Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Irony and Coincidence: Teaching Tools of the Lord

Have you ever noticed the Lord's use of "coincidences" and even irony in teaching us through the events in our lives? For example, if you let your guard down and do something rude or stupid to a stranger that you think you'll never meet again, that failure may come back to haunt you. I've had several experiences where it just seems plain that the Lord arranged circumstances to teach me that I must always strive to stay in tune and not let my guard down.

One minor illustration: As a young married student at BYU, my wife and I visited the recreation area of the Wilkinson Center one night and played a couple of games. I put 50 cents into a fussball machine, but the machine ate my money without letting me play. Normally I would have shrugged my shoulders and gone on, but my wife said that I should be a little more brave and report the problem to the manager and get our money back. It was a very reasonable request. So I explained the problem to the person in charge. The manager said that it was my fault and my problem, and that he wouldn't refund it. I explained that I didn't make any mistake - the machine just took my money but didn't deliver the little ball needed to play the game. He got rather irritated and insisted that I was simply incompetent. At this point I should have just walked away, but I spend another minute or two arguing with him, getting nowhere and just getting more irritated myself. When I finally walked way, I felt very bad. I truly dislike contention and anger, but I fell right into and now had made a fellow BYU student mad at me as well. But since there are 25,000 other students here, I downplayed the episode by figuring that I would never run into that guy again.

Two months later he and his wife moved into our ward. Out of all the wards in the Provo-Orem area, he was now in our off-campus ward. And then the next week he was assigned to be our home teacher. I hardly saw him at church, but thought that the home teaching assignment might give us a chance to talk and fix things. Wrong. Perhaps he was avoiding me, or perhaps he was just normally inactive, or perhaps he started attending somewhere else. He never visited us. I saw him once and offered a time that he could visit us after Church, but he didn't come.

I realized that my failure to treat an irritated stranger with kindness and respect may have cost me an opportunity to help this brother in the Church. Perhaps I could have helped him grow as a home teacher or feel more comfortable about the Gospel or something, but now I believe that my "little sin" added one more painful obstacle to this man's progress in life. Had I been more in tune with the spirit, I might have been a help rather than a hindrance.

And I've seen this kind of thing many times, in my life and the lives of my friends and family, with signs of deliberate irony from a divine hand who wants us to learn this lesson: if we are to be His, we must always strive to be His. He wants us to "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in" (Mosiah 18:9), especially with the random irritated strangers in our lives (and for me, that must include phone calls to distant technical support personnel).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Or what about the possibility t hat this fellow member was a plain jerk, who wasnt interested in either home teaching you or doing the right thing, or acting mature. i work in retail, and have to deal with minor problems customers bring to my attention every single day - and trust me, some really get very difficult. But, if I were to follow that brother's example, I would be holding gridges against a lot of people, and it is certainly not the way the Scriptures and our church teach us to lead our lives.
please dont beat up on yourself - that particular brother was probably not intersted in leading a life true to LDS principles

Gunner said...

I realized that my failure to treat an irritated stranger with kindness and respect may have cost me an opportunity to help this brother in the Church.

But on the other hand, if you spend your whole life doing nothing but fretting about how your actions may, or may not, effect someone in the church, You end up living your life for others out of guilt instead of living life for yourself. So what is lost is your fulfillment for questionable and gain.
Guilt ruins you first.

Mormanity said...

I really haven't been beating myself up over that. It was a learning experience, though. Sometimes to benefit from a learning experience, it helps to remember it or to tell the story to others to help drive the point home. His failures were his, certainly.