Rachel Pinegar DeMille is the happily married mother of eight children. She served a mission to Spain, Barcelona, and has a missionary in Brazil Salvador. A professional writer and educator, she is delighted at the new-found opportunity to share her faith, spiritual ponderings and love of the gospel with fellow Latter-day Saints through The Millennial Star.
I used to love to watch President Hinckley in action with the press. Whenever he fielded a really difficult question, he would answer simply and directly, and then follow with a cheerful, “Isn’t it wonderful?” His sharp mind and guileless manner always won over his detractors. He was absolutely disarming in his warm, clear and plain witness of what was true.
Perhaps the thing that stays with me the most is his hopeful declaration: “Isn’t it wonderful?” With these three words he expressed faith, hope and charity all at once. It makes me think of the account of Dutch sisters Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom, who were imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for their role in protecting Jews during the Holocaust. Their barracks were the most detested by the prisoners, because of the infestation of fleas. Through it all, Betsie urged Corrie to follow the Lord’s counsel to give gratitude in all things. Corrie was a good soldier through most of what they had to endure, but could not reconcile how the Lord’s love was manifest in such a meaningless pestilence as the fleas.
Much later Corrie came to know that the reason that the Bible they huddled over for clandestine prayer meetings in their barracks was never found–nor much less, the prayer meetings themselves–was because the guards themselves were loath to enter into the barracks where the fleas were such a problem. The very fleas were a gift from God–a gift that allowed them to share hope and faith with so many others who were without a reason to live.
Isn’t it wonderful?
The very things that seem to try our patience, our faith, our endurance, our good will–these, not least of all, are the things that represent the Lord’s abundant kindness to us. We all know this, in hindsight. Would that, like Betsie, like President Hinckley, we could see with the eyes of faith and praise God for the fleas.
A friend of my is going through an Ultimate Test. Having known a little of that in my own life, she and I have shared some confidences and tears. She recently sent me an email and asked me how I felt about uncertainty–if it was “acceptable” to me. Here is my answer….
Of the many gifts great and small that I was sent with to this earth, the tolerance for uncertainty is one that I most treasure. It is a key to my happiness and my ability to learn effectively. So, yes: uncertainty is acceptable to me. Truth be told, I don’t know anything in the world that I’m not uncertain about in some measure. There are truths that I have an absolute certainty about, and at the same time I’m certain that I very little notion about their true meaning, depth and complexity.
It’s the difference between sheep and goats, I think. Having raised both by hand, I can say that there was a time that I thought the good Lord was out of his mind for suggesting we should be like sheep or lambs. Goats are smart, creative, inventive, clever, personable, funny, persnickety. All thing that we pride ourselves in, right? Oops. Pride. Riiiight.
Lambs are so docile and trusting that they don’t even fear fire if you’re standing next to it. They’ll walk right through it to get to you with no idea of any personal danger.
I think when we’re like goats we have no idea how stupid we are. And when we’re like sheep we’re completely dialed in on things we can trust in absolutely, without understanding them and without fearing anything that could happen to us by trusting the Master.
Goats think they know; sheep know He knows. Uncertainty is perhaps just the limbo between picking a side–or maybe the first step toward walking through the fire to safety.
I remember when I was very small—maybe four or five, sitting on a cushioned chapel bench and staring up into Mama’s face during the Sacrament prayer. Her face looked very serious, and her lips moved in sync with the words the priest spoke. Always. I asked her why she did that. She told me it helped her think about the words that were being spoken. As she sat with her head bowed and eyes closed throughout the passing of the bread and water, I thought about the words she had spoken.