Good morning, Heavenly Father. Funny – I find it very significant that when I first wake up, in those first moments when asleep is turning to awake, my first thoughts speak to you? Or in the night, when sleep is illusive, that my thoughts turn to you… “Hello Heavenly Father. Do you have anything you would teach me at this time?” I mean, you are the creator of the universe, and yet somehow, over the years, I have quietly developed a relationship with you such that, when those quiet moments come, I reach out first to you. It’s almost like a sigh of relief. I find that these moments bring me increasing comfort as the years go by. I approach you frequently this way, with a reverent familiarity (like with my wife – what does that say about her?) born of a primitive but heart-felt understanding of who you are; yet with a sense of friendship that comes from years of trust and faith-promoting interactions. Truly you have my heart, as I find myself giving it every day with an ease that defies rational thought.
This relationship is, it goes without saying, is priceless. There are times, precious times, that stand out from others; times when I experience a more complete understanding of the joy that our relationship brings; times when I am filled with gratitude, yet I unabashedly ask for more. I know you don’t mind. I know you don’t consider it to be an ungrateful gesture. I know that you want the same thing – to give me more, and that in my desire for more, I am exhibiting at worst impatience, because I know that if I were prepared for more, you would have already rendered it. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for us to take a step back and understand how we arrived at this place. I ask your indulgence in this, because I know it’s not necessary for you – you already know and you already have all perspective, but for me… well, I want to be able to understand so I can keep doing the things that have brought me here. Besides, life has taught me – no, you have taught me – that sometimes it’s good to just sit back and reflect on the journey; that sometimes you have to look at where you’ve been in order to truly understand where you are.
As I learn to understand the things that bring me closer to you, I learn to know and understand you. My first steps toward you were simple – a recognition that you existed. That recognition was manifested through simple prayers like, “Heavenly Father – if you’re there, please help me know that. The noise here –both outside and inside – is so loud, it’s almost impossible to hear you”. Even then, my plea was answered in remarkable ways, with personal epiphanies and pure knowledge, and in my case physical manifestations of your power and of your love. As a result of this experience, I learned that the worth of even one soul is priceless, that your eye is truly on the sparrow, and that you really do know and love me.
Next, I began to open up a little; to trust enough to let my guard down – just a little. Prayers of exploration during my morning run became more probing bedtime prayers: “Do you have a place for me? Do you love me? Can I do this? I mean, I know you expect a lot of those who follow you, and well…I’ve drifted far, far away. If I approach you now, will I be able to meet your expectations without falling on my face -falling down the ladder, so to speak – and disappointing both of us?” Soon, prayers said lying on my back in bed became kneeling prayers. This was huge, Heavenly Father! I know – I forget that you already know this – but this was huge! In kneeling to pray, I was truly, for the first time, beginning to submit myself to you. Through this experience I learned not only more of your love, but even more of your patience. Here I was, a 45-year-old man, trusting you with thoughts worthy of an 8 year old whose father is teaching him to swim in the deep end of the pool. I also began learning that you were above all trustworthy…and gentle.
Soon, the big “O” – Obedience – began to call to me. I began to understand that if I were going to learn of you, I had to learn to obey you. (After all, you are the creator of the universe!) I needed to be baptized. That meant dressing up in a white jump suit, allowing people to take my picture in this ridiculous outfit and then admitting that someone other than me had the right to exercise the authority to wash away my past by dunking me in the water and then laying hands upon my head in front of 300 people – mostly strangers. But they were good strangers. They made me feel good, and I made them feel good. It was a good thing. From this experience, I began to learn not only that you were trustworthy (a trait belonging to YOU), but that I could trust you (something that WE could build a relationship on).
Now, in our reminiscence, we come to a long bridge, Heavenly Father, but it is a very important bridge. This bridge represents a time of baby steps – the proverbial line upon line, precept upon precept. It was about 10 years of reading, learning, testing and growing, but not terribly fast. It was a time of building a foundation of trust and increasing my desire to know you. I had promised early on in our relationship that I would “seek to know thee” – it was one of those miraculous experiences of pure knowledge – and this was a time of gradually fulfilling that promise. It was a time during which you fulfilled your promises, too. It was a time of sealings (to my precious wife, Diana), of growing love for family and friends, and of building my house upon the rock. During this time I gained a testimony of your wisdom. I learned that you have the amazing ability to teach each of us (especially me) according to our needs, our ability to learn, and in the unique way that we learn. In other words, I began to recognize that you had a customized lesson plan crafted just for me. Looking back now, I realize that you were, as always before, waiting for me…patiently…very patiently.
Then, Heavenly Father, from my limited perspective, things began to pick up speed. Somehow you knew that Diana and I were ready for the next step. You knew that when you called us to drop our lives (my job, her art) and go on a mission at the tender age of 56, we would go. You knew that this would demonstrate to us just how strong this house that we had been building together for the last 10 years had become. You didn’t ask us the year before, and you didn’t wait another 10 to 15 years until we retired. You asked us then, and I’m so glad we responded. What a blessing that whole experience was. You taught us to be humble, to recognize and reject pride, and to take joy in serving. You truly taught us that we had a unique gift, both as individuals and as a couple, to love and to teach. And you taught us that we had faith – as individuals and as a united couple. Throughout this time, this relationship between us was growing, becoming less forced and more desired. It became somewhat less based on obedience and more based on trust; less on faith and more on knowledge; less on commitment and more on love.
It was a few months after we returned from our mission that our relationship really grew – exponentially. I began to realize that there were blessings available to me far beyond what I had learned of in church. The most important aspect of this discovery is that I said to you, “Lord, I want these blessings. I want to glorify thee. If trials be necessary in order to prepare me to receive these blessings, bring them on!” In essence, I was saying, “Make of me according to your will – you are the potter, I am the clay”. You responded quickly and most certainly. The pace of my “conversion” accelerated. I recognized that I had never truly given you my heart. You enabled me to do that. I sought baptism by fire. You prepared me and granted that. I sought to tear down the pavilion between you and me – you are helping me do that. For the first 14 years since my first timid inquiries, you encouraged me gently, and progress was measured in months and years. Now, the progress is measured in days and weeks. You are providing me with life-changing instruction on a weekly basis. What I understood last week is different from what I understand today. I feel you drawing me toward you. I rejoice in that, and as I continue to ask for more, you continue to prepare me and teach me. My understanding of seek, ask, knock has evolved to a whole new dimension; yet still you are gentle. And I am not afraid, not really. You still allow me to pause and breathe occasionally. Perhaps I’m the one pausing, but when I do, you remain patient, and you remain beside me.
Heavenly Father, I can never of myself justify this friendship, this trust. I can never be worthy of your love, but I can cherish it. I can express gratitude every day. I can turn to you with my heart and my thoughts in those quiet moments when the world has faded away. I can reach out in complete trust, anticipating the coming gifts like a child on Christmas morning. I thirst for your gentle instruction, and I can learn. Now, though, it is my turn to show patience. I must be trustworthy. I must love others as you have loved me. I must forgive others as you have forgiven me. In short, I must follow your example. In doing so, and in doing so joyfully, I know that I glorify thee, and I know this brings us both great joy. I love thee, Heavenly Father. Thank you for being my friend!