When I was in the sixth grade, I fell in love. The problem was, the boy I loved was not similarly smitten with me! No matter what I did, he remained only “a friend.” “What can I do to make him fall in love with me?” I asked myself. I began to think and finally arrived at the only logical answer. I needed some white go-go boots! I saw it all in my head: I would be walking into school wearing my boots and suddenly this young man would fall in love with me! Lucky for me, it was December and you can bet white go-go boots topped my Christmas list. Imagine my joy when, on Christmas Day,
I opened the box that did indeed contain the very thing that would help me capture the heart of my true love. The first day back to school arrived and I showed up in a plaid skirt, white blouse and my sparkling white boots! But not only did my true love fail to fall in love with me, he didn’t even notice the boots! I was devastated. Time passed and we moved through junior high and high school. We both dated other classmates, he played baseball and we remained “friends.”
One summer, after graduation, I was working at a small news agency and guess who walked through the door! Yes! It was him! He saw me and said, “Cindy?”, then gave me a very big hug! The hug probably lasted longer than he expected, but when I finally let go, he asked how I was doing. I don’t remember much of the conversation until finally (dreams coming true), he asked me on a date. “YES!” I said and quickly scribbled down my phone number. After work that day, I was thinking about our date. Should I buy another pair of boots? All sorts of thoughts were flying through my head. And then I heard it: the Spirit whispered, “Don’t go out with him.”
“Don’t go out with him.”
I was on the verge of having my childhood dreams come true, but I knew in my heart that this was a path the Lord did not want me to take. I didn’t know why. The Lord did not explain, but it was only a few weeks later that I started dating my husband, Rich. I found the real man of my dreams and as they say, the rest is history.
How many times in life do we make really good plans, or want certain things to happen in certain ways only to find out that the Lord has another plan, a different path for us to follow? There are only a few forces of nature stronger than sixth grade crushes, and I will admit to being disappointed at the time. However, I am profoundly grateful for the Lord’s course correction that led me to the life I have.
Proverbs 19:20 points out that regardless of what plans men and women may devise in their hearts, it is the counsel or decision of the Lord that endures. Relying on and being obedient to the counsel of the Lord yields the joy of soul-expanding, eternal results.
A great example of this is Sariah from The Book of Mormon. Sariah, wife to Lehi, the first mother we read about in The Book of Mormon, had her life completely turned upside down by the commandment of the Lord to her husband. I’m sure that for Sariah, leaving her beautiful home and her extended family and friends in Jerusalem to journey through a dangerous desert wilderness with her husband and children for eight years, cross an ocean and begin life again in a new land, had never made it onto her bucket list of life experiences.
Sariah had a good life. In Jerusalem, Sariah worshiped God, went to church, and undoubtedly spent time in service. She had security, both economic and physical, and
enjoyed wealth, a happy family, and a network of friends. But the Lord asked her to do something dramatically different than what she was doing; He had more glorious growth experiences and blessings in mind for her.
What Sariah was asked to do was certainly tremendously more difficult than walking away from a schoolgirl crush, but the principle is the same. When the Lord asks us to change our plans, make a new goal, or take on extra burdens, it takes faith and patience to follow Him. But we are venturing away from our temporal or social support systems and safety nets to pursue eternal riches of light and knowledge, and growth in our relationship with the Lord.
Sariah walked through the city gate and, with the exception of her family, left all that she loved behind. Life as Sariah had known it, or planned it, was over. Almost with the first steps of her journey, Sariah was faced with trials and tribulations. Laman and Lemuel, who in all likelihood were reasonably obedient sons in the familiar surroundings of Jerusalem, became quick to stir up contention. For Sariah, each return trip her sons made to Jerusalem, first to get the brass plates and then the family of Ishmael, must have filled her with severe anxiety and heartache. To give up the finest food Jerusalem had to offer for raw meat in the wilderness must have tried her patience constantly. She watched Laman and Lemuel ultimately rebel and threaten her husband and son, Nephi’s life. In her advanced age, especially for that time, she gave birth to two children in the wilderness. Whatever comforts and obstetrical skills that were available in Jerusalem were laid on the altar of sacrifice, enlarging her obedience and faith.
Sometimes we are under the misconception that if we do as we are directed by the Spirit, no harm will come and nothing bad will happen. When bad things do happen, don’t we tend to question the decisions we made that got us there? Sariah certainly had a moment or two (I dare say I would have had more than that) in which her patience and faith ran thin and she only saw her trials as an assurance that a wrong choice had been made.
Life isn’t a straight line, nor is it a gently flowing river. The twists and turns and rolling rapids often cause us to change our view, question our choices, and lose sight of the end goal. But, if we, as Sariah, walk through our city gate with faith, following the Lord, the blessings will outweigh the trials. Our spiritual growth and quiet joy will outweigh our sorrows as we move through life becoming more than we were before and progressing steadily on our way back to our eternal home.
When everything goes wrong, it is hard to see what is going right. Let’s balance what Sariah lost with what she gained. When I think about the Lord’s plan for Sariah, I marvel at all the miracles she must have seen .
Regardless of the dire and frightening circumstances they found themselves in, her sons were kept safe from Laban and his many servants. There were undoubtedly instances of the Lord’s protection from bands of desert outlaws. Both Lehi and Nephi’s lives were spared despite the rebellion and threats of Laman and Lemuel. The Lord gave them the Liahona, leading them on their journey in accordance with their faithfulness, and to life-sustaining water sources, food, etc. Sariah would have felt great joy and consolation in her relationships with the righteous among Lehi's and Ishmael's families. Their collective courage and faithfulness would have strengthened her testimony and resolve.
Nephi building a ship had to have been a wonder. In 600 BC, most ships she would have been aware of navigated well-documented coastal trade routes around the Mediterranean Sea. She watched as Nephi received plans for a boat “not after the manner of men,” but rather for a trans-oceanic vessel that would take them far beyond the coastal waters and known trade routes, across the sea to a new land. Did she stand in amazement on this ship, looking at the ocean, the sheer power of wind and waves, and the endless sky and horizon? Did she rejoice to see the tremendous variety of ocean life around her? Did she marvel and give thanks to her Father, the Lord of such a glorious creation, and feel her spirit and understanding grow? Sariah was able to see what a promised land could look like: the lushness of the forests, rivers, lakes and mountains, and the abundance of resources the Lord had prepared for them. All of these sights were so different from the desert wilderness she journeyed through, and even her old home in Jerusalem. Her world had been tremendously expanded, and with that, her perspective on her life, the Lord, and her progress towards exaltation would have also increased.
Sariah’s steps of faith out of her city gate led to a journey that would be the beginning of a nation of people in a far-away land, whose record would be at the center of the latter-day restoration of the gospel and bring countless people in generations to come to a better understanding of their relationship to their Heavenly Father and Savior.
The story about my go-go boots, and what at the time I considered its disappointing end, was one of the first lessons that taught me to understand the importance of, and eternal consequences that come from, following the Lord’s plan for our lives. How grateful I am that I listened to the Lord.
I have not been asked to leave my home like Sariah, but the Lord has asked me on many occasions to walk through my own city gate. He has asked me to stretch and do more than I thought I could, knowing that although what the Lord asks us to do does not come without hardship, trials and sacrifice, if we leave the illusion of the comfort of the world and follow Him, the Lord can make us more than we were or ever could be.