Sunday, February 21, 2016
The man didn’t even know he’d been turned off the path. He took less than two steps on the wrong course and was swallowed completely by the mists of darkness. I wanted to go off the path to retrieve him but I was constrained and told I could not leave the path to retrieve anyone who had strayed. The only way I could help them was to stay on the path.
When I woke up I was horrified thinking that youthful missionary exuberance might cause someone to deviate from the path to the Tree of Life. I used that dream as a warning to be very careful in my actions and behavior. Even as a missionary I did not want to accidentally offend someone and send them away from the Gospel.
Later, as an adult, I began to notice another part of the dream…the man's disappearance into the darkness. I was stunned by how fast he was completely obscured from sight and I began to feel gratitude for that part of my dream that forbid me from going after the man. In the dream I remember thinking I could just step a foot or two off the path, reach into the darkness and grab him and bring him back. But I was clearly told I could not leave the path for anyone or I, too, would be lost just as quickly. Satan changed the mists for each person and it was folly to think I could step off the path for even a short distance and find my way back. The only way to help him—or anyone in the darkness—was to stay on the path and let my light illuminate the thick and dark mists.
I know the temptation can be strong to think we can step off the path a foot of two and reach out into the darkness and save someone we love. As an adult I have seen couples fall into this trap. One partner begins to feel they need or prefer to do other things on Sunday than go to Church. The other partner, in an attempt to “save” their marriage, decides to step off the path just a step or two thinking they can rescue their partner that way. So both begin to stay home on Sunday together. In the beginning it may appear to help their marriage, but this deviation from the path the Lord has set never works. Soon they stop holding Family Home Evening, praying, reading the scriptures, even discussing spiritual things and the mists of darkness begin to thicken around them Eventually those mists of darkness not only envelope them, they begin to surround the minds and morals of their children.
In my own life, as some of my children have decided to leave the path, I want to reach into their darkness and grab them and pull them back onto the path but I realize you can't force someone on to the path. I also realize, even more than ever, that despite their increasing wanderings I cannot lessen my own commitment. I cannot agree with their reasons or nod in acceptance of their visions. I need to stay on the path the Lord has set and pray that one day the mists of darkness clouding their minds will lift just enough that they will see the light of those on the path and start to move toward the light again.
But the wanderings of my own children have also brought to my focus on another part of my dream from years ago. That of the man’s own role in his disappearance into the mists of darkness.
The man who was jostled was looking down at his own feet when it happened. Even in my original dream his focus on his feet bothered me, but I didn’t know why. I told myself maybe he was just being careful with each step he took.
However, years later, I know why it bothered me. He was so focused on his own feet, his own progress…that he never looked up. He never glanced up at the Tree…he was not looking long-term. In fact, he was so focused on the very next step he was going to take that he never even knew he had been jostled and turned. He honestly did not realize that self-correction in his life was necessary. He was blind even before he was lost.
We can get so caught up in what we are doing in our own lives that we become blind to what is spiritually going on around us. We have a personal responsibility to look up. We have a responsibility to keep our eyes focused on eternal goals, not our next earthly step. If we are jostled by something in our lives (and we will ALL be jostled at some point), we have a personal responsibility to keep our eye on the Lord. We have a responsibility to look up and self-correct. If we come across something that does not square with our view, maybe our view isn’t where it is supposed to be. Maybe we’ve forgotten the real reason we are doing all that we do.
Elder Kevin W. Pearson understands why we must look up. He understands that we need to stay focused on the Tree of Life and not be distracted by the mists of the devil around us. He understands that we need to be fully committed in our long-term journey. “Average is the Enemy of Excellence,” he notes. Average disciples look down at their feet. Committed disciples look to the Lord. Here is the clip. Stay by the Tree