13 November 2013

There is no mixture in Him

Once upon a time, a country girl freshman went to BYU. She marveled at the university, at the shiny brilliance of city life, at the sheer numerosity of Mormons all around her. She did pretty well, considering the strangeness of her new life.

While she visited with her family over the two week Christmas break after that first semester, a bounced check notice from her bank appeared in the mail. Due to forwarding, it was already several days old, and she knew the check might have already been presented for payment again. To make matters worse, it was her tuition check--and late tuition would add school fees to the returned check fees. 

A day or two later, she received notice from BYU that her tuition was late, and she would be charged the unconscionably kingly sum of $80. Coming from humble origins, and with most of her tuition covered by a PELL grant, she had little idea where that $80 would come from. 

Back at school a week later, she looked into the matter, and learned that, while her check had been for $170, she was only late on $35 in tuition. The balance of the check had been her health insurance payment.  That $35 balance was well under the lower limit for late tuition fee assessment, so she wrote a clear, courteous letter to the appeals committee, explaining that the late tuition fee had been wrongly assessed, should be waived due to the fact that, while her check amount had been well over that lower limit, the lion's share had been an insurance payment, and the late tuition fee should be waived.

She received a response a few days later, and felt almost as though she'd been slapped.  The tone of the letter made it seem as if whoever it was that had been given her letter didn't read it . . . they simply looked at the amount of her check, ignored the fact that her tuition balance was $35, and in the generous beneficence of their position of power, insisted that while she still owed a fee for paying her tuition late, the fee would be reduced to $40 based on her plea of financial hardship.  Stung by the condescending tone and the injustice of the situation, she took the letter with its attached revised tuition billing statement to the student office building to settle up.  She tried explaining the situation to the cashier, who looked at her statement, said she owed $170 and that the fee reduction was generous, and she should count herself lucky.

Our student walked away, properly smacked down, and measurably poorer.

At the end of the next semester, things got crazy.  With the demands of her new life, the deadline for paying her tuition and health insurance came and went.  She went to the student office building again, this time without even a copy of her tuition billing statement, and waited in line at the cashier's window with a little pocket of dread in her heart at the fee she would be again required to sacrifice to the thick-skulled demigods of administration.  When she answered the cashier's request for her statement in the negative, she was directed around the corner to another window, to someone in student accounts who could print one for her.  When the woman behind the counter looked up her student account, she said: "Oh, you owe less than $40 in tuition.  Let me take that fee off for you."  And, thirty seconds later, our student stood in the cashier's line, peeling the perforated tracks off the sides of a short sheet of white printer paper with her tuition billing statement printed in little gray dots. Then she again stood at the cashier's window, writing out a check. But this time, she walked away with a smile on her face, and gratitude in her heart not only that she was spared the huge fee, but that she now knew the secret to navigating the bureaucracy in such a way that she could protect herself against those blasted demigods.

That student was me, nearly twenty years ago.

In the  intervening years, I've had many chances to think over that experience, and ask God what it is that He wants me to learn from it.  Before this experience, I firmly believed the popular and oft-repeated phrase that BYU was "the Lord's University", with its attendant assumption that everything done there was the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the voice of the Lord unto graduation.  That little run in with human imperfection left that idea a little shaken for a while.

But, since the deeply and culturally ingrained idea that my God would put stumbling blocks in my way, would purposely put me through things that would hurt and harm me so I could learn and grow was so firmly entrenched in my young adult mind, it wasn't long before I talked myself into believing again that everything that happened there was according to God's will . . . and the stupid or unjust things were part of the package--somehow part of "God is good".

And that left me in such a position of helplessness and bondage to the trials and weaknesses and mortal failing I faced in intervening years, I'm not even going to go into it here.  Another story for another time.

The idea that God hands out trials to His beloveds goes against the basic simplicity of His goodness.  He turns all things to our good; what the enemy intended for evil, He uses for our good and His name's glory.  All things give us experience, and I have learned over the last few months how the hardest times in my life have shaped and blessed me.  But it was not God's will that I go through them.  I chose them, willingly. I came to this world, this sinful, broken, fallen, corrupt world, because I was desperate for the blessings that could come if I would just love, completely and utterly, the One who loves me best.

Everything that is bad, evil, wrong, hurtful, damaging, or painful in this life does not come from God.

Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. ~Moroni 7:14

Mormon lays it out pretty darn plainly in the letter Moroni included in his record.  We are not to judge that which is evil to be from God. Ever. Not even sometimes. Not even a little bit. Nada. Nope. Uh-uh. No way, José. Negatory.

Luke recorded, in 18:19,

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

How is God different from everyone else? He's the only one who is wholly, completely, and totally good. And Mormon 9:9 clinches it:

For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

And God has this last thing to say about the topic:

For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith. 

The modern concept that God does bad things just has to go.  We must be able to trust Him completely . . . to cast out fear and throw ourselves on His mercy and goodness and love without reserve. Utterly.  He truly does love every one of us, His myriad creations, best--and we CAN trust Him with everything we are.  We need to hide nothing, to seek to stand before Him in total honesty, and to cling to Him in all things.

And then.

Then.

Then we will know Him as He is . . . and He can set us free.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!