumstances. We can do it. He’s given us lots of help along the way if we’ll accept it.
Though we may not always like it, we are fixed in this one moment, the Lord is not. He sees us in the frame of eternity. He doesn’t see us as what we can become, He sees us as we are and will be throughout the eternities. He doesn’t see the “dash” but sees us as eternal beings. As parents, sons and daughters our challenge is to try to see each other and ourselves as He sees us and choose the better path in the moment in which we’re now living.