Friday, February 28, 2014

The Roadrunner

I hit a roadrunner today...

...and that sucks because I love roadrunners, they remind me of my grandma. She loved to watch them at her home in Arizona as they zipped through the field that was adjacent to her little white home. With the smell of orange blossoms on the morning breeze she would sit on her porch and make note of their comings and goings, of the lizards they caught for breakfast, and of which couples were raising chicks that year. 

She was a lot like a roadrunner herself. Fast and sharp and yet somehow fragile, and so every time I see one I feel her nearby which is amazing, because I miss her with an ache that never really goes away.

Today as my little commuter raced down the winding country road towards work I was not thinking about grandma or roadrunners at all. I was deep in thought about something which I thought was of paramount import. The music was up and I was zooming (yes zooming, think the Jetson's car noise) and completely engrossed in my own ponderings. The outside world was merely something to be minimally observed just so that I could maneuver my way safely to my goal.

It was somewhere in the middle of this self-absorption that the lovely little roadrunner darted in front of my car. I was going too fast to even brake and watched in horror as it disappeared under my bumper. When I glanced out the rear view mirror all I saw was a cloud of brown and black feathers suspended in the air. 

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” I voiced to the universe, but it did no good. I had killed that beautiful creature simply by barreling along, I had a goal to reach and little roadrunner had simply gotten in the way.

The situation brought two ideas to my consciousness. The first was that no matter how sorry I felt about hitting the roadrunner there was absolutely nothing I could do to bring it back. I had not set out to injure him but nonetheless he was now fertilizing the landscape because of me. The second idea was just as upsetting, I wondered in the past how many other creatures I had run over on my way without realizing. 

The fact of the matter is that even with our best intentions we are going to harm others as we make our way through life. Sometimes this comes because of selfishness and other times because we are unaware of the impact we are having on people and the natural world around us. Unfortunately, that does not negate the fact that we are indeed doing harm.

This of course is why we need the atonement through which a loving and magnificent Savior paid the entire price for all of our selfishness and the unintentional harm we create. He didn't just pay part of it, He paid all of it and Him asking us to do things like repent, be kind, and improve ourselves has no effect whatsoever on that payment. We don't have the ability to make payment for the dumb things we do. So why then does He ask us to do anything at all?

Consider the following analogy given by Brad Wilcox in a speech at BYU in 2011.
"Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher...Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.
 If the child sees Mom’s requirement of practice as being too overbearing (“Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”), perhaps it is because he doesn't yet see with mom’s eyes. He doesn't see how much better his life could be if he would choose to live on a higher plane."
This understanding leads to two scriptures that initially seem to be in opposition of one another.
Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. 
I always used to wonder how can the rest promised in Matthew equate with the Lord showing me my weaknesses? Being shown my weaknesses is one of my least favorite things on earth. Just another item to beat myself over the head with. Reason number 2042 on my list of why I'm not good enough; doesn't sound like rest to me.

Once we see that the Savior pointing out our weaknesses is not done to show how short we are falling on paying our debt but an act of love which will lead us to a better life the shame goes out of it. I can know that I am a worthwhile person with flaws who God loves and that He sees the endless potential I have. He does not want me to beat myself up, instead He wants me to humble myself and become a little more like Him with each realization of weakness and the course correction that results. That is part of the rest that is promised.

Just living with our sins and weaknesses is draining but being made aware and them and with His help improving on those weaknesses gives us peace. Even when it takes a really long time to overcome those things that hang us up, and even when we mess the same things up over and over again, we can know that we are doing what He has asked and there is rest for our souls in that knowledge. We will also find that as we try we build spiritual muscles and become more loving and humble. We find through experience that we can trust that at some point He really will make all our weaknesses into strengths.
With the roadrunner this morning I was shown a weakness, a weakness in which I rush though life without paying enough attention to those around me be they birds or people. My goals are worthwhile but not more important than the impact I am having as I move toward them. I was shown that I can be more aware, slow down, and try to tread more carefully on my path. I can save the next roadrunner, I can pay attention to my teenage son when he tells me about the latest video game, I can be more patient with my co-workers, I can stop and be a listening ear to a friend in need. And while there is a great possibility that I have not seen the last roadrunner or armadillo or skunk disappear beneath my bumper I can do better at avoiding that possibility and eventually, with the Lord's help become perfect in that, and that gives me rest.




  1. Best one yet, seriously. Love it and you!

  2. Just read in the New Era this morning about the atonement. I must really need this. Thank you for always writing something beautiful that invariably hits the spot. Love you!


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