The post “What would a MormonInsider Say About…“ responded in part to Leah's questions. This post continues with some more parts.
I met him when I was in his city on business and later attended a meeting with several Latter-day Saint young single adults. He had a boy-next-door-grown-into-a-studly-man charm about him. He was spiritual, kindly, thoughtful, and brilliantly innovative. Did I mention he was also easy on the eyes? We'd been in touch a few times before my flight was laying over in his city and he picked me up from the airport.
I had called him about meeting during my 4 hr long layover. He didn't know I was flying stand-by on my brother's flight benefits, which meant I hadn't booked my flight before I talked to him. He didn't know if he wasn't able to meet me, I would have taken the earlier flight, leaving enough of an evening to enjoy the company of friends in my ward back in Washington, D.C.. It was my idea to hang out in the terminal. He had a better one. We hiked to a point that overlooked the city.
I was totally digging him. It would have been the beginning of a beautiful story if only he was interested in me, but he was not responsive to my shameless flirting. (I'm not of the camp who think men are stupid.)
While descending the hike, he was going on about being thirty-something and still unmarried. He said he must be doing something wrong because he's been sincerely praying about it for years and it escaped him. "Can't you see that I'M the answer to your prayers?" was the thought that crossed my mind. I looked away to broadly grin at my private joke.
I could have been an answer to his prayers, if he wanted me to be.
Leah asks about recognizing answers to prayers. How do you know they're not just coincidences? What about unanswered prayers and why does God seem to answer yes to frivolous occasions and fail to come through when it really counts?
All good questions.
The truth is, if handsome/charming guy ended up liking me, I probably would have attributed it to being the answer to his prayers and him to mine. I never would have considered it a result of my self-interest and/or biological factors; I really would have enjoyed kissing him. (I'd have to be his girlfriend, of course. I'm not the non-committal make-out type. But, you guessed that already.)
Usually when things happen in our favor, it's really easy to attribute it to God. For example, after a tornado, when one house is standing and the one next to it is demolished, someone could say God protected it. So how do you know it was really Him and not just chance, luck or nature's course simply unfolding?
Leah posed her questions on my claim of receiving answers to prayers on this post where I was describing the truth discovery process by the Holy Spirit. To be honest, I don't know if it's an answer to prayer unless the Spirit confirms it. And the Spirit doesn't confirm things to me as often as I'd like because it requires effort to take the mental action otherwise known as exercise of faith. It requires diligent pondering, remembering past witnesses and deciding to trust that God will continue His pattern of communication that I've already experienced. By the phrase confirmation of the Spirit, I mean that my mind his enlightened with a simultaneous impression on my heart that I am able to conclude in the moment with certainty that it's not my imagination, but the Holy Ghost. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite diligent in seeking the Spirit, but only the most important things get the required attention.
In the post "My Current Explanation of Life's Purpose," I described how sometimes I feel like God leaves me alone, even when I remain diligent in seeking Him. I believe that the times of greatest growth in faith, for me at least, have come when I feel I'm not being heard. In those times, I look back, remembering past witnesses and decide to remain faithful to what has already been made known to me when I could very easily walk away. So, perhaps those unanswered prayers are purposeful in how God shapes me into who He knows I can become.
Without the Spirit's confirmation, I don't know for sure that it was God. I just infer it.
Without the Spirit's confirmation, I can't say that I know it was God and not chance. Usually, if something happens for which I have been praying, I simply infer it was God; I don't know for sure.
Here's an example.
With the recent downturn in the economy, the leadership of the nonprofit I'm with decided to focus all resources on the core mission. My position applies to the core mission's expansion. They cut me back from full time to part time, which does not cover my living expenses (gone are the days of BYU housing rent at less than $300 monthly). The break was nice for a while so I could breathe and sleep because working full time and going to school at night is very difficult. To cover my expenses, I started using more student loans than I originally planned when I began my master's program.
Several things weighed on my mind. I'm committed to "provident living" as it's known the Church, meaning that I should live within my means and only go into debt for education, a modest home and I can't remember the other one right now. Though my debt was to further my education, not all of it was necessary and therefore contrary to this principle. Also, I purposefully decided not to pursue a law degree and pursue a liberal studies degree. I won't be qualified to work in a particular trade when I finish my program. I chose enriching coursework with an end that requires me to forge my own way to form the unique career path that I envision. This was a relatively safe decision when I was employed in a job I loved. It wasn't looking so hot once my circumstances changed. Lastly, the unemployment rate is over 10% nationwide. I often considered how if I continued living in part off the student loans in addition to the tuition loans, I could finish my program and have to start waiting tables to meet the demands of paying them back. Sheesh. Being an adult is the pits sometimes.
I wanted a new job in my field, but it is really small and specified and I prepared myself to have to take a detour job to pay the bills, if I could even find that. I started praying that I could find a new job in my field and began networking with the organizations whose work I admire. Many of them operate partially off government grants and with the current tenor of Congress and its deficit decreasing efforts, the story was the same at all those I approached. They'd love to have me, but they have no funding for me and I could volunteer. I did do some volunteer projects here and there while I continued networking. Unfortunately, I can't eat off goodwill. For the summer, I picked up a full time temp job in addition to the part time job with the nonprofit while taking summer school and I continued networking. It was going to be tight for a while, but hey, girl's gotta do what she can.
Then BAM! The Bishop of my ward called me into his office and asked me to take on an ongoing time consuming “calling” or responsibility.
What should I do?
I decided I didn't have time to continue looking for a job and take on the responsibility of my new calling. In prayer, I told that Lord that I'm unsure how the job thing was going to work out, but I would trust that if I prioritized serving Him first, it would be fine. I didn't know what would happen; it could be one of those painful growing experiences, but I viewed it as a chance to put God first in my heart and my life. If not at this moment, then when? My life could turn into a long series of special circumstances that put my own needs first before the Lord and I don’t want to live that way.
I accepted the calling and quit thinking about finding a new job and put my mind and heart to pondering how I could seek the Spirit to better help those over which I now I had stewardship to access Christ's power more fully by faith.
A few weeks later, a friend of mine forwarded a job posting to me she saw while on a website she rarely visits. She knew that I was part time with my nonprofit, but didn't know I was officially looking and then officially quit looking for the time being (hey, she’s recently married, so we don’t keep up like we used to, you know how it goes). Her find sounded promising. Bleary eyed at midnight, I composed a specified cover letter, updated my resume and emailed it in. The very next morning the executive director emailed me wanting to schedule an interview. He was clear that they would not extend beyond the posted salary range because they'd already budgeted for the year, but assured me the benefits were good and that the next year they could readjust the salary. I was pleased to hear that the position had a steady revenue stream, so it wasn’t from a temporary grant.
I came into the interview well prepared to make a case for myself. He opened by telling me that since the job has been posted in the last month, 212 people applied. He was interviewing 12 and I was first because I wrote the best cover letter. "You told me what I couldn't surmise from your resume," he told me. He also liked that I said I look forward to a conversation where we could see if we were "a good professional match." He said most people assured him in their cover letters they were a perfect fit for the job. He made clear that he would solely determine who was the best fit for the position.
Ends up, this is a position he's been wanting to expand for several years, but he's very particular on who should fill it. Though his board has been pressing him on it, he's been exploring it at his own pace.
After the interview, I used the weekend to draft some recommendations I thought they could do within the next year, based on my experience. I also mailed him a thank you card referring to some specifics from our conversation.
We corresponded for a week over my recommendations while he completed the other 11 interviews. I was preparing to negotiate for the highest end of his salary range, since I knew what it was. The day the interviews closed, he emailed me asking me to accept a director position, rather than the advertised manager position. Along with the increased position, he offered an increase salary beyond the advertised range that reflected the responsibility of a director.
It was like getting a promotion without asking for one and before I even started.
I was grateful a thousand times over. It's work that I would do for free if I didn’t have to make a living. I'm specialized in a very small niche and this position seems tailor made to my greatest strengths. Of course I accepted (like I'd be blogging about it if I didn't). I later came in to discuss some specifics and he was beaming that I was just the person he has had in mind to realize the vision he has for this new expansion.
Was it God, me or just a coincidence?
So, was this an answer to my prayers? After all, I must say I rocked the interview. I wrote a cover letter according to what my quick Google search taught me at midnight since I couldn't remember exactly how to write one. I used my brain to conjure up some recommendations and I cordially sent a thank you note. That was all me. Oh, and my friend by chance could have been on a job database when she didn't have a reason to look for a job and decided to pass along a possibility to me. But when I have been specifically praying for help about something beyond my control and it falls into my lap better than if I planned it myself, I'm highly suspicious Providence had a hand in it. I have found that God is really good at arranging introductions between people who should meet if the required faith is offered to work such a miracle. I'm just what my new boss has had in mind for the last few years for the position and what they want to do is exactly what my very unique job at the nonprofit prepared me to do for them. Coincidence? Of course I don't think so, but it's only an inference. The Spirit hasn't confirmed it to me, but I’m connecting the dots on this one.
The Lord told Joseph Smith, "I, the Lord,...delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end" (Doc & Cov 76:5). I'm choosing to live my life in a way that puts God first, trusting that as I do, He delights to help me out. This isn't the first instance in my life where I seem to get a beautiful break, but I don't do it for what I can get. I do it because of what I want to give.
I can't really prove it was God, but I don’t require proof to continue this path of experimentation.
Next up, I'll respond to why bad things happen to good people, which is what I think Leah means when prayers are not answered before a child is murdered. Then I'll write up my long time promised Black Mormons part 2 post because my response to Chris’s post will make more sense in light of understanding some views I have, explained well through relaying the history of race in the Church. It might rock a few socks, but hey, let’s keep things authentic here at the MormonInside.
Tags: "Mormon Church", faith in Jesus Christ, grace of God, mind and heart, mormon beliefs, mormon cult, Mormonism, personal revelation, truth seekers