Monday, August 31, 2009

No Whirlwinds For Me—For the Moment

Ironically, in contrast to Lynn’s whirlwind life—and I’m pretty sure that “whirlwind” would describe the lives of many other readers of and writers on this blog—my own life is a bit quiet at the moment. Challenging, sure. But a bit boring. My sister-in-law is still living with me; she’s sort of a wannabe invalid, calling for help from her bed even though she can walk/limp on her bad leg. I finally told her I hear her better when she can at least stand at the door and open it before calling out—and she’s doing it. I’ve also told my brother, who’s done the same. How did we let her get to this point in the first place? Who knows. Maybe we all just took the path of least resistance.

My other challenge at the moment is “under employment,” as I’ve written about before. I left a full-time job several years back to teach part-time at BYU and UVU, thinking one or the other might develop into full-time but, nope, I need a Ph.D. for either, which isn’t something I’m interested in right now. First, I can’t justify more education if my current education can’t support me, and second, I’m ready for a change, just not sure in what direction I should go.

As I said, my life has had its whirlwinds but whenever my life has slowed down, I think of a talk by Elder Neal Maxwell, when he said that “the seeming flat periods of life give us a blessed chance to reflect upon what is past as well as to be readied for some rather stirring climbs ahead. Instead of grumbling and murmuring, we should be consolidating and reflecting, which would not be possible if life were an uninterrupted sequence of fantastic scenery, confrontive events, and exhilarating conversation.”

In fact, his talk on patience, which he first gave at BYU in 1980, seems to have followed me through my life. I’ve read it so many times I have passages memorized, much like my patriarchal blessing.

The first time I heard the talk, Elder Maxwell was speaking at a BYU devotional almost 30 years ago. I wasn’t a student at the time; I heard it on TV. I was impatiently waiting to put in my papers to go on a mission but it was four months to my 21st birthday..

A year or so later the devotional was printed as an article in the Ensign and once again it had a powerful impact on me; ironically, I was on my mission and struggling with patience in the place where I had wanted so much to be.

Some months ago I printed out a copy for a nephew who was impatiently waiting to go on his mission. History repeating itself..

One of my favorite images from the talk is that long, empty road. I don’t expect I have any more of them than anyone else, but when I’ve had them, they’re certainly frustrating. Patience, said Elder Maxwell, “helps us to use, rather than to protest, these seeming flat periods of life, becoming filled with quiet wonder over the past and with anticipation for that which may lie ahead, instead of demeaning the particular flatness through which we may be passing at the time. We should savor even the seemingly ordinary times, for life cannot be made up all of kettledrums and crashing cymbals. There must be some flutes and violins. Living cannot be all crescendo; there must be some dynamic contrast.”

Sometimes we are asked to be patient with events in our lives, sometimes with people. Patience reminds that God values our agency. At times we may feel irritated or inconvenienced by the need to make allowance for the agency of others, but the Lord asks us to be patient and long-suffering as others experience their own learning process. “When we are unduly impatient,” he said, “we are, in effect, trying to hasten an outcome when this kind of acceleration would be to abuse agency.

“When we are impatient, we are neither reverential nor reflective because we are too self‑centered. Whereas faith and patience are companions, so are selfishness and impatience. It is so easy to be confrontive without being informative; so easy to be indignant without being intelligent; so easy to be impulsive without being insightful. It is so easy to command others when we are not in control of ourselves.”

That’s one reason we need time. Elder Maxwell used the example of Esau and Jacob to point out how “generosity can replace animosity when truth is mixed with time.” And patience and love, he added “take the radioactivity out of our resentments.”

Thank goodness for time. Now, the trick is just to be patient while time does its stuff.

Last of all, a few more favorite quotes from Elder Maxwell’s talk:

“The patient person can better understand how there are circumstances when, if our hearts are set too much upon the things of this world, they must be broken‑‑but for our sakes, and not merely as a demonstration of divine power.”

“There is in patience a greater opportunity for that discernment which sorts out the things that matter most from the things that matter least.”

Life has plenty of whirlwinds. For the moment, Heavenly Father is giving me some downtime to practice patience—again.

For the full text of Elder Maxwell's talk, go to


Jennie said...

An excellent reminder. I've always been a person who wants things done yesterday. It's good to sit back and reflect and allow others to move forward at their own pace.

Michele Ashman Bell said...

Ah peace. I strive for it daily, rarely achieve it, and forget to appreciate it when I have it. Such a wonderful post and reminder.