Yes, I have been neglecting my blog. My EC and I ran away for a few days. Bliss. Now we are back, and reality hit me in the face like a manure-filled sock. But I am back - and it was nice to be missed. Thanks!
I don't know how old I was when I learned that there was actually a game that utilized the dots on dominoes. Up until that time, I thought the sole reason for their existence was to be stood on end in dizzying lines and patterns, and then knocked over. I stand by the idea that this is the real reason for their creation.
Today in Sunday School we talked about Joseph Smith's First Vision. As I was preparing during the week, I got quite involved in learning about the "dominoes" that needed to be lined up in order for that important event to happen. The dominoes included Joseph's upbringing, struggles with health, as well as his parents financial hardships and choices - stuff we all deal with. But there were dominoes that were lined up for Joseph and the Restoration that were huge mountains. Society needed to be changed. Populations had to be moved. The world needed to be enlightened to be prepared for that moment, and those events that followed.
The dominoes were lined up from before this earth was created. Joseph was foreordained to be the prophet of the Restoration. The Apostasy had to happen. The Book of Mormon needed to be written. The enlightenment of Western Civilization had to transpire: The Renaissance, and the Reformation had to prepare the minds and hearts of an entire population.
Then a land needed to be established where these people could worship God in a new, and enlightened way - free from the historic control of government and oppressive religion. These were huge dominoes that had to be lined up. But the new land was discovered, and settled, and eventually freed. These dominoes spanned hundreds of years, taking us from the dark ages to a small grove of trees in upstate New York.
God set things up, so that the right boy, could be at the right place, at the right time. And it all fell into place. I am too old, experienced, and jaded to believe in coincidence.
When I see the Divine orchestration that permitted the young Joseph to receive an answer to a simple prayer, I marvel, and I wonder...
What dominoes has God set up for me? Do I recognize them, or do I look at them and see fate or coincidence. While Western Civilization was not altered to accommodate anything I've done lately, I can see how decisions and circumstances were lined up to get me to where I am this very moment - and for that, I am grateful. But I would be lying if I said that there were things I had to deal with in my life that I would have rather avoided all together. (As if I have a choice in the matter.)
It seems that so many people are reeling right now from challenges and tragedies that have been thrown into their paths. How do we look at those events, those experiences?
Did God put them there?
Did they just "happen?"
Did we put somehow put them there?
Is there a reason - a design - to what's happening to us, or is it "just how life goes?"
It seems we are very best at seeing the line of fallen dominoes when we look behind us. Sometimes we have to have a good amount of distance before we can even see the pattern. Sometimes we never see it, and if you are like me, we have a list of questions that we intend to ask God when we meet again.
There are rare occurrence when we realize there is a blessing wrapped deeply inside a catastrophe as we are experiencing it, but not often. Faith, revelation and humility always seem to play a great part in this.
Sometimes we are privy to a glimpse of the way the dominoes are lined up before they are slated to fall. Priesthood and patriarchal blessings, personal revelation and promptings can illuminate what is up ahead - more often vague, but occasionally crystalline. And it can be equally wonderful, or terrifying.
It takes a tremendous amount of perspective and faith to stand in the midst of the storm, and identify it as our personal training ground - as it swirls around us.
I can't imagine that Joseph Smith was too thrilled with the response the Lord gave him when he was struggling.
"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7)
Experience. That's right. That is what we are here for. Sometimes I like to forget that part - because that part often hurts, and causes my gratitude to run cold. When the experience is good, I easily find my grateful voice.
The Lord has His plans for us. While those plans might be exhilarating, they are just as likely to be painful. The dominoes that were lined up to get us where we are now have fallen - and here we are. There are dominoes that surround us now, and those that lie ahead - it is up to us to accept them, and learn from what is in store for us.
What is lined up ahead for me? Maybe that is the wrong question.
What will I learn from what lies ahead? Better.