I have never claimed to really understand God. There were times in my life when I thought I knew all that I needed to about God. But that was during the folly of my youth when life was still black and white. For me, those days are long gone and God remains a mystery to me.
During my know-it-all days I thought I could discover God in the dramatic. As a missionary, for example, I wanted to show those investigating the church how powerful God was and wanted God to overwhelm these people by some sort of sign. True, my motives were pure, but I don’t think I pleased God by attempting to use Him as a sideshow.
I am comforted in the fact that I am not alone in my evolving relationship with God. I see young Nephi being prone to that same flare for the dramatic that I was. Nephi’s similar misguided interpretation of God is best exemplified when his brothers bound him with strong cords to leave him to die in the wilderness.
This incident happened on the trip back to their wilderness hideout after convincing Ishmael and his family to travel with them to the promised land. As was typical in this complex relationship, the brothers got angry with Nephi and decided the only solution to their fraternal problem was to dispose of Nephi. (Perhaps not the best first impression to provide a family that is joining you for a long journey.)
Quickly, Nephi found his wrists and ankles tightly tied together and he was powerless to free himself. If left in this state, he would surely die. A desperate Nephi prayed with all his might that God would burst those cords that could lead to his certain death. He wanted the dramatic. He wanted to stand up like Superman to show his brothers not to mess with him.
I don’t doubt Nephi’s intentions. He had been so patient with his difficult brothers. Nephi knew he had a greater calling and was sure that an ignoble death in the desert just didn’t make sense. Demanding and expecting the dramatic made perfect sense – at least to Nephi.
Well, God in His wisdom decided the dramatic was not warranted. Instead, God loosened the cords allowing Nephi to free himself.
I wonder how often in my plea for the dramatic that I fail to see the hand of God accomplishing the same result in a far less dramatic way? Maybe a sustained relationship with God is not based on the grand miracles I seek but in recognizing the small and gentle nudges that are God’s most powerful tool to come to our aid while we struggle in our mortal experience.