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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Learning the Meaning of Life in a Public Bathroom

Learning the Meaning of Life in a Public Bathroom

          Several years ago, my wife and I were at a big move theater complex in a neighboring town.  I completely forget what movie we watched that night, but learned an incredible lesson about the meaning of life, while spending a few minutes in the public bathroom.

          In my clumsiness, I had spilled some soda pop on myself at some point during the evening, and had gone into the bathroom to try to clean up and dry off to some extent.

          While engaged in my hygienic task, a young father entered the restroom holding hands with his son, who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old.  They turned and headed down the row of stalls, and as they did, the little boy let loose and ran excitedly toward the first open door he saw yelling in excitement, “I’m a big boy daddy, I can do it all by myself.”

          “Okay, son.” The father affectionately replied with a big grin. “I will be right here if you need anything.”

          “It’s okay dad, I can do it by myself.” Responded the optimistic voice from within.

          The door to the stall closed and for a few moments there was silence as the young boy, must have been engaged in his task.  His father stepped a few feet away and leaned against a nearby wall.

          Then from within the stall came a tender little voice which now beheld a world closed in by tall obscuring walls and which was filled with strange odors and sounds he was not familiar with. It was almost laced with an edge of panic at the realization that he could no longer see or hear his father.  “Daddy, are you there?”

          “Yes, son.  I am here.  I will not leave you.  Are you doing alright?” Came the father’s patient reply as he leaned against the outside wall.

          Reassured, the little boy, then launched into a long and detailed description of how things were going within his new environment and the successes he was having in his task.  His father listened, smiling outside the stall (as did I by the sink at the far end of the room), as the child’s play by play account rang out and reverberated off the tiled walls.      Occasionally boy would ask questions and the father would direct him where the toilet paper roll would be located and to make sure he did a thorough job as best he could.

          As the young boy finished his description and paused, the silence again fell across the room.  His tones of confidence once again warped into one of worry and concern, “Daddy, are you still there?”

          “Yes son.  I am still here.  I won’t leave you I promise.  I will always be right here.”

          Reassured, the youthful excitement returned once again as the boy launched into how he was both struggling and succeeding finishing his task and donning his clothing once again.  His story was culminated with a flush and moments later the young child came bursting through the doorway and ran excitedly into his father’s waiting an open arms, “I did it daddy, I did it!”

          His father scooped him up and gave him a loving embrace and showered praise upon him, “I knew you could do it!  You are such a good son and I am so proud of you!”

          They joined me at the row of sinks as they washed together and enjoyed each other’s company and then left to bathroom to return to the rest of their waiting family members.

          But as I stood at the sink drying spilled soda off my shirt, the simple yet profound message of that moment sunk deep into my soul, about the significance and meaning of life and our purpose here upon this mortal globe.

          All of us are children of a loving Heavenly Father, who prepared us and guided us into this life of mortality.  I am sure that under his supportive reassurance, we all approached coming into this life, with the innocent and naive optimism of that young child saying, “I can do it Daddy, I am a big boy/girl.  I can do it on my own.”

          Once here in mortality, with a veil of forgetfulness upon us, we find ourselves in an environment closed off from the presence of Deity, which is filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and experiences.  Life and its challenges has a way of making us realize our solitary and inexperienced state at times, and compels our spirits to cry out toward heaven, “Father, are you still there?”

          As we call upon God in prayer, His loving and patient answer is always, “Yes child, I am still here.  I will never leave you!”

          Prayer is such a wonderful and often overlooked priceless lifeline to higher power and experience, which can direct us to the answers we are seeking for but cannot find on our own.  Our loving Father will never force His will upon us, but will constantly and lovingly guide us through our difficulties so that we can learn from experience and grow into something better than what we once were.

          As we become successful at times, the world will often distract us from that lifeline and we will take pride in ourselves and our accomplishments and can easily weaken our resolve until we realize that beyond the veiled stall of life is a source of ultimate wisdom, and we are drawn back to Him once again.

          If we maintain this link and line of communication, we will find the guidance and reassurance we need, as well as discover that all the tools we need to be successful have been placed within our grasp if we will listen to His guidance and know where to find them.  With the guidance of his father, the boy in the bathroom found a roll of paper.

          Our loving Heavenly Father will also guide us through the words of His prophets which are found in the scriptures.  They contain the words of wisdom and instruction to help us be successful in our tasks and know how to cleanse us, through the power of the atonement of our Savior from the filth of this world and become clean again through His loving grace.

          In due time, we will all face the end of our time in the stall of mortality, and if we have been faithful, we will pass beyond the door of death and see before us, the open and waiting arms of a Father who is eagerly waiting to scoop us up in His loving embrace.

          I am sure that we will run to him with cries of, “I did it, Daddy!  I did it!”

          To which he will respond, “I knew you could do it!  I am so proud of you!”

          May we always remember that we are never alone!  Our loving Father is there just beyond our mortal sight, and we can always reach out to Him through prayer!  If we do, He will guide us through life’s struggles and back into waiting embrace, much better for the experience!
          I’m grateful for life’s lessons and Heaven’s constant call, even when it comes through spilling a soda on your shirt and learning it in a public bathroom.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Die-Hard Fan

          It seems like this blog tends to revolve around unfortunate accidents I’ve experienced throughout my lifetime.  I don’t know why that is except for the fact that I’ve had plenty of accidents related to my not so smart decision making process.
          For whatever the reasons, these experiences are part of my life and have forged me into who I am.  I guess I’ve just had to learn some lessons the hard way – especially in my younger years.
          Today I want to recall an event which happened when I was probably only about 6-7 years old.  We still lived in Bishop, California at that time in my life, which was a smaller town near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

          One summer day, my Mom and Dad informed my older brother and me that they were going to run into town for a few errands and leave us home alone for an hour or so.  I don’t recall specifically, but I’m sure my knowing mother probably warned me to, “Stay out of trouble!”

          Being the budding genius that I was, I somehow concocted what I thought would be an incredibly funny prank to pull on my parents.  As they were going out the back door through the kitchen, which led out toward the garage and driveway, I quickly snuck out the front door and ran around behind the pick-up truck.
          Climbing up onto the back bumper and holding onto the tailgate, I crouched down low so that I would be hidden from view from within the cab where my parents would be sitting.  Sure enough, my parents were oblivious to my presence as they crawled into the truck and backed out onto the street in front of our home.
          With the wind swishing through my hair, I chuckled in delight at the prank I was going to pull on them as my father put the truck into drive and headed down towards town.  My hilarious plan was this: once my parents pulled up to the stop sign about 2 blocks away from our house, I would stand up on the back bumper and yell “Surprise!” or some other crazy phrase, they would be shocked as to how I had appeared there, and then I would hop off the back and run back home laughing all the way.
          What my little brain had failed to make contingency plans for was the fact that my dad did not to come to a complete stop when he reached the intersection!  Instead he simply slowed down a bit, and seeing no one was coming proceeded right on through!
          A wave of panic came over me as I realized my dilemma, which must have clouded my reasoning further than it already was, because instead of standing up and announcing my presence so I could get their attention and stop… I decided I would get in less trouble if I simply hopped off the back and ran home completely unnoticed.
          Being only in 1st or 2nd grade, my comprehension of the laws of physics wasn’t quite up to the speed with the acceleration of the pick-up.  You know that basic law of physics which says, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, until it is acted upon by an equal or opposite force” or something like that.
          Well, as I hopped off the back of the tailgate and extended my legs below me to land on the ground an interesting thing happened that I had not expected.  I was the body in motion that was still traveling at the speed of the truck and the resisting force below me was the stationary hot paved gravel street.
          As my sneakers hit the road, I slapped down and skidded forward through the far end of the intersection, tumbling in my shorts and tank top.  I put my hands forward to catch myself, which only churned them into hamburger along with my knees, shoulders, forehead and one of my cheeks.
          As my parents sped off oblivious into town, I was left to gather up my torn and bloodied carcass, and had to hobble the two blocks home sobbing hysterically.
          When my parents returned home an hour or so later my parents were, needless to say, shocked at my appearance and even more bewildered at my story as to how it happened, I’m sure they considered once again how they were so blessed to have me as their son!
          So where am I going with this completely true tale today… one that involves silly jumping on and off a truck?
          Well, with the College football bowl games just recently completed, the NFL playoffs and SuperBowl quickly approaching, and college and NBA basketball in full swing, I got thinking about what it means to be a “Fan” along with the concept of fans “Jumping on the bandwagon” or “jumping off the bandwagon” when things are going wither well or poorly for their team.
          Fans that jump on and off the bandwagon are usually referred to as “fair-weather fans” because they aren’t really committed to actually supporting their team unless things are going well.  Once the trouble starts, they jump off the bandwagon like rats off a sinking ship.
          Then, of course, there are the “Die-hard fans”.  These are the folks who live and die with their team’s triumphs and defeats.  They are the true fanatics whose lives and actions often revolve around the upcoming game schedule.

          I grew up in a household where my father and his sons were die-hard BYU fans!  My dad actually has a special room in the back of his house, which he calls the "Cougar Den, which is plastered with BYU paraphernalia and a big TV where we gather to watch the games together and either celebrate the victories or console each other in defeat.
          My Dad even has a big BYU flag he raises up his pole on game days, and if the Cougars loose, he lowers it to half-staff for a few days to warn the neighbors they better not come by because he’s in a bad mood.  Luckily, my sweet wife has been tolerant and supportive of this harmless vice throughout our marriage as well.

          One day, as I returned home from my dad’s following a disappointing BYU football loss, I was thinking about having to rally my spirits to get back into a positive mood so I could go to Church the next day and with a positive attitude.  My son noted my despondency and commented to me, “Dad, you’re a true die-hard fan.”
          Something clicked when he said that phrase and I was thinking about the church lesson I had to teach the next day.  It was the phrase “Die-hard”.  I got thinking about why it was that I stuck with and supported a team that was far from perfect, experienced frequent and regular struggles, hardships and frustrations.
          In context of my Sunday church thoughts, it hit me… I thought about the ultimate and very truly literal “Die-Hard” fan of all time, Jesus Christ!  Here was a completely devoted and 100% committed being, who came to this earth because of His utter love and support for us!  He was the ultimate fan of the human team of which you and I are all players, and literally “Died Hard” through the suffering of His Atoning suffering in Gethsemane...

 His Crucifixion...

 and raising triumphantly from the tomb through the power of the resurrection…
all in support of us… a team of mortal individuals with frailties, struggles, short-comings, weakness and imperfections.
          As I think about this along with the memory of jumping off the bandwagon (back of my dad’s truck) as a child.  I am humbled and grateful that my ultimate die-hard fan and Savior has consistently been there for me throughout my life of struggles and injuries!
          He is never “fair weather”, but is always there for each and every one of us as our biggest fan and most committed supporter!  He consistently cheers on our successes and mourns with us in our moments of loss and discouragement!  He never falters or wavers in his love and devotion which calls us to rise up through His strength, and beckon us forward to try yet again to be a better person each day, no matter what may have happened the day before.
          He helps to bind up and heal our wounds, whether emotional, psychological or otherwise, and provides us the ability to continue on in the game of life until it is finally finished.  And I know that when the game of mortality is finally done, if we have been faithful despite our frailties, He will be the One waiting to embrace us and congratulate us on a game well played and welcome us into His room of eternal celebration and joy!

          May we always be grateful for our biggest fan and turn to Him when life’s losses come.  I believe those struggles and trials are there to remind us to turn to Him when all other fair-weather fans may have jumped off our bandwagons.  He is always there and always will be!