Thin Pancakes and Hardened Categories

“Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10).
By H. Wallace Goddard and Barbara Keil
Research is clear. We humans are not objective.  We gather data very selectively. We ignore or discard truths we don’t like. We see bias in others without seeing our own.  We judge those we disagree with to be illogical. When we disagree substantially, we attack their integrity and character. We excuse ourselves and our friends for our weaknesses while emphasizing and exaggerating the (similar) weaknesses of our enemies.
Each of these failings is a well-attested tendency in human nature. They are a part of the human condition. They might be considered pride because, at their root, they lead each of us to believe that we have a privileged and superior view of truth. These tendencies cause us to diminish others’ views while trumpeting our own. Perhaps we suffer the highest form of pride when we imagine we are immune to these trappings of our fallenness.
The Natural Man is an Enemy to Other Men
Our narrow-mindedness and judging do not paint a pretty picture of humans. It is clear that, in the long history of this burdened orb, it is rare for groups of people to coexist peacefully. Resentment, bias, and misunderstanding are the norm. We humans are afflicted with terminal hardening of the categories–we draw lines that exclude people who are not like us dispositionally, religiously, politically, racially, philosophically, etc. while we show compassion to those we like and who agree with us.
The Book of Mormon provides a magnificent case study of this painful truth. When righteous Captain Moroni did not get the supplies and reinforcements that he needed, he jumped to malicious conclusions. He filled his innocent ignorance with vile supposition. He accused Pahoran of sitting on his throne in a thoughtless stupor (v. 7), and repeatedly suggested that he was negligent and wicked. He even hypothesizes that Pahoran might be a traitor. He accused him of idleness and iniquity and threatened to smite him (v. 30).
Wow! If this is the way the righteous deal with differences and difficulties, what hope is there for those of us who are less righteous?
As we know from our vantage point, at the time of Moroni’s tirade, Pahoran was back home dealing with an impossible insurrection in the best way he knew how. He was displaced and overwhelmed. His remarkable response broke the usual human cycle of recrimination. “And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:9). It is not easy to rejoice in the greatness of the heart of one who is attacking us. But Pahoran was not a common man.
Is this frank story included in the great Book of Mormon record in order to invite us of the latter days to be wiser than Captain Moroni? Did the Book of Mormon editor know that division and contention would be particular challenges in the last days? I don’t know. Yet I’m confident that God wants us to learn from the story.
Bringing Peace to Our Dialogues

King Benjamin’s warning applies to today’s world: “beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit” (Mosiah 2:32). What Jesus said about doctrinal disputations must surely apply more broadly:
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:29-30)
Imagine a world where contention was indeed done away! What an extraordinary thought! And what an extraordinary time it was when the influence of Jesus filled the people and changed their natures for most of two centuries: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:15).
I worry about the contention that seems to define our time. Not only do we grouch in traffic but we scowl in our families. And our professional discourse seems to be reaching new levels of coarseness. The media are filled with hatemongering. E-mails flood our inboxes with accusation and harsh judgments of our political opponents.
Is this the way God would have us get to Truth? Is this how a Christian nation is supposed to settle its differences?
It seems that President Benson’s invitation is timely: “Think of what pride has cost us in the past and what it is now costing us in our own lives, our families, and the Church. . . . We can choose to humble ourselves by conquering enmity toward our brothers and sisters, esteeming them as ourselves, and lifting them as high or higher than we are” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4).
Jesus Himself set the lofty standard: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When we are true disciples, we respond to attacks with love, blessings, and service. I’m afraid that true disciples are rare.
Examples of Modern Contention
In our families we often interpret misunderstandings as insults and harbor grudges—or we forgive and love. We choose between opposites. In our wards and workplaces we commonly chafe at the presumption and inconsideration of others—or we choose to be grateful for the good. In the political arena, we choose to vilify our enemies—and even impugn their motives—or we learn to listen more appreciatively to the views of others.
Let’s consider an example. Many people have been concerned about the new federal legislation related to healthcare. I admit that I have serious concerns about both the legislation and the process that got us the legislation. But, that aside, there is a true principle connected to the new law. That principle is the oft-repeated heavenly mandate to care for the poor.
God is clear: Our spiritual well-being depends upon our care for those who are hungry, sick, and poorly housed (see, for example, Mosiah 4:26). So if we have concerns about this legislation we can choose to focus solely on our disagreements or we can remember that in spite of those disagreements, we share an end-goal in common—to provide care for those in need—and be willing to build on that shared interest.
True principles should be honored in any solution. Yet one of the chronic human problems is that we narrow our vision before we begin our discussions. We cannot get to good solutions when we start a discussion with our positions already staked out and a defend-ourselves-at-all-costs attitude.
One of my favorite sayings is that it is a pretty thin pancake that does not have two sides.  Thin indeed. The human danger is that we may identify those who disagree with us as enemies rather than identifying contention and judgment as the enemies. When we’re sure we’re right, we’re not very good listeners or learners.
Let’s consider another current example involving four individuals who recently received the 2010 Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
“In February 2009, amid one of the worst budget crises in California’s history, an imploding economy, and potentially catastrophic partisan deadlock, the state’s Republican and Democratic party leaders came together to address the financial emergency. After weeks of grueling negotiation, the legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger reached an agreement on a comprehensive deal to close most of a $42 billion shortfall, putting an end to years of government inaction and sidestepping of the difficult decisions necessary to address California’s increasingly dire fiscal crisis. The deal was objectionable to almost everyone; it contained tax increases, which the Republicans had long pledged to oppose, and draconian spending cuts, which brought intense criticism to the Democrats.”  (News Release, May 24, 2010, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)
In the process of attempting to come up with a bi-partisan solution, these officials had to withstand extraordinary constituent and party pressure. Reportedly they were attacked by the media and received a flood of angry e-mails including death threats. The two Republicans were ousted from their party leadership positions. Their proposal was not adopted and California continues to struggle with budget deficits that threaten to prolong the state’s financial crisis.
I am not a citizen of California and I do not know the worthiness of their proposal. But I am saddened that the efforts of leaders of both political parties to come together and problem solve in spite of their differences apparently ended in public anger and death threats instead of encouragement towards a fruitful dialogue and productive action.
Without Charity We are Nothing

When Jesus asked us to love one another, He did not provide an exception for those whose viewpoints do not align with ours.  In fact, if we look to Him as an example, He made a point of befriending those like the tax collector whose politics were widely detested.
The scriptures tell us that even if we have all knowledge, if we do not combine it with charity it negates our knowledge. “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2). Without charity the position we are taking becomes worthless no matter how much we believe we are right—or may even be right!
As we interact with viewpoints that disagree with ours—whether in our family, our ward, or on the national political stage—do we make charity central to our approach?
• Are we willing to listen respectfully and openly to opinions that are different than ours?
• Do we desire to understand the perspective of others whether or not we agree with them?
• Do we avoid speaking in insulting or inflammatory ways about people or positions that we disagree with so that we promote thoughtful and diplomatic discussion?
• Do we exhibit charity in all that we do and say?
As an aside, I believe it is a mistake for policymakers to undertake major social experiments based only on their own best guesses about the effects of their policies. Rather than policymakers fussing and grandstanding in the process of creating their best guess of a good strategy, why not invite the test of various policy options in several states before settling on a national policy? This would take more time but we would be less likely to end up with unwise and untested policies riddled with holes and patches.
But this is not my central point. I return to the beginning of this article: we humans are all biased and limited. I believe God deliberately designed us so that we can never get to sensible choices unless we listen to those who believe differently from us. God wants us to learn from each other—especially those who can bring different viewpoints to our deliberations. Charity is God’s mandate for fruitful discussions. We who belong to His Church should strive to be examples to the world of this principle. When facing the important issues of our day, may we always choose an approach based on charity over contention.
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Seek the Face of the Lord Always

Where do we find God? At the end of our journey—or somewhere along the way?

I am not sure why some ideas, words, or scriptures resonate as if spoken by a heavenly baritone. Why does an idea feel so powerful that I feel compelled to write it down? Why do a few words jump out of a familiar hymn and lift my soul? After recording these ordinary-looking treasures on 3-by-5 index cards, what am I to do with them? How should I gather, collate, and organize the impressions of the divine?
Just last week a scripture jumped out of a familiar context to invite me to new growth. I was listening for the umpteenth time to a glorious talk on patience by Elder Maxwell. “And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life” (D&C 101:38).
The idea is familiar. From the time we were young, we were taught by our parents to seek the Lord. Dad regularly quoted Doctrine and Covenants 93:1: “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.”
Dad encouraged us to take the invitation literally. He challenged us to seek for that day when we might see the Lord and to hope that it might happen during our mortal experience. For years I was fascinated by any discussion of calling and election being made sure, second anointings, and the more sure word of prophecy. I have been inspired by Melvin J. Ballard’s vision of the Savior.
As the years have passed, my focus has changed. Rather than await a call to meet the Savior in the temple, I try to discover God in the tiny details of life. Rather than wait for him to come to me, I have gone looking for Him. “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Just today in sacrament meeting, I felt invited to inventory recent discoveries. So, while cocking one ear for the program, I also pulled out my month-at-a-glance journal and recent index cards filled with scribbled treasures. Maybe if I could gather the clutter in one place, I might find a way to combine them. Some corner of the puzzle might take form. I might discover a coded message from heaven by combining the fragments of truth. So I reviewed some of the ideas that have captured my soul in just the last month. As I poise my spirit for guidance, I felt like an amateur telegrapher at his appointed place to receive word from the home office. And the telegraph armature began to click out truth as fast as I could write. “. . . for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
The first idea that came across the wire was a stark contrast. I recently heard of a man who was troubled by the Mountain Meadows Massacre and has chosen to distance himself from the Church because of it. I contrast his disaffection with my own experience of reading Brother Lefgren’s effort to establish the date of the First Vision. While his discoveries are not doctrine, the article enlarged my appreciation for the detailed reality of the experience. I felt the exhaustion of the Smiths as they frantically boiled maple sap over wood fires to make precious syrup. I could imagine young Joseph waking up “on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.” It may well have been a Sabbath day and the exhaustion of the previous days’ labors may have combined with his spiritual yearning to make him unusually susceptible to heavenly messages. I felt that I was there as a grateful witness as young Joseph entered the grove a boy and returned as a designated messenger to the latter days. Joseph and the Vision seemed more real and present than ever. I may not fully understand the Mountain Meadows Massacre but its significance pales as I consider a boy prophet who opened a great latter-day work.
The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him (D&C 88:49).
I found another hot spot in my journal. In recent days I have been blessed to compose a letter to the family of a favorite teacher. Rhea Bailey left an enduring imprint on my life. As I wrote the letter, I felt the remarkable way that one person can change the course of lives. I realized that Mrs. Bailey was not only my fifth-grade teacher but also is an enduring symbol of service. I thank heaven for her and for anyone who strives to serve with love.
Many of our joys come as we are in the line of duty. Last week while teaching institute I felt that the lesson was taken away from me as my plans were set aside and floods of unexpected ideas poured into the class. Several disparate discoveries blended to counsel that we should never make the important decisions of our lives based on money. For example, a career should be chosen because it is the best way for us to use our gifts to bless—not because it promises great riches. A student in the class told me afterward that he had been praying for guidance in career decisions; the discussion came as a shaft of light to his life. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
Often seemingly unrelated experiences combine to provide unexpected tutoring. I taught a college class about the folly of the self-esteem movement and pointed to the recent reaffirmations from research that the highest form of human happiness comes when we use our gifts to make life better for others. I mused to myself that when I try to reign as god of my own life, I never find the meaning and purpose that come when I acknowledge God and His goodness as ruler of all eternity.
Within hours of that college class the lesson was given tender emphasis as I listened to a man who had let bad decisions separate him from cherished church membership. He said, through tears, “I don’t want anything else in life. I just want to be back in the Church.” I joined my tears with his in honor of his struggling and yearning. When the breezes of eternity brush against our faces, our petty ambitions and envyings seem provincial indeed. “And the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).
As I have fretted about the demands of preparing an hour-long program every month for our educational television station, the Lord has gently nudged me. He reminds me that he has consistently provided the right story, the perfect panelist, and the ideal props for every show. It sometimes seems that the less I worry about the show and the more I fill myself with Him, His principles, and His goodness, the more I am blessed. “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
Even as I surveyed the month’s discoveries, a message from the speaker broke through my reverie. As he earnestly enjoined honest self-evaluation and unrelenting repentance, I felt God tug me toward a path for improvement that has worked better for me. When I go to him for specific instructions (“What can I do to be a better disciple?”), He gives wise and manageable counsel. He tells me exactly what I need to do to take the next step along the path.
Sometimes I half suspect that He is micromanaging my life. Maybe He is getting me to exactly those experiences that will teach me exactly what I need to know to be ready for the next lesson in the journey toward home. Sometimes I half suspect it is true. Most of the time I am certain of it. And anyone who can work in harmony with my contrary and discordant will is patient indeed. Maybe I hold the violin, but He makes any music. “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation” (2 Nephi 26:24).
For example, how many times have I recently been riding in the car and changed stations just in time to hear about a book that is important to my work. I shake my head. How does He organize this seeming mass of confusion that we call mortality to bless each and all of us? “Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. he that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall” (D&C 50:44).
While I look forward to fuller and fuller revelations of Him, I feel that I am seeing him every day. Sometimes when I am flooded with joy and truth, I am tempted to exclaim, as Martin Harris did after receiving his witness of the Book of Mormon, “‘Tis enough; ‘tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld.” Yet maybe there is a better way. When I am flooded, rather than stanch the flow, maybe I should ask for a greater capacity. “Dear Father, replace my tiny cup with something larger.” “And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am” (D&C 50:45).
We received a missive from our sweet Paraguayan missionary. Sara identified the pattern beautifully: “Last Thursday we were having a tough time finding people who wanted to listen . . . so we sat down, read a bit of Joseph Smith history, and said a prayer.” Within a matter of hours they had opened a gospel relationship with Carlos. Then Felipa. Then Gladys. “The spirit was so strong and the words just flowed.” Rafaela and Oscar. “Then the day was done. The Lord had poured out his blessings and we had simply been guided. It’s amazing how ready the Lord is to help us if we just ask.” I wonder how often we keep him from being the God of our lives by insisting on managing our hours and days on our own. “Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power” (D&C 88:47).
As we feel His spirit brooding over our lives, we turn our face toward His light. We feel that sweet aching that reminds us that we are strangers here. We strain for hints of our home on high.
We can even learn through our stumbling. Some respected friends asked us why we regularly trek to the temple some distance from our home. I had no ready answer and was surprised to hear myself saying, “It is a ritual of commitment and renewal.” Commitment. Renewal. Yes, that’s it. In sacred places Father promises us more and more as we prove ourselves ready to receive it. “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88: 67).
I look over a month’s discoveries with two very different reactions. I hope I am not missing the forest for the trees. Am I seeing the big picture as well as the pine needles? I yearn to be like Samuel who “did let none of [the Lord’s] words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).
At the same time I am abundantly grateful for a Father who is mindful of sparrows, the hairs of our heads, the aches in our hearts, the confusion in our minds, and the vacuums in our souls.
When I inventory the blessings of just the last month, I feel like a small child surrounded by a mountain of toys. I am almost paralyzed by the opportunity. But I sense that life is a blessing. And the One who oversees each of our lives is abundantly good. “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me” (D&C 50:40–41).
I will keep filling index cards with spiritual manna. I will keep collecting the cards and studying them for hints of heaven. When I die, I hope our children and grandchildren will gather up the thousands of index cards I have filled, start them on fire, and warm their hands by one man’s record of heaven’s goodness.
Until that day when mortality ends for me, I hope to be inexpressibly grateful that each step of the journey is attended by His personal assistant, a full-fledged God. Whatever manifestations may come, I am thankful for a personal guide whom we call the Holy Ghost. God is already in every detail of our lives.

Will I Ever Receive His Image in My Countenance?

Alma surrendered his civil leadership so that he could minister to the spiritual well-being of the people. He traveled the cities and villages giving the polished message recorded in Alma 5. Though Alma did not have the technology to deliver his speech to all the people at once, he did deliver the same powerful invitation to people all over the land. I think of this as one of the earliest recorded General Conference addresses.

In Alma’s great speech to the people, he suggested that one of the evidences of spiritual re-birth is to have Jesus’ image in our countenances (Alma 5:14). I have been both inspired and burdened by that expectation. I want to radiate like Jesus. I want people to see Him in me. But, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see any hint of His remarkable goodness. I see tired eyes and a profusion of wrinkles.

Since I have a great talent for self-accusation, I have assumed that I am not really spiritually reborn. I may have had powerful spiritual experiences, I may love Him dearly, but my cankered soul has not yet yielded to the mighty change.

New Revelation

I am grateful for the opportunity I have of teaching Institute in the Little Rock area. When it came time for us to study Alma’s great plea for spiritual renewal, I begged God to open my mind and heart so I could understand his meaning. I studied and pondered. I continued to love the chapter but still felt more accused than encouraged by Alma’s description of the changed soul.

It wasn’t until we were in the middle of the lesson on a Wednesday evening in early March in the Relief Society room of the chapel that God gave the answer I had sought. Suddenly God made the connection between Alma’s words and the practical reality.

The Background

The world’s best scholar on marriage is arguably John Gottman. I have read and studied his books. I regularly use his materials in both writing and teaching.

In Relationship Cure (2001), Gottman suggested that many ordinary behaviors are really bids for connection. When I ask Nancy if she would like to go to Home Depot with me, I am not requesting help with loading lumber. I am really telling her that I love to be with her and would be delighted to have her accompany me to one of my favorite places. I am making a bid for connection.

Very often we miss the significance of these invitations. Maybe Nancy asks me if I would like to take a walk with her. If I am in a foul mood, I might respond: “Are you saying that I am a lazy slob, that I need more exercise, and you don’t approve of my reading newsmagazines?”

YIKES! We can be so absorbed in our own thoughts and feelings that we hardly see a partner’s loving intent. We respond to invitation with insult. When we respond to a bid for connection in such a harsh way, Gottman calls it “turning against.”

I might respond to Nancy’s invitation in a gentler, but still self-focused way. I might shrug, sigh, and announce with non-verbals that I really don’t want to go. Gottman calls this “turning away.” I suspect that we do a lot of this with family and friends. They invite us into their lives and we shrug them off.

There is a third alternative. Imagine that, in response to Nancy’s invitation, I say, “I love doing things with you, Dear.” Maybe I jump up and join her in a walk. Yet my warm response does not require that I take the walk. Maybe my back is hurting or I’m in the middle of something pressing. But I can respond to a bid for connection by “turning toward” Nancy. Maybe I say, “I love doing things with you, Dear. I just need to finish this project, but as soon as I’m done, let’s spend some time together.” I can respond to her message of love by offering a message of love. I can turn toward her whole-heartedly and appreciatively. I can embrace her invitation.

As I thought about “turning toward,” it seemed that maybe that is exactly what Alma meant when he asked if we have Jesus’ image in our countenance. I think he means that we welcome their invitation into their lives, and offer grace, goodness, and appreciation in return. Turning toward people may be the sign that Jesus is in our hearts and souls.

Jesus as the Perfect Model

Jesus life was filled with turning toward His confused and troubled siblings. One of my favorite examples is Jesus’ dealings with the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). While Simon and his hard-hearted buddies judged and condemned both Jesus and the woman, Jesus “turned to the woman,” pointed out her generosity of spirit and “said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven” (v. 48).

At least ten times in scripture we are told that, in spite of our wickedness, “his hand is stretched out still.” That is His attitude, His posture, His stance. He is reaching for us—even when He has reason to turn away or turn against us. In Elder Maxwell’s powerful words: “His relentless redemptiveness exceeds [our] recurring wrongs” (“Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King,” Ensign, May 1976, 26).

He is always turning toward us whether we turn toward Him, turn away from Him, or turn against Him. When we, like Him, turn lovingly and redemptively toward our brothers and sisters, then we have His image in our countenance.

The older meaning of the word countenance included far more than our facial expression; it meant our bearing or behavior. Thus God invites us to turn squarely toward the people in our lives, to see them redemptively—as He does, and to stand ready to serve them gladly.

When a neighbor needs help with a home repair, I can turn toward that neighbor and that need. When a friend seems burdened, I can turn squarely toward him and open my arms. When a fellow saint is not living up to my ideal of gospel standards, I can avoid turning against with scolding and lectures or turning away with an attitude of judgment, and instead turn toward that child of God with love and encouragement. When someone irritates or offends me, I can turn toward that person with acceptance and forgiveness.

That is what He would do. That is what He would have me do to radiate more of what He is.

An Irony and Trap Along the Way

As we read about turning toward others, we may instinctively think of others’ failures to do that for us. We may wish that our parents, spouses, bosses, co-workers, and friends had His image in their countenances! Yet Alma did not ask whether the people around us have experienced the mighty change; he asked whether we had. In His ministry, Jesus—our model–was gracious and redemptive with both those who were gracious and those who were not. He asks that we turn toward others regardless of whether they turn toward us, turn away from us, or turn against us.

In family relations, this is a terribly important idea. I often hear people tell me that they have tried everything to get their spouses engaged and involved in their marriages. I readily grant that some spouses are remote and inflexible. I have also observed that many of us really haven’t tried everything. We have tried the thing that we think should work and we have done it over and over again in spite of its demonstrated ineffectiveness. We get frustrated and we blame the failure on recalcitrant spouses.

For example, I can get mad at my beloved Nancy for being so engaged in Relief Society work that I feel neglected. But getting mad at her is not an effective way of pulling her into my life. If I can adopt the mind of Christ, I know that I should approach her humbly, kindly, and lovingly: “Sweetheart, when you get so involved in Relief Society, I feel left out. I miss you. I get lonely. I would like to do more things with you.”

Rather than conclude that our spouses are hopelessly dull when they do not respond to our bids for connection, we can refine, clarify, and sweeten our invitations. In other words, we can repent. Repenting ourselves is always better than condemning our spouses. It is also more consistent with Jesus’ commands.

At the same time, we can work to be more sensitive to our spouses’ bids for connection. They may be inviting us into our lives in ways we fail to recognize. We can pray for Heaven to give us discerning eyes so that we see and appreciate our spouses’ invitations.

Turning Toward

When my dear wife invites me to take a walk, I plan to jump up and take her hand. And when Jesus reaches towards me with enlightenment, an invitation, or any opportunity to more deeply connect, I plan to fully turn toward Him instead of mentally sighing and turning toward a book, a TV program, or a hobby.

Someday I hope to develop His image in my countenance. I now know how.

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