Over the weekend I had an online discussion with a friend about this life in general and what it takes to advance to the hereafter in completion of finishing this test. I know I don't have many blog readers, but I do know that the few I do have is a mixture of both LDS and non-LDS. This particular discussion was LDS specific, but of course if you're living and breathing (and if you're reading this, I assume you are), you're also on this same journey called life, no matter what your individual beliefs happen to be.
When Christ spoke it parables, it really drove the point of His message home for me, no matter matter which parable in the New Testament it was. That makes sense considering metaphors are huge in how I attemptto make a point or simplify an important principle. They're also a major component in how I learn.
In fact, one of the big ones for me is my Seurat painting analogy from this entry almost a year ago.
One of the pre-existing topics I have discussed with this friend is both good and bad experiences with church leaders. We both have had our individual experiences with the bad ones.
I do not desire to explore too much detail here, but one of my first major negative experiences with a bishop (the church official who presides over a congregation...like a pastor) started with a bishop in my late teens who flat out said he didn't believe me about the physical and verbal abuse I was experiencing at home from the male figure that is unfortunately responsible for half of my DNA. Sadly, that wasn't the end of the negative experiences I had with this particular bishop (we'll call him Bishop 1.0), but I won't go any further with additional details as far as he is concerned.
Thankfully, despite subsequent more minor negative experiences, I have gratefully had numerous positive experiences with church leaders. In fact, about 8 years after Bishop 1.0 when I confided in another bishop (we'll call him Bishop 5.0) about some of these scars at home from the years before and the salt in the wounds that were experienced at the hands of Bishop 1.0, this Bishop 5.0 was loving, helpful and even offered an apology for any priesthood holder that failed to do his job. That made a huge difference to me, and I believe that was a turning point for me in my ability in trusting my leaders more, and my increasing faith in them did grow.
Nevertheless, time and time again, there are those that stray from the Gospel and/or choose to stop going to church, or even turn against the church, because they have been hurt by officials such as bishops and others. It is understandable how that can happen. They are there to assist us and help us. We have chosen the Gospel in our lives, so when these bad experiences occur, it often delivers a low blow because they are supposed to be one of God's called leaders.
However, another analogy about that came to my mind about a year and half ago that I'll share here. I was assigned to give a talk in church and was given a topic that was related to this. Of course as I prepared my talk, my mind began to branch out in several directions as I attempted to compose what was supposed to be a succint talk.
Well, let's just say my remarks went on longer than they should have, and I didn't leave much time for Chris to speak afterwards. Oops.
I brought this same analogy into the recent online discussion over the weekend, that I referred to above. However, before I lay out that metaphor, I want to make it clear that I am in no way better than anyone else struggling in various ways with less than stellar individuals who sometimes make it difficult for us both in and out the church as we traverse this journey called life. Church is a Hospital for Sinners. It is not a Museum for Saints. (Not my words!)
I'm just passing on the analogy and my own thoughts. It's my blog. I can essentially do and say what I want.
Okay? Here we go.
You have an airline ticket to your dream destination (for me it would be Bavaria in Germany...Tip of Argentina and then a cruise ship to Antarctica...anywhere in British Columbia...But I digress). You have the ticket. The ticket is returning to our Heavenly Father. By the way, we all have the ticket. Some of us just do not know we have it. Some of us know it's somewhere but do not know what it looks like. Some of us had it, but misplaced it.
Sure, serial killers and child rapists, for example, have a ticket, but it's not exactly to a destination that is very desirable. (I thought about making a joke about Newark New Jersey or Detroit, but then I decided against it).
Where the destination is on our ticket is up to us. Our Heavenly Father simply approves the destination.
However, the airplane won't come to you. You are required some important steps before being able to board it. You have to plan, pack, arrive at the airport on time. Then there's the TSA. Oh, the TSA. We love the TSA, don't we?
A TSA agent asks for your ID. You fumble for it because you can't find it right away. That particular agent decides to act like a real jerk. He sighs, makes a rude remark under his breath...something.
Do we say, "Forget this!" and drop everything and go home? No. Why should we give up our trip, our dream destination over that guy? We put up with his attitude, show him our ID and go through. If we just go home, it doesn't matter to that agent. But we are the ones who end up with the raw end of the deal. We forfeit our trip.
Then, apparently because it's in the water with these particular agents, this big mean lady TSA agent asks you take off your shoes. Well, she doesn't ask you. She tells you to in really mean manner. She looks at you like you're the biggest inconvenience to her. Maybe there are Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in the break room and she's upset that she isn't on her break yet in order to stuff her face. Who knows.
You don't want to take off your shoes - and you really don't want to because in your last minute preps to get ready for the trip, you didn't shower and you know your feet smell because you ran out of Odor Eaters.
Do you say "Forget this!" and turn around and give up because it'll be hard and unpleasant to do what she says? Do you forget the whole thing because you feel it is an intrusive request to remove your shoes? Do you forget the whole thing because she's rude and your pride hurts and you don't want her to be "the boss of you"? Well, some might. But they're the ones who are shooting themselves in the foot (no pun intended).
Therefore, you remove your shoes and go through the motions.
Meanwhile, there is a guy in line behind you that isn't pleased that it took you so long to remove your shoes and when he bumps you with his bag, he doesn't apologize. He just shrugs and says, "You shouldn't have been standing that close to me."
That guy in line represents those that we have to be around at church and life that make the journey so much more difficult. We all know them. Sometimes we are them. Sometimes we are friends with them and then they betray us or choose to be two-faced. They may be members of our family. And sometimes we just have to be around them.
Now what if you turn around and punch that guy in the face? Oh, maybe he deserved it! But what happens to you? You get pulled from the line, you don't make your flight, and you may even get arrested.
If you still ever get to go on that dream trip in the future, it is delayed for the time being. You can blame the jerk all we want on our actions, but you were the one who hit him, even if he was a jerk.
Sadly, too many of us (and we all do it to some degree at various times in our lives) react to others and make poor choices on our part.
And sadly too many of us blame our poor choices on others. And sadly, too many of us fault our own consequences on others, even if it was our poor choices that led to the consequence!
And sadly, I keep using the word sadly.
Compare it to making the poor choice of robbing a bank (I know, analogy within an analogy...there's no help for me, I know...). You get caught and arrested, but you blame the cops. A judge then throws a stiff sentence on you, and you blame the cops and the judge for why you're in jail.
But...weren't you the one that decided to rob the bank in the first place? You wouldn't even have been subjected to the arrest and the judge if you didn't rob the bank. So many times as we make our choices, we forget that sure, we have the freedom to make whatever choice we want. However, that is where the freedom ends. The consequence is not of our choosing, but we receive it because of the choice we were free to make.
But as usual, I got off track. Back to the fun in airport security.
Suffice it to say, we have to deal with all kinds of crap to advance to the destination. How we deal with it is important.
After your bag goes through the little X-ray scanner and they make sure your deodorant isn't going to blow up the aircraft, you're walking away muttering at how rude those two agents are and how much of a jerk that guy was who hit you with his bag.
As you're leaving that area, a different TSA agent smiles at you and says, "Have a great trip..." That agent is a nice person that knows the crap that goes down in his profession, but tries to do what he can to make it just a tad easier and more pleasant. For me, Bishop 5.0 was one of those guys. There are many more like him.
(I actually had that experience with a real TSA agent. It was Alexander's 1st birthday -12/22/11- and I was trying to board a flight with him to Idaho Falls. Chris and the other two kids were already driving up. My ID/Drivers License was at home - removed from my planner by Alexander, and I didn't know it. It was a great TSA supervisor that sat with me and looked at what I did have on my person and made the decision to allow me through...My state issued Fingerprint Card and Staff ID from the school year before helped my case!)
Whether they are the nice TSA agents or the crappy ones, they are part of the process. We have to listen to them to make it through security - even if they're not doing their job entirely the right way. I know, it doesn't seem fair. It drives me crazy!
Maybe the crappy ones will be fired later, or maybe they're in that position to learn something and they'll change their ways later. We don't know. And sometimes people just need to be given enough rope in which to hang themselves. Why were Alma and Amulek not permitted to save those that were being thrown into the fire? Because many time the evil-doers have to be allowed to be evil and do their evil in order to be held accountable.
But we don't give up the trip and the destination just because of them. We eventually board the plane. Maybe it's delayed - and maybe just when you think you "made it", there's a delay.
Do we say "Forget this!" and walk away and forget the whole thing? After all that? No. We wait. Then we board the plane.
How does it take off? Do we do that?
The pilot is there to do it. That's God's grace. It doesn't matter how much work (and how much crap we have to put up with to finally reach the gate, which is often Gate Z-99) we have done to finally board the aircraft. We cannot fly the plane ourselves. God's grace then takes it off the surface.
We will all board that plane. But where will our destinations be?