By Lauren Madsen
“But you DIDN’T TELL ME!”
We’ve laughed about it over the years, the way my emotional pre-teen cousin stomped her foot in indignation when she found there were nuts in a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies. While she wasn’t implying that her mom needed to ask permission for altering a recipe, she made it crystal clear she would have appreciated a little heads up. I really can’t blame her. Whether it’s an unexpected ingredient or a soul-stretching hardship, some of life’s surprises have a way of making us feel as if our world has been flipped completely upside down.
Back in 2013, my husband and I received the kind of news that left us knowing our lives would never be the same again. Because what happened then isn’t fully our own story to tell, I can only say this life surprise was devastating. In the following hours and days, this thought would play on repeat in my mind: “Why didn’t you warn me?!” In the shower, in my car, at the store, I found myself whispering to God, “How could you let me go on, so blissfully unaware? You knew this was going to happen. But you DIDN’T TELL ME!”
Four years later I would be blindsided with another devastating and unrelated surprise. With dessert for two in hand, I walked into a care facility to visit with my sweet grandma. Eclairs had become our tradition and I couldn’t wait to share them with her. As I opened the door to her room, I saw several people around her and quickly realized they were administering CPR. Within minutes, she was gone. I remember after the family gathered and said their goodbyes, my feet felt so heavy walking back to my car with both eclairs still in hand. In the days and weeks after losing my grandma, I found myself whispering to God again, but this time I prayed, “Please help me get through this. I am so so sad, but I know Jesus knows this feeling and I need the power of His atonement to heal my heart.”
What had changed? What was the difference between these two trials and how I reacted to them? It had been four years, so I suppose being a little older maybe made me a little wiser. But when I look back I can see that my reactions were different because my focus was different. Let me explain.
As disciples of Christ we are asked, admonished, encouraged and even urged to do things like read our scriptures, say our prayers, pay our tithing, attend the temple, and partake of the sacrament. I have done all of these things throughout my life. For a long time I did them in large part simply because I was asked to--I wanted to be obedient. Over the years these things have become much less of a checklist and much more of a way to fuel my faith in my Savior. I do them because I want to hear Him in my life. I do them because I know that trusting in Him is the only way I want to live. I do them because I need His mercy, His love, His example and His grace.
The beautiful truth of living every day for a relationship with the Savior: He is there for all the surprises--the good and bad, the highs and lows. Sister Neill Marriott who served in the Young Women General Presidency said it this way, “Through toil and trouble, as well as reward and delight in my life, [Jesus Christ] stands bright and loving, constant in His mercy and grace.” I can’t think of any relationship more important to focus on, and I can think of no better way to prepare for ALL that is to come.