Life is Unfair, But You Knew That


life-is-unfair1Why is there suffering? And why is life so unfair? Why do some have bigger burdens than others? Why do so many people live in poor war-torn countries?

One possibility is that the abused deserve their abuse—that perhaps they were an abuser in a previous life.  This kind of thinking, even if true, can enable abusers—“You totally deserve my abuse, who am I not to fulfill God’s will?”  This is the dark side of Hindusim–“we have a caste system because God wills it–we brahmins are on top because of our exceeding righteousness in the past life and you losers are living in squalor because you weren’t as righteous in the last life.”  Even modern prophets seers and/or revelators can fall victim to this kind of thinking:

“This privilege of obtaining a mortal body on this earth is seemingly so priceless that those in the spirit world, even though unfaithful or not valient, were undoubtedly permitted to take mortal bodies although under penalty of racial or physical or nationalistic limitations….”  Harold B. Lee

On the other hand, was Jesus abused because He was an abuser?  What about Abinadi, Paul, Peter, and Joseph?

There is another possible explanation why people endure horrible things in life:  Before the earth is created, God says, “I have to respect free will, and some jerk is going to be an abuser.  Who will volunteer to take this douche’s abuse?  Who will volunteer to starve in Africa? Under the volunteerism explanation, it really flips around the question of who the elect really is, and all of us might be found wanting.

[Never mind, we’re totally the elect, not those other guys who are suffering.]

Either explanation is possible, maybe some are abused as punishment and others volunteered for abuse.   We can’t judge.

I suggest a third possibility: some of the abused neither deserved it nor volunteered for it.  Life isn’t fair, and that might be part of the test–can we love and accept a God who set up a rigged game?

Look at the 9th parable in 10 parables. My interpretation of it is, basically, those that followed Lucifer in the premortal life are invited back into the kingdom. Many who were righteous were upset by this and walked out on God. The test is not what we think it is.


From the 9th_Parable:

After the days of the competition ended, a great feast was called. For the feast, the King invited not only those citizens who participated in the games, but also those who had fled the city rather than participate. Those who had remained loyal and participated in the games were troubled by this.

“Why are those who rejected your plan allowed to be among us?” they inquired.

“For a wise purpose,” said the King.

Many of those who participated resented the presence of those who had fled. Some who fled returned in anger, urging those who stayed to join them in their anger at the King. Some who did not do well were persuaded by the arguments of the returning dissidents.

The great feast turned into a great argument among the residents who stayed and those who had fled. Eventually the people divided themselves into two groups. In one, the King was beloved and his plan was held in esteem. In the other, the King was resented, or worse, hated. They found fault with the King, with his plan, and with the uproar caused among the citizens by the King’s great folly.

When the body was divided, the King addressed them all with these words, “I have been working for some time to determine who I can trust among our people and who I cannot trust. Using wise counsel I have adopted this great plan to decide the matter.

“I knew when the competition was devised it would divide the people. I knew, too, that some would flee rather than participate. I also knew if I invited back to a feast all of the citizens, both those who stayed and those who fled, that it would result in a great division. This was my purpose all along.

“We are faced with many challenges. Some are in forms which you do not understand. They will test all of us. I must know before we confront the coming challenges who I can trust to remain loyal in my kingdom. Today I know.

The game is rigged. On purpose. And not because God is incompetent. God wants to see who will not be upset if He rewards people unfairly.


11th-hour-workersMatthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.


when-life-isnt-fairBut why? Why is the test about enduring unfairness rather than testing who will obey the commandments the most?

When we perceive that we are treated unfairly, we seek compensation to make up for our unfair treatment. We think it will be just if something is taken from the person who has more and given to the person who has less. Well, maybe we only think it is unjust if we are the person who has less. (When we have more, we pat ourselves on the back and assume that we totally earned it.) This motivation is at the heart of those who seek revenge for mistreatments, either real or perceived.

In the eternities, God offers us everything. He wants to share His glory and power with us. But what if that isn’t fair? Why should someone who didn’t do the same awesome righteous works as I did get the same reward? Why should a laborer who showed up at the 11th hour get the same pay as I did for working all day?

And more importantly, what can I do to stop this slacker from getting a reward he doesn’t deserve? Well, God did give me His power, right? So I can use that to make his eternal reward less than mine. Although it might be hard, since he also has God’s power, so if I break any of his stuff he can fix it. But I could probably find ways to make his eternal reward less rewarding. One way (maybe the only way) I could do him harm would be to tempt his children into doing wickedness.

At this point I have become a devil.

This might be why only the best of feelings (charity) can prevail between people if they will enter into a true order of prayer—prayer doesn’t become a true order just because the person praying repeats signs and tokens while wearing symbolic clothing. A true order of prayer means that a person has received the power to ask any blessing they want from God. People will only get this power if they have the best of feelings toward their neighbor (charity). People without the best of feelings might ask God to curse their neighbor as compensation for unfairness.

So life is unfair because God cannot save people who are upset by unfairness, or those who will not forgive their neighbor.


Here’s the 9th parable in it’s entirety:

OlympicCompetitionThere was a King who loved his people. He also loved the competition of games. He called his advisory council together and asked them how he might improve the health and vigor of his people. They considered the matter and decided upon a great plan.

The King called his city together and told them of a great competition he and his council had devised. “All the city would compete,” he announced. They would proceed in turns to go into the coliseum and compete on the field. All were welcome to watch before or after they participated, but all would have to compete. The competition would test the citizen’s loyalty, while also improving the lives of the citizens.

“I haven’t the strength to compete. I am old and past my day and cannot hope to win in competition with younger men,” said one.

The King responded, “Not all the competition will be of strength, some will be of intellect, some of patience, some of music. It will develop the skill of each individual from my kingdom and will improve every citizen.”

“I refuse,” said the one. He and those who agreed with him departed in anger.

The day arrived and the competition began. Men, women and children all entered in turns into the coliseum. Some sang, some threw spears, some lifted heavy weights, and some recited poetic works of beauty and wisdom. The people not competing at any given time would watch from the seats. They gained as much from watching as they did competing.

Many were reluctant or afraid entering the competition, but found when they competed their fears were unfounded. Some believed it would be fun to compete. However, upon entering the competition failed to do as they hoped, and regretted their poor efforts.

After the days of the competition ended, a great feast was called. For the feast, the King invited not only those citizens who participated in the games, but also those who had fled the city rather than participate. Those who had remained loyal and participated in the games were troubled by this.

“Why are those who rejected your plan allowed to be among us?” they inquired.

“For a wise purpose,” said the King.

Many of those who participated resented the presence of those who had fled. Some who fled returned in anger, urging those who stayed to join them in their anger at the King. Some who did not do well were persuaded by the arguments of the returning dissidents.

The great feast turned into a great argument among the residents who stayed and those who had fled. Eventually the people divided themselves into two groups. In one, the King was beloved and his plan was held in esteem. In the other, the King was resented, or worse, hated. They found fault with the King, with his plan, and with the uproar caused among the citizens by the King’s great folly.

When the body was divided, the King addressed them all with these words, “I have been working for some time to determine who I can trust among our people and who I cannot trust. Using wise counsel I have adopted this great plan to decide the matter.

“I knew when the competition was devised it would divide the people. I knew, too, that some would flee rather than participate. I also knew if I invited back to a feast all of the citizens, both those who stayed and those who fled, that it would result in a great division. This was my purpose all along.

“We are faced with many challenges. Some are in forms which you do not understand. They will test all of us. I must know before we confront the coming challenges who I can trust to remain loyal in my kingdom. Today I know.

“All those who have been loyal have been identified. They will remain in my kingdom. All those who have rejected my plan, or spoken against me in hatred, will be removed from my kingdom. Those who leave are free to follow their own course. However, they cannot be among my people any longer, for they have been tested and failed in their loyalty.”

It required a battle to remove those who were to be exiled. Many argued they had endured all the King had asked and only spoken ill of him when the disaffected exiles returned. They claimed it was unfair to have been put through this final test of loyalty after allowing the return of the exiles. They argued a feast that included those who refused the King’s request was unfair. It rewarded all alike; the loyal and the disloyal. They claimed their final disloyalty came only as a result of their original loyalty later proving to be of no value, since even the exiles came to the final feast.

Others complained that the King was mad. His whole course was destructive of a people who had once lived in harmony and peace. They claimed it was the King who should be thrown in exile; not the citizens who were discomforted by the King disturbing their peace.

Still others complained the King was never honest with them. Had they known this was to be the result, they would have been loyal throughout. They thought it unfair he kept his counsel to himself and thereby lulled them into disfavor.

Yet others complained the King gave them too hard a test. It was unfair. Although they had passed the test, they had family members and friends who failed and if these whom they loved had failed they would refuse for their loved ones’ sake to remain with the King.

Some even said that the original test was supposed to improve the citizen’s “health and vigor” and not their loyalty. It was unfair to claim to test for one virtue when actually testing for another.

And finally, some claimed there could be no future test coming for which this test of the citizens would prepare; that the only thing this great plan tested was the patience of the citizens. If there is some great future test coming, then the King ought, in fairness, to share that information with them rather than to hide it and make claims which cannot be proven.

lingdom-of-peaceAll the arguments were unavailing. The King expelled them all. When the kingdom was set, and none but the loyal remained, the King again called a great assembly of his people. To all those who remained the King announced, “I discovered long ago the power to make my kingdom last forever. I am now prepared to share the secrets of all I know with my people. From this day forward you will no longer be citizens in my kingdom, but you will be kings and queens, sharing with me in life which will never end.

“Before making you all kings and queens with me, I needed to have a people who would live in peace together.

Immortality without peace among us would be a great punishment and not a great prize.

“All of us who remain in this kingdom have lost friends, family members and others whom we love. However, all who remain will be able to live in peace, forever.”

The King did as he planned from the beginning. He and his counselors were able to find those who could live in peace, and for whom life would endure in peace forever.

There is not now, and never has been, a kingdom more stable, more happy, more at peace, and more enduring than this King’s. Though he ceased to reign as a king, he continued to be loved above all others. For he was the one who brought to life the happiest people of all.

The Ideology of God


christ-healingThe fundamental problem of government is “How do you produce a society that doesn’t tear itself apart eventually?”

The solution is charity, a change of nature whereby we feel no fear nor shame and seek to harm none nor build ourselves up, but take pleasure in doing good to all.

Moroni 7:45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

The behavior of charity is described succinctly: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Thus all conflicts have been resolved before they even arise.

As an aside, “is kind” means “treats you like family.” So if y’all think I deploy rough language out here, you might guess it’s even more interesting in person. And you’d be right. We reward witticisms in my house, including clever put-downs, and don’t scruple to use four-letter words. After all, do you want someone dictating to you what speech you shall and shall not be allowed to use, particularly in your own home? Me neither. And we like to laugh.

JesusTeachingMy writings on the golden rule have been, strictly speaking, having a spot of fun. Most of the interesting implications of the rule were already made explicit in the Sermon on the Mount, which, if you will notice, is chiefly about conflict resolution – always in favor of our enemies! And it is in obeying these teachings that we come to know the principle that underlies them all, which is the golden rule, or charity.

The golden rule is the ideology of God. God is charity, after all (1 John 4:8, 16).

3 Nephi 15:9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.

He’s asking us to be principled – to obey the law, the golden rule, without judging (i.e., without respect to outcomes – without appealing to “workability” or consequences or worthiness). To take his covenant and instructions as a “suicide pact,” for it is.

Doctrine and Covenants 98:14
14 Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.

This is in opposition to a philosophy we have been spoon-fed since our infancy: paternalism.

Paternalism

Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm. – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

paternalism-cartoonPaternalism is, at its most basic essence, meddling with others out of fear of pain / discomfort / negative results. It is justified by a claim to be seeking after the welfare of the person whose choices or results are being meddled with. Paternalism is outcome-driven, or, in other words, goal-oriented.

Paternalism, being rooted in fear, is therefore an enemy to charity, and has natural allies in judgementalism, laziness, and cowardice.

So what pains are we avoiding by preventing others from experiencing the consequence of, or by compelling or coercing, their choices, while claiming we are acting in their best interests? It ranges from as light as not wanting to be alone in one’s beliefs, to not wanting to endure the sympathetic emotional pain we might feel in seeing another suffer, or perhaps hoping to avoid that grief which comes from separation, or perhaps the pain of having our expectations or wills thwarted, and anything else in between.

Paternalism, as I use the word, also covers our failure to execute our word by appealing to benevolent intent. For example, maybe we withhold our substance from another, justifying ourselves by thinking they need to hit rock bottom so they’ll get help and no longer be where they are, when our real fear is that the core doctrine of Babylon, “limited resources,” or “economic scarcity,” sometimes rendered TANSTAAFL, is true, and if we give to them then we would have to give to others and then we wouldn’t have enough for ourselves. So long, Zion.

nanny-stateThe point is that it is ourselves that we are protecting by acting paternalistically. That is why by making the proposal to save even those who sinned against the Holy Ghost, Lucifer marked himself as an unsuitable candidate to be the Messiah. Lucifer proposed to save those who had knowingly, with eyes open, cast the Holy Spirit out of their hearts, betrayed both God and their fellow man, covered their betrayal by turning accusers of God – traitors always justify themselves by blaming the betrayed – and sought for death as diligently as they once sought for life. Salvation is, of course, to possess charity – he would have compelled that change of nature upon those who had knowingly and competently rejected it, and thus they would be saved.

You can see this is paternalistic, and apparently benign. What’s in it for him? What’s he protecting himself from? At a minimum, the pains of separation from those who willingly choose death.

Paternalism was the original error.

And if you have eyes to see it, paternalism may be found in surprising places. Like this, which I just read recently.

Learn to Be More Wise than We Have Been

Mosiah 4:14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.

“Neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God.” In modern English, “You won’t allow your children to transgress the laws of God.”

That completely contradicts the point of my recent essay on Hedging the Law, and I was rather startled until it occurred to me: “what was the result?” After all, paternalism predictably generates rebellion and disunity.

That’s there, too.

Mosiah 26:1-4
1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.

3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.

4 And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.

king-benjaminBecause their parents followed the instructions of King Benjamin, and sought to circumscribe their choices or even compel or coerce obedience to God’s commandments, many of the children rebelled and would not believe. I’ve been there, myself, for that very reason.

King Benjamin meant well, and it speaks volumes for his integrity and righteousness that he not only tolerated, but cooperated with the prophets in establishing peace in the land (Words of Mormon 1:16-18); indeed, his integrity and righteousness were why he was sent an angel, which marks the priesthood he was a member of (D&C 107:20). So often the prophets have been persecuted and rejected by those in authority as challenging said authority.

But from the vantage of the golden rule – for “this is the law and the prophets” – we see the hidden lesson: paternalism doesn’t work, even while it drives for results.

Hence, this.

Mormon 9:31
31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.

If you love someone, set them free. Accept them for who and what they are. Don’t meddle with them; don’t impose upon them; if you wish to bless them, offer the blessing to them, which allows them to reject it if they wish; if they refuse the blessing, go your way. Grant their requests without judgement, and give only what they ask for, agree to, or demand (JST Matthew 5:41-43).

Thus we follow the ideology of God, becoming truly principled, acting according to the rule, regardless of the consequences to ourselves; thus we show ourselves worthy to be Gods.

(Why only what they ask for, agree to, or demand? Because if you give an enemy more unbidden, they will despise you, seeing it as you trying to curry their favor; to them you will seem to be a bootlicking, ass-kissing weakling unworthy of respect. From that vantage point, you cannot reach them to persuade them unto repentance, for everything will be perceived as an attempt at manipulation, as it would be from them if they were to do what you do.)

(To answer an objection: Those who enter into the covenant with God effectively agree to do his will in all things, after which if we are obedient he brings about circumstances essential to our becoming what he is. The covenant permits him to do things to us which would otherwise fall afoul the rule, and this is fair because we agreed to it – we asked for it. This is why God is not paternalistic – he doesn’t act against our will.)

Warriors in the Battle of Life


jon-mcnaughton-peace-is-comingLike Rock Waterman and John Dehlin each struggling with their own fights today, one for his physical life and one for his LDS Church membership, I too have been fighting a battle in the deep recesses of my mind, where only the light of my faith in Jesus Christ shines through. I keep sane with a focus on my daily work, spending every moment in crunch time fiscal budgeting. I hope you will add your prayers and faith for both these pioneers in the LDS blogging world.

Carol and I spent a quiet day together yesterday, me in front of the computer trying to get my annual budget and strategic plan completed and Carol organizing our financial records with her new Neat scanner, giving Fujitsu’s ScanSnap some legitimate competition. I have bought dozens of the ScanSnaps over the years for my co-workers. The Neat scanner is a great home version of this venerable and essential tool of anybody trying to win in the uphill battle to go paperless.

We Are All Connected

I’ve been hesitant to share anything lately, cognizant of one reader’s caustic comments stating nobody wants to read the silly remarks of a stupid and boring old man. The Lord had other plans. I am filled with desire this early morning to sing the praises of good people who have come into my life over the years as friends, work associates, readers, fellow believers in Christ and yes, even those who have decided to hate me because I acted on a decision they found offensive.

I clicked a wrong button on LinkedIn and sent thousands of invitations out to people on my work and home email contacts going back ten or twelve years. I had not intended to do so but was so pleased when hundreds of people responded favorably, some writing they were surprised to hear from me after so many years, and delighted I would remember them. We are so interconnected even a casual contact in a business deal from ten years ago can have a great influence upon us.

There is Great Good in Everyone

You may be familiar with the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Evidence of such battles is all around us in news reports of young people taking their own lives in drug overdoses, or stories of people doing mean or stupid things in a selfish and thoughtless manner. We are all learning and maturing in this wonderful stage of our existence and bound to make mistakes or hang on to incorrect assumptions about life in general.

In spite of stupidity or ignorance the news media loves to point out, I continue to feel hopeful there is great good in everyone, even those who lash out in bitter words of hatred or bigoted actions of rejection, cutting off good people who want only to help others feel loved, accepted and not so alone in this lone and dreary world. Rejection is based on ignorance. We are saved no faster than we gain knowledge, especially knowledge of our Savior and His power to reach all.

In the Quiet Chambers of the Soul

My own battles with demons has taken on a new dimension lately. They are more open and blatant in their attacks on my efforts to be master of my own thoughts. They would have me believe we have no hope of ever achieving any such control. I know otherwise, perhaps with a knowledge brought from another world, perhaps by watching you as you express yourself either in writing or in courageous verbalizations of what you have learned and feel inspired to share.

When it gets to the point where conversations with those in the unseen world are no longer veiled or hidden at all, it either demonstrates extreme trust on the part of the Lord or you have become so used to their presence they feel no need to disguise their true intent. One must pass through hell before one can enter the presence of the angels. Who are the sentinels standing guard? Do flaming swords and fiery darts have more in common than we know? What a dreadful thought.

Führerprinzip and Loyalty in Heaven

For those who express private accusations of disloyalty, I ask you to consider the recent writings of my friend Log. What is loyalty and who alone is worthy of such devotion? Who comes to you with aid and comfort in your darkest hour, reminding of things said and done long ago, perhaps in another world, where we saw and knew one another without veil or darkness? Who picks you up with an impression, a thought, a vision or even the smallest of feelings that you can make it?

And who comes closest to emulating the power of such a being, whose influence is felt even in the darkest reaches of hell, if only by remembering and thinking upon his goodness? There are so many in our lives. Think upon your own angels. Where do you meet beings of light most often? For me, it is among the believers of Christ, who each in their own way share by example or by kindness they trust in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, in the face of obvious daily irony.

Valley of the Shadow of Death

In the end, we chose to believe in the power of an unseen being to save us. If your God has no such power, you may want to rethink your purpose in life. How can I turn away from a friend who stands by my side in the presence of death, who comforts and holds my shield in the face of onslaughts intended to destroy? He does not leave. He never departs. He is constant and true. I stand all amazed. He desires to spend time with me, when my company seems so dark and sad.

For those who have lost loved ones in recent days, for those whose hearts are broken in grief and pain, for those who have all but given up in despair of ever finding answers to questions so long-asked and tire of waiting for the fulfilment of long-held hope, I offer this: He lives. He abides with us still. He is real. He has the power to save from death and hell and the devil. Although I walk with devils and demons, there walks with me one who is filled with light to give me hope.

The Bringer of Peace and Hope

He is mighty to save. He teaches with kind and patient long-suffering. His love endureth forever. He is the bright and morning star, whose very presence dispels all thoughts of darkness. He is the bringer of hope and of salvation. He answers those who call upon him even in the bitterness of hell. For those who wait for Him in the hostile dark of the battlefield, he is there, always there, the bringer of peace. For those who have eyes to see, look. He has never left. In the end, all will kneel before Him.

He knows your battles. He stands at your side. He fights your battles for you. The victory has already been won. The enemy was defeated so many years ago. This is their last desperate hour as they attempt to deceive and cause you to believe otherwise. They have no real or lasting power. They know they must flee when He reveals Himself in glory. Who will abide the day of His coming? Who will stand in His presence? Those who gave Him their contrite spirits and broken hearts.

Thoughts That Go Bump In The Night


never-a-vacationAs my mother got older, she would retire each night earlier and earlier. She was not one to take naps, but strove valiantly to use every precious moment of her life in keeping active and doing good. An avid lifetime genealogist, she maintained a tremendous correspondence with thousands of people up until the day she entered the hospital a couple of weeks before she passed away.

Invariably, when one retires for the night earlier and earlier over the years – first at 9pm, then 8pm and finally 7pm – the waking hours also come earlier and earlier. Mother would find herself wide awake at 4am, then 3am, then 2am. And wouldn’t you know it? The same pattern has been developing in my life. My mind snaps awake too early now with a multitude of racing thoughts.

I call upon the Lord in prayer for relief, but lately have resigned myself to responding to what I believe are promptings of the spirit to write and to share. I don’t always know what the Lord wants me to write when I start, but the very act of letting my thoughts flow through my fingers brings feelings and ideas I believe are from the Lord. Such is the case this early morning hour.

Mansplaining Love and Romance

For the past few nights, my thoughts have turned to love. I’m not a young man, am happily married and wonder why such feelings would demand my attention at 2am. I think often during the day of the love of my Savior. My prayers each morning petition His presence in my walk through life. My prayers at night thank Him for His comfort and sweet influence each day.

These feelings of love are profound. Normally men aren’t very good at explaining love and I am no different. Men in our culture learn at a young age to be stoic and staid when it comes to such things as romance. Years of living with Carol, one of whose favorite stations is the Hallmark Channel, have introduced me to more shows about falling in love than any man should ever see.

Being married to a romance writer has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. Even though I was raised with four sisters, I never understood just how strong the desire for romance is in a woman. Carol has demonstrated for me the idea that “happily ever after” is more than a fairy tale – it can be a reality. I’ve also learned of another type of romance – “happy for now.”

Happy For Now – a Daily Reality

Don’t think of “happy for now” as a lesser kind of love. Think of it as a daily goal, one that is achievable and desirable. It’s a skill I’ve noticed some women have – perhaps all women – that is not built-in to the male psyche, or at least not into mine. When I’m alone for extended periods of time, I’m a pretty miserable and irrational fellow. I do stupid things that I just can’t explain.

When I’m with Carol, even if only for a few hours in the evening after a long day at work, I am content to simply sit at Carol’s side either in front of the TV, watching yet another Hallmark show or side by side at our computers as we write or edit stories and essays. I can’t begin to describe the joy I feel when Carol asks me to read aloud to proof edit one of her latest chapters.

This woman can write. Her stories move me with empathy and compassion for her characters. My stories focus on action, adventure and danger, while Carol’s stories focus on the simple human experience of building a relationship. I confess I never thought about such things growing up. Based on my behavior, my sisters must have thought boys were pretty icky.

Conversations with the Lord

Where am I going with this? Stick with me for a minute and we’ll both find out. When I pray to my Heavenly Father each night, I often discover I am actually speaking with my Savior. This started a few years ago. At first I would catch myself and switch back to the more formal way in which I addressed Father. I would sense a smile from both my Father and my Savior as I did so.

I no longer try to make a distinction. I have discovered the Lord is happy to talk to me and has no qualms about guiding me in my thoughts as I pray. He doesn’t mind that I address him directly. We speak all day long anyway. Why should a kneeling prayer at night be any different? We talk about my work, about my worries and concerns and about the people with whom I interact daily.

Carol and I pray together morning and night. Well, morning prayers together are not as common because I’m often on the road before 7am to get to work on time. I am grateful for the lifelong habit of praying together each night as husband and wife. When asked if she would like to be the voice for our evening prayer, Carol always seems to be willing to let me lead out in our worship.

Sacred Moments as Husband and Wife

And worship it is. Feelings come into my heart when I pray with Carol that are significantly more profound than the feelings I experience when I pray on my own afterward. There is an added strength when praying together. A desire for unity enters my soul. Expressions that are tender and sweet escape my lips that I ordinarily don’t use in those personal, private prayers.

I was criticized a month or two ago by a reader who felt my discussion of married life with Carol was inappropriate. I conceded his point that if I shared something on my blog that caused Carol to feel uncomfortable then I probably should not share it. If this anonymous reader wants to take exception at this post, I am happy to hear what he has to say about his own experience in prayer.

There is a reason God said it is not good for man to be alone. Some men can do it, but I always had difficulties when Carol went away to visit family for sometimes weeks at a time. I would throw myself into my work and come home as late as possible to keep from feeling lonely. That’s another thing our culture frowns upon. If men get lonely, they go hang with the boys.

The Value of a Combined Effort

once-upon-a-timeI admit I’m different. If I am alone I would rather think, read, study, pray, ponder, write or otherwise do something with my mind on the computer that helps me interact with a large but unseen audience of readers. Creativity for me is best when Carol is around. I confess I try to outdo her in friendly competition, but when I’m alone, the creative muse seems to disappear.

Carol is my muse. I write for her, even though she has said she doesn’t care for my posts. I should listen to Carol more. Character development is where it’s at. Theories and ponderings on doctrine, commentaries on scripture which seem to generate endless arguments, or discussions, and explanations of the way I think things are, pale in comparison to building relationships.

I can just hear my women readers at this point… “Well, duh, of course relationships are the most important thing.” No seriously, men don’t naturally think that way, at least I don’t, or haven’t, until recently. It’s my observation most men love to write about things in a way that shows they have been thinking seriously about a subject and are now ready to tell the world how things are.

Spicing Up The End of the World

I’ve been working on an end-of-the-world type novel for over five years. It has been a very slow process. Some chapters are downright exciting. Others are still obvious first drafts. I set one goal this year or at least one goal I have shared publicly. I want to finish that novel. When I started writing fiction, it was at Carol’s request to join her in writing adventures. Our paths diverged.

I think the reason the Lord has been waking me up in the early morning hours is because that’s when He has my undivided attention. I’ve had just enough rest where, if I had to, I could write a few hours and still function normally during the day. These thoughts of love I’ve been feeling lately are causing me to ask the Lord seriously what He is trying to communicate. I think I know.

When Carol and I first talked about my novel, she got so excited about the possible romances that could blossom between the characters. My efforts to put some of those ideas into the story backfired. After all, this was a story of death and destruction. Who has time for romance? Well, the Lord has been telling me Carol was right. I need to try harder on the relationship aspect.

A Project to Strengthen a Marriage

Can writing a work of fiction together as husband and wife be fulfilling? I think so. I’m not sure how or when I’m going to carve out the time, but if the Lord is going to wake me up at 2am each morning until I pay attention, then perhaps He knows a whole lot more than I do about writing. Somehow, someway, He will help us work it out so we can get this book written … together.

I hope it’s not the Lord’s plan to continue waking me at 2am with ideas for the book, but if that’s what He has in mind, then I’m willing. I can give my drafts to Carol to edit and critique during the day, then edit them at night when I get home. You know what they say, “Don’t quit your day job.” I have no dreams of publishing a best seller. I just want to get this book out of my system.

They say everyone has a book in them, but they’ll never write themselves. Its hard work to write and edit, re-write and then re-write some more until a story really flows. I’ve completed enough chapters that I’m familiar with the process. If this is what the Lord wants me to do, then there must be a reason for it. I sure hope this isn’t beyond me with all I do each day at the airport.

But in the end, does anyone really say, “I wish I’d spent more time away from home on the job?”

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