Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Concerning Tests of an Abrahamic Nature and Currant Bushes

It's a silly thing, this business we call life. Sometimes, it seems like the ultimate Ponzi scheme -- you put tons in and get little to nothing back. Returns are often minimal and take extended periods of time to show any significant gains and there is huge risk involved. We measure our life progress against the returns. We get frustrated when we see minimalistic progress and rejoice when we see great gains. Essentially, we have become pragmatic emotionalists.

Then -- seemingly out of the blue -- we encounter some great turbulence that tests our resolve in these unsettling times for the economy of our being -- a spiritual recession, a psyche bubble burst, or a crisis of faith.

Biblically, we have stories of such occurrences. The greatest of these was the test of Abraham. Think of it. God promises you posterity greater than the sands of the sea and here you are with one kid. At this point, I'd be thinking, "Right, God. That's a good one! You got me." Then, one day God tells you to take that one kid of your's -- only at this point he's a young adult -- and go sacrifice him. Again, I'm thinking, "Right...Are you sure about this whole omniscience thing?" This would have been the perfect time for a crisis of faith. And yet Abraham obeyed.

And so, we now refer to great tests and trials -- times when we are called upon to sacrifice something we hold dear -- Abrahamic tests. Unlike Abraham, we are not asked to sacrifice our only hope for posterity. Sometimes the things we are asked to sacrifice seem like things that cost rather than benefit -- two years for missionary service, one-tenth of our income, or not working Sundays. Rarely do sacrifices of the nature of Abraham's make sense. I think God does that on purpose. God asks us to do things because He knows the long term benefits. Think of Him as the ultimate investment broker.

More often than not, we are called upon to sacrifice part of ourselves -- our pride, our sins, or our heart -- and those are the most difficult sacrifices. It so much easier to give away some detached part of us, like money. The Lord doesn't want that, though. He wants us, and so we must lay ourselves upon our Abrahamic alter of sacrifice. That scares me.

God knows what He is doing when He places before us these great Abrahamic tests. We may not understand it right now, but one day we will.

 Hugh B. Brown gave a speech at BYU commencement in 1968 that has become one of my favorite talks. Entitled "God is the Gardener," it speaks of these great tests and God's reasons for them. This is only part of the talk, and it is just an audio recording. Brother Brown had just related how he owned a piece of property in Canada and on that property was a neglected currant bush. He decided that it needed to be pruned if any good was to come of it. This clip picks up after he has explained that he has a horrible habit of talking to inanimate objects.

"How could you do this to me? I was making such marvelous growth and now you've cut me down! I thought you were supposed to be the gardener." Sometimes we ask that. Sometimes I ask that. Sometimes we don't understand what the plan is. There are great risks -- in our eyes -- when we put our trust in God. We risk being cut down after what seems to us to be marvelous growth.

Perhaps I am alone in finding it difficult to trust God completely. I've never been one who excels at trust falls and other trust building activities. Sometimes, a lot of times, I am the currant bush. Sometimes, I don't want to sacrifice a part of me. I'd rather hold to everything and not risk anything. I'd rather be comfortable than experience growing pains. All the time, that isn't what God wants. He wants to help us grow and become more than we currently are.