Lessons and Miracles
Around 8:30 last night I got a call from my next door neighbor asking me to be a substitute teacher for a children's class at church, as she was sick. Luckily for her, I had traded with another teacher in the women's class so that I would be teaching next week instead of this week, so I was able to do it.
"Wonderful. Shelly* will be teaching the lesson so you won't have to worry about that," my neighbor said.
Wait a minute. "Shelly is your partner?"
"Yeah. I'll call her and tell her you'll be there."
It was too late now to back out. My neighbor was unaware of my situation with Shelly. It doesn't really matter to you exactly what had transpired, except to know that her and her husband's continuing denial directly harmed their children and indirectly harmed several families including ours. I was more upset at the neglect of her child, causing him to later require extended treatment, than at anything that happened with us. I was angry with her lack of integrity. She seemed to have been far more worried about appearances.
I wondered if I, too, were worried about appearances because I didn't want to now refuse because it might make our neighbor wonder why I didn't like Shelly. But really, none of it, including the hard feelings, was something I wanted to spread about when it wouldn't help anyone. Not to mention that these hard feelings I still harbored weren't worth me not helping out where help was needed.
At nine this morning we went to church and into our different classrooms, today in a different place for me. As Shelly taught the well prepared lesson, I realized what it was about.
No way, I thought to myself. I looked at the lesson manual. It was opened to a place near the end of the book, as appropriate for this time of year.
This woman was teaching a lesson on forgiving others.
For children, these lessons are simple, with stories appropriate to their age, but the concepts do not change no matter how old you are. She told a story of a boy who had worked hard raking leaves and his friend who had then scattered them all over. As she told the story, the thought came to me:You've fixed what was wrong, you've gathered up all the leaves together again in your own yard. You've done the only thing you could to help their family. You may not be able to trust some things about her, but there are other ways you can trust her. This is where she is at, and that is none of your business except to accept her for who she is.
And then I went home to study the lesson I was to give the next week. When I traded weeks to teach, I became responsible for teaching a lesson that comes from talks that the world leadership of our church gives at General Conference, which occurs every 6 months. A specific one is assigned for each month. This month, my lesson was to come from a talk by Elder David A. Bednar entitled "And Nothing Shall Offend Them
". Here is a choice nugget from that talk:
"In the grand division of all of God's creations, there are things to act
and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our
Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the
capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are
agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that
someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter
diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As
agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will
respond to an offensive or hurtful situation."
I'm reflecting on the course of events that transpired today. I had traded which week I would be teaching, making me available to help out during the week when Shelly would be teaching a lesson of forgiveness, a lesson which had essentially been assigned for this week over a year ago by lesson number, and many years ago when the manual was created. Second, my neighbor called me in circumstances which I could not refuse. And then the lesson I studied that very day, again on a subject over which neither I nor anyone involved had any control, was about choosing not to be offended.
These are the miracles that are meaningful. Most real miracles don't necessarily give us what we want, but help us become better people. I would say that these are the ones we should be praying for and looking out for.
*name had been changed