Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pushing the Rock

I started writing this post last year sometime and it's been sitting in my blog post drafts, unfinished, for many many months. I just decided to finish it. It is still relevant to me. I hope I remembered the points I had in mind when I first started it. I'll never know I guess. But here it is.

Yesterday Zac and I attended the funeral of a long time friend of ours who had suffered from a painful disease for many years. I want to write more about him in another post.  But something struck me that was said in the services. It was that if all of our trials and tribulations were taken from us, the purposes and plan of Heavenly Father would be frustrated. He has plans for us that we may not understand.

And so on the way home Zac and I talked about this. How those of us who have been given particularly hard burdens to bear, illnesses that can't be cured, chronic pain, things that just can't be understood sometimes, sometimes our purpose in life isn't what we may think it is. It isn't always the same as it is for other people. This can be hard to come to terms with. Our purpose may be for others to learn compassion and service. Or who knows. The point is just that we don't always know Heavenly Father's purposes. And that if He took away all suffering and pain and trials, some of our purposes and His plan would be frustrated. I believe that is true. You may not agree with me.  And that's ok.  It's just something I'm pondering right now.

And then as I was laying in bed later on in the day, I remembered a story that was frequently told and retold when I was a missionary. I asked Zac if he had heard it and he said yes many times. So many of you are perhaps familiar with this story as well. That's ok. I'm going to tell it anyway. (And I know some of you may find this overly simplistic or trite or simply ridiculous but that's ok too. Metaphors have their limitations. But sometimes they help to see certain things more clearly. At least sometimes.)

It goes something like this: There is a man and he is asked by God to go out and push this very large rock. That's his job. That's what he's been told to do. It's a big boulder type rock, almost as big as he is. But God has told him to push it, so he does. He goes out every day and pushes with all his might. He groans and sweats and it's hot and tiring, but he keeps at it. And it doesn't budge. Day after day, he pushes and pushes and pushes and it just doesn't move at all. Finally after awhile of pushing this rock every day with no success, he becomes a little frustrated that he's been asked to do this task that he is clearly not able to do. Why did you ask me to do something when you knew that I would fail? He asks. Why can't I move the rock? Why isn't it moving? I've been working so hard for so long, I've done everything you've asked me to do, and I just can't do it. I give up. This is too hard. I don't know why you asked me to do this.
To which God replies, patiently and in love, I never asked you to move the rock. I told you to push it. It was never my intention that the rock move.
The man is stunned.
God continues, stop and look at yourself. Look at your arms and back, how strong you have become from pushing. Your legs. You have become what I wanted you to be by pushing every day against this rock. That is what I wanted. That is what I asked you to do.

And I think this is sort of what was meant by what was said in our friend's funeral service. We don't know why we've been asked to do some things. What we think might be our purpose here on earth, may not be what it really is. And we may not be able to see how we are accomplishing our purpose, or God's purpose for us.
I may think that I am supposed to be a "good mom", and serve others, and do any number of things that I "thought" I would do - besides being bed bound in pain for months at a time, but what I was asked to do is push the rock.
I may think that I'm failing, and I'm not doing what I thought I was being asked to do with this life, but what I was really told to do is push the rock.
Maybe someone else was asked to move it. Maybe everyone else's rock is slip-sliding down the road and you think that's "progress" and they're getting somewhere and becoming someone, while you are stuck behind a boulder that refuses to budge. You may not feel like you're able to live a "real life", like everyone else seems to be doing. We don't know. We only know how to do our part. And that's to push.

Another lesson, of course, is not to judge. If you think you see someone else who is pushing mightily and sweating and groaning and all you can think is, "huh? It wasn't that hard to get my rock to move! You just need to ______ (fill in the blank)." Then take a step back and realize your purpose may not be the same as theirs, even when the task looks identical. 

So, that's what I thought about in the days after the funeral. Sometimes I still curse it all, and don't understand, and this kind of perspective doesn't help me at all. But sometimes it does.

And that's all.

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