Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanking God in Retrospect

Happy Anniversary, Babe!

Thomas Parkin: Trusting God (Part 2)

A couple years ago we bought a restaurant, left downtown Seattle where we’d lived for about ten years, and moved into the boondocks. This was maybe two years - give or take - after I returned to the church, that after about thirteen years away. I wanted to know if buying the business was the right thing to do, so I took it to the temple. I got one of those clear as a bell answers: “This will be a blessing in the lives of your employees, business partners, and family.” I recall thinking “nothing for me” at the time. But, in general, I thought this answer meant that we were going to be very successful, and that the Lord was now going to bless us materially for the changes I’d made in my spiritual life.

Time forward about eighteen months. We have bled money, lost just about everything we have, have put family money in jeopardy, and I have worked myself into total spiritual and emotional exhaustion. I’m constantly wondering ‘is this what the Lord had in mind, or have I screwed up somewhere.’ To say things had been trying and stressful would be an understatement. For several months I got less than three hours of sleep a night, not knowing how I was going to pay the thousands of dollars in bills we had coming in constantly above and beyond our revenue stream. And things just kept breaking. Throughout I would get the comfort that comes from the companionship of the Holy Ghost, but nothing in terms of direction that I earnestly and constantly sought. We sold the business, and this year dealt with the aftermath.

All along I’m thinking, surely things will not get worse than they are now. Surely something will come along to save the day. Then about June - now we are in danger of losing the place we lived - I got an answer that said “things are going to get worse, you should find your strength in service in the church.” And boy have things gotten worse … but now I expected it. I began to see myself in a new way. I began wondering what I was when all the trappings are stripped away. When I’ve got no peg to hang my ego on. Who am I when I have to basically beg for help. I never turned away from my rather stressful and time consuming church calling, however much I had lost confidence in my own ability to act the leader. And I began to see myself without any of the worldly trappings we use to define ourselves - and that has been an amazing blessing.

As for the answer to the earlier prayer, that has become so apparent. I’m in frequent communication with several of my old employees. They ask for advice, sound me out about things, tell me their news. One young girl tells me that they call the days when I owned the restaurant the “Golden Age of Tom.” I can’t think about that conversation without weeping, if I’m alone. About how good it was, and what she learned about working and life. That thrills me, makes me so happy - certainly not the blessing I had expected, but one that maybe runs deeper than the financial success I’d hoped for. Now I’m living in the basement of a former partner, saving money so we can get back into the mix. And that may turn out to be a blessing for him and for us, too.

One of the things that has nearly broken through this is my marriage. My wife is not a member. Very much not a member. She averts her eyes when we drive past a meeting house. We met when I was at my farthest point away from the church. She is an extremely bright, very unique woman. We’ve been friends, and have a lot of similar ways of viewing things, But as I’ve given up slowly on my old ways of living, some gaps have obviously emerged between us. And this year+ has certainly taken its toll on her. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pleaded with the Lord, what to say to help my wife, what to say to help my marriage. Never any answer. Pure silence. Why, I ask, can I so easily get answers to my prayers when I’m preparing to teach a lesson, but when it comes to this most important thing, silence?

About a month ago we had a fight about prop 8, and (I think) about how our attitudes and ideas about sex had changed over the last few years. And she didn’t speak to me for almost three weeks. Literally, didn’t speak to me. Except when absolutely needed, and to let me know she had no idea what “an awful person you’ve become.” I’m vacillating between rage and acquiescence, trying to be kind followed by returning hurt for hurt. Then, I’m driving to work, praying and thinking, and an idea, a sure idea comes into my head, about my wife, who she is and some of things that make life difficult for her. I can’t tell it, because this is a public forum. But it caused me to rethink our whole relationship, from day one, and to see her as so much more wonderful than what I’d seen before. I don’t know if I’d have been open to this answer a year ago. But now I can see my way clearly. And yesterday we had a really great conversation, looking back over old ground with new eyes - and I feel like I’m her friend again, which is the absolute only thing that I care about.

Anyway, the whole thing can be hard. What we want and what God wants for us are rarely the same. Usually they aren’t even in the same vicinity. He wants us to give up the world, and we want everything in the candy jar. We do not know where following His advice will lead us.

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