I've been blessed with a lot of strange promptings in my life. My favorite thus far has probably been when my husband and I felt like we needed to move to Thailand early in our marriage. On some levels, this made sense--he wanted to go into international education and needed experience before he could apply to the program he wanted, and I wanted to get involved in the anti-sex-trafficking world, and Thailand is quite the hotspot for that particular activity. Plus, we'd never planned on living "normal lives" and wanted to get some adventure goin' on. On the other hand, neither of us had any experience with or connection to Asia, my husband had never been abroad, and he'd be leaving an ostensibly very stable job with NASA for what looked like no job in this country we knew nothing about. On top of all that, this prompting came on the heels of a very unexpected but powerful revelation that it was time for us to have a baby, several years ahead of what we'd planned.
To say we were confused is an understatement, but we were also twitterpated and young and full of wanderlust, so despite not having a clue what the heck we were getting into, we just figured out a way to get over there and jumped on in. To make a very long story shortish, we had an amazing, exhilarating, heart-wrenching, beautiful, superhard year and a half, during which we learned and grew a ton and accomplished almost nothing we'd set out to do. It ended up taking almost two years to get pregnant. Our jobs were hilarious and not extraordinarily helpful to our goals. We built a house in our host parents' yard, which was pretty much all we did because, surprise, building a house is labor-intensive. While cutting the final piece of wood for the final screen, my husband chopped off his thumb. His recovery (because they stinking reattached it!), coupled with major visa issues and me being on bedrest for what looked like very preterm labor, landed us back in the States with $200 and no jobs and a baby threatening to come any day.
Honestly, it's easy to look back now and know that things weren't as bad as they felt, but this was kind of a low point for us in the faith department. There was a lot of wrestling-with-God going on. It wasn't just that we were lacking faith that he'd help us get out of this mess; much more troubling to us was how obvious it seemed that we'd been completely insane thinking it had been God telling us to go in the first place. If that had been a real prompting, the past two years would clearly have looked a lot different. NOTHING had worked out! We felt duped.
My scripture study this morning led me to Alma 19-20. I love this story for so many reasons, including the awesome yogic connections sprinkled absolutely everywhere, but I'll focus on Alma 20 for its excellent example of how God rarely gives us the full picture when he asks us to do something.
Lamoni, full of fire from his powerful conversion, wants to take Ammon to meet his dad, who is the big kahuna king of all the Lamanites, so he can learn all the same amazing things Lamoni has. Ammon checks in with the Lord first to make sure he's cool with that plan, and God tells him that he shouldn't go because Lamoni's dad will try to kill him; he sends him instead to another city to free his brothers from prison.
Ammon relays the info to Lamoni, who takes it in stride and doesn't question the communication and actually says he's friends with that city's king, so he'll come to tell him to let the brothers go. It's a perfect plan.
On the way to this other city, they run into Lamoni's dad. He tries to kill them.
Let's stop there for a moment. While heeding this prompting from the Lord, the exact thing they'd been avoiding happens. If I were Ammon, I'm 100% certain what my reaction would've been as I saw that royal chariot (or whatever) approaching, and it would've looked a lot like cursing God as all my faith in my ability to get the right signal leaked out the bottoms of my feet. Ammon, however, is a rock star, and he's not even phased. He has a solid relationship with God, and he trusts their communication because he's very experienced with it. He stays calm and instead of dying, he pulls a total yogi on Lamoni's dad, who ends up inviting him to Nephi to teach his whole kingdom the gospel, after he gets Ammon's brothers out of prison, of course. Things work out pretty well. It's easy to look back and think, huh. I guess God was behind that one, after all.
So why didn't he just tell Ammon to go to Middoni because Lamoni's dad wasn't in Nephi? Maybe he could've included a, "PS, your brothers are in prison there," and even warned Ammon that their lives would be threatened, but everything would be okay. Doesn't that seem easier?
This is something I love about God. He doesn't do what's easiest. He does what is effective at teaching us about himself and about ourselves. He teaches us how to live by faith. He lets us exercise our agency muscles. And he weaves all of our stories into each other's in the most intricate, beautiful ways if we let him. He's a master teacher of every single one of his children in the way that is right for each of us at all times. It's awesome.
I don't know why Ammon's story unfolded the way it did, but I do know that God knew Lamoni's dad would be on that road at that specific time, and he knew that meeting in that way would be the best way to reach this stubborn king and his entire kingdom. I'm still not sure why God asked us to move to Thailand, even though I can look back and count so so many surprising blessings that have come from the experience. God knew people who would be in our path who needed to be there, even though he enticed us there with other intentions. Our story still isn't over, so I can't say what was a wash and what was simply God teaching us and providing for us as always. All I know is that this process of learning to hear and follow promptings will never make total sense in the moment. His ways are higher than ours. That means we don't understand them, so we shouldn't be confused when stuff doesn't make sense all the way. As we grow into bigger spiritual brains, it begins to open to our view, and we're privy to even greater things we don't understand yet. This is the process of unfolding the mysteries of heaven. Intellectual discomfort comes with the territory.
Over the years, I've received many more nonsensical promptings. Some have panned out in ways that I can see God's hand very clearly. Others still have me scratching my head but trusting that I'll eventually see the big picture. The key for me has been learning to identify when I feel at peace and why. If I can get around my initial reactions to what I think is a prompting, I can evaluate whether or not I feel peace about the idea; if yes, it's pretty definite for me that it's coming from God. Times when I haven't obeyed, I've seen how my peace leaves. It's a very straightforward process. Times when I have obeyed and seen miracles, I've felt indescribable gratitude and joy. And those times that I obeyed but still don't get why have taught me how to keep my peace by being obedient, and that is a sweet blessing. I'm hoping to get to the point where I can feel the joy of following the Spirit regardless of the outcome, because that is the joy of constant communion, the joy of serving God for worship's sake alone.
I want to experience that love that Ammon had for God and everyone else he met, and it starts with obeying, no matter what. What crazy thing is God asking you to do lately?
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.