Last month found me feeling an unusual (more than usual?) amount of anxiety over my kids. Over . . . I don’t know . . . raising my kids, watching them make their choices, . . . and fretting that those choices might not be the ones that will bring them the most joy; won’t be the ones that will lead them in paths of light and expansion.
It has become somewhat clear to me that, in many ways, raising tiny people actually has been relatively easy. A six-year-old Jesse moaning that church is too long and he wants to go home is, I imagine, a very different thing from a teenager telling you they no longer want to go to church, and, that . . . a very different thing from a son or daughter caught up in a cycle of decisions that weaken their inward spirit, pull light from them, and blind them to logic.
I’m good at . . . fearing in advance sometimes, and these thoughts were truly weighing on me.
It felt unbearable – the thought of seeing their perfectly bright souls pulled into darkness and confusion. It made me think of those five wise virgins – how they must have wished they COULD have simply poured their oil – their experience and wisdom and understanding -- into the vessels of their five misguided friends.
There was a talk in our recent General Conference that told the story of an old medicine man talking with a new young doctor. The doctor asked the medicine man if he could teach him his dance. The medicine man replied with something like, “I can teach you the steps, but I can’t make you hear the music.”
Everyone loved the talk. And I enjoyed it too. I even used it for a Family Night lesson the following Monday; but . . . it also exacerbated my panic a bit because I felt like . . . “Well, I am showing my kids the steps. I am hoping that the things I teach them will eventually allow them to ‘hear the music’, to know what I know and feel what I feel; but, if, in doing the steps, they never hear it, they never recognize who they truly are and connect to things beyond themselves? Well, just like those five virgins, I can’t force my oil into them. I can’t force them to recognize the voice of our Father – the familiar voice of home.”
Thoughts of them bringing misery into their lives and even, as a side, the lives of their future families had me feeling very much like . . . all of this would have been for naught: all of this stretching beyond what feels reasonable to bring these specific spirits into our family; all of the work and even the joy felt in being a mother . . . it would all have been for nothing; all of the pleasure I take in raising them and finding joy in them and writing about that joy . . . it would all be a farce.
I won’t try to write all of the thoughts and insights that I had during this time of worry as I prayed, pondered, read, talked with Mike, talked with sisters, etc. But I will share one small thing that I felt.
It was simply . . . a reprimand.
It makes me laugh to type that because it was gentle and loving and actually filled me with hope, but it was a reprimand all the same. A calm but firm and certain voice simply telling me that I was wrong. I was wrong to assume any part of this plan – of this family, of my children coming to me – could be for naught. Ever. I was wrong to think that continuing to find joy and happiness in my family – even if things went very differently for all of them than I might choose myself – would be in any way false; that the Lord would, in fact, expect me to embrace and continue to celebrate every joy, and light-hearted moment of humor, and accomplishment that any of us experienced. I felt a reprimand for doubting His plan. For forgetting that I once acknowledged it as a perfect plan – leagues ahead of Satan’s – and that I would do so again. That, even after actually living it, with all it’s pitfalls and messiness, I would STILL choose it – still praise its perfectness and beauty.
I don’t know how this factors in with our children; with loved ones, whose hearts are practically our own, having lives full of pain and hurt or addiction or darkness. I don’t know how this factors in with agency and choice. I only know that I felt very strongly that I was to have complete hope. That I was to know that every good and wonderful thing would always, somehow, be an option for my loved ones. That there was nothing ahead in my life or theirs that would catch Heavenly Father by surprise or have him saying, “Well, shoot, I didn’t see that coming.” I felt it was only my perspective that was limited.
There were more thoughts. More, “But what ifs . . .” and “Well then how . . .”s, but this blog post could go on forever. So, I will end with a few bits of wisdom from others I admire:
“Amid all this, God, who lives in ‘eternal now,’ is relentlessly and lovingly accomplishing His work, using His unique foreknowledge to ensure that all His purposes will prevail – not just some of them.” – Neal A. Maxwell
“The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth . . . before it rolled into existence, or ever ‘the morning stars sang together’ for joy. . . . He knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption.” – Joseph Smith
I love “ample provision”.
And last, from the book Jesus the Christ: “But the purposes of God, as they ever have been and ever shall be, are infinitely superior to the deepest designs of men and devils . . .”
My kids may stumble. There may be times of darkness and confusion. We may have hard paths to trek across to get where we are going, but we chose, long before coming here, “an infinitely superior” plan. And somehow things will be good for us. I know it. And, in the mean time, we’ll muddle through all the fear and mistakes and vexing worries. We’ll pray and hope and we’ll have a whole lot of enjoyment and laughs and happiness too. And nothing that goes . . . wrong . . . will ever make me feel false for still enjoying and shouting out about the parts that are good.