Obtaining Perspective


When I was very young a day seemed like a year. I can remember sitting in grade school and it took nearly a month to get to lunch, and then another month before we were released to go home. I remember going home and playing for what seemed like years before dinner and bed. Summer vacation was a lifetime, and Christmas vacation seemingly lasted for years.

When I was in my teens and someone mentioned that the church was restored 130 years ago, I couldn’t imagine such an ancient event. I wondered how we even remembered such things from so long ago. 130 years was 10 times my lifetime.

When I turned 50, I thought, 100 years ago was only twice my lifetime, and not really that long ago. When I turned 60, it occurred to me that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was only 235 years ago, only 4 times my lifetime, a fairly recent event in the history of the earth.

I can well envision turning 120 and thinking that the Declaration of Independence was only 2 times my lifetime ago. In other words, I will have lived ½ of the years between that long ago event and my 120th birthday.

I have a tendency to look back on the past and wish I had bought Microsoft stock, or taken a penny in my pocket that is known to me now to be very valuable, and just saved it. I wish I had kept all of those $2.00 bills, and never unwrapped my Erector Set, because today it would be valuable in its original box and packing.

When  I went on my mission I had an orange box filled with sequential Superman and Fantastic Four comic books from the very first issue to that date. I had bought current ones, and then been given the rest of them by an old gentlemen who wanted someone to have his childhood collection who would keep them and value them as he had. They were all wrapped in plastic sleeves and began with issue #1. They are now worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per comic, and I had several hundred of them. My mother threw them all out while I was on my mission because she considered them junk in her closet, and bad literature. I calculate she threw a million dollars in the trash can and burned it that day. She thought it was just trash.

I also look back on some events in my life, and some of my decisions, and I shudder and wish I had done something far different. Most, if not all, of those decisions that later revealed themselves to be destructive, I had a distinct feeling I should not do them at the time – but I just thought them trivial, like a dusty box of old comics.

I remember driving across the bridge to my childhood home in an old truck loaded with ten-gallon milk cans, and having the distinct and pressing prompting to look down into the irrigation ditch to my left. But I was only 13 at that time, the bridge was narrow, and I was concentrating on getting safely across. I found out about an hour later that my little brother had been drowning in the ditch at that very moment and I would have looked right at him and seen his struggle for life. I would have jumped into the ditch and saved him. Instead, I thought steering the truck was more important.

These are things which perspective reveals, but which we cannot know in that moment.

Now imagine God, an eternal being, who sees and is present in all of history, and who sees and is present in all of the future, looking down upon his children here on earth praying for guidance, for relief, for deliverance, and for our lives. He sees our trials from a far different perspective than we do. He knows the value of the pennies in our pockets, and the amazing cost of all things we do before we do them.

He also sees the outcome of suffering, and of the harsh experiences of our lives. He sees how they will shape us into the person He sees in our eternal future. I believe most of what we view as the “harsh realities” of mortality, are left in place because the suffering is what brings us to the knowledge that saves us – just as how we let a child burn his fingers in a candle he refuses to leave alone. The knowledge gained is a life lesson, far more valuable than avoiding the pain.

In most cases, being saved suddenly seems small to the understanding of man, far less threating that the trial at hand, and we consider it as trivial. We do not experience the very struggle that would have driven us to our knees year after year.

Years ago I had a tremendous earache. It was a weekend, and I was considering going to the emergency room, which I could not afford. I thought my right ear was going to implode and kill me. I asked for a priesthood blessing, and my ear was miraculously healed. It instantly stopped hurting, the inflammation left, the infection left, and in that instant I was healed – and it suddenly seemed trivial. The emergency room and pain and suffering were the drama – the healing made all of that go away, and it was suddenly over. I returned to my common state, which is the definition of trivial.

We as parents can almost always understand the stupidity of our children’s infantile insistence on their own will, and their own agenda, and can see that these very things will hurt and damage them. We often let them experience these things to some degree so that they will learn and cease to be ignorant of how life really works. After it quits hurting, they will be prepared for life. We warn them because we love them, and they do it anyway. When they come to us needing a Band-Aid, we nourish them and remind them that we tried to warn them, knowing their tears are forming life-saving decisions.

Father does much the same thing.  He warns us, then lets us damage ourselves if we insist. He lets us burn a million dollars-worth of comic books, and marry the wrong person, and suffer in many ways, because He doesn’t just understand the future, He is viewing it, and these are the very things which over time create the glorified person He sees and loves in our eternal future.

Brother John

© November 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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5 Responses to Obtaining Perspective

  1. Paul Garner says:

    I have been unable to get to your blog for several days (message is “suspended page.” Is there another site? Are you continuing with your thoughts on line? I appreciate reading your posts.

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  2. Keith says:

    Could I share a related quote from Elder Scott that has meant so much to me lately?

    “Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.

    “When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.”

    (From a talk entitled “Trust in the Lord”, October 1995 GC)

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  3. darrell brashear says:

    I can completely relate to this message. I remember at times in my life when I pleaded with the Lord to grant me certain things which now I’m glad to say He didn’t. If I had had things my way, my life would have been a disaster.

    Seeing that His ways always are the right way, and always lead to my peace and happiness, I’m able more and more to entrust my life to His care and let Him be in charge.

    Brother D.

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  4. Eva says:

    Thank you Brother John, no other owrds seem fitting than, ‘thank you for sharing’ the this message, which are the words He gives you. I have been touched.

    Much love

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