Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Timing

I don't know how non-Mormons talk about marriage, but when Mormons talk about it, they often talk about "timing" and more specifically, "God's timing." When two people "find each other," it's often because God has stepped in and caused a miracle to happen at just the right moment. It could be the moment when two people meet at a party or the grocery store. It could be the moment when a friend introduces two other friends. It could be sitting next to someone on a plane, running into an old friend after decades of not seeing each other, or spotting that new guy at church on Sunday.

This way of talking bothers me. It suggests that there is one right person to marry, that God displays a good deal of favoritism, and that He is the only one who is truly in charge of our destinies. The last implication is the one I want to address tonight.

I don't deny that God affects change in the world, and I don't think it's outside of the realm of possibilities that he has a hand in what happens in people's lives. What we DO with the hands he deals us, though, is entirely up to us.

If my mom hadn't moved away from New York City at the exact time she did, she might not have gone to Provo when she did, and she might not have lived in the apartment complex that she did. She then might not have met my uncle, and he wouldn't have introduced her to my dad. Was God involved in the timing? It's possible.

But. If I hadn't moved to Texas to go to grad school, and if I had taken classes that first summer, I wouldn't have stayed an extra semester to finish my thesis, and I wouldn't have met that person I loved. Was God involved in the timing? It's possible. And yet, I didn't marry that person.

It probably sounds like I'm bitter, but I'm not. I'm simply trying to illustrate the point that timing isn't everything. Timing may not even be most things. To me, it's more meaningful to say something like this: If my mom hadn't learned what qualities she was looking for in a spouse and my dad hadn't learned to drop his pride, then they never would've gotten married.

I'll do the same for myself: If I had learned not to let people push me around, and the person I loved had learned to communicate, we might have gotten married.

Is God involved in the timing? Maybe. Is that timing instantaneous? Is it just one moment? An unlikely encounter? Maybe. But I don't think it's common. More common, however, is a lifetime of character-building, countless moments of thought and reflection, an openness to divine revelation, and the give and take of learning to communicate with a significant other.

Remember my favorite scripture from a few weeks ago? "For the power is in them!"*

We are agents unto ourselves and have the ability to "bring to pass much righteousness"—or in this case, love. We choose who we love, and we choose who we marry. It's as simple as that.**


*Exclamation point added. (See Agency Is the Very Best.)
**To my married friends and family: You made a conscious choice to marry the person you did—to work through difficulties and show love. I deeply admire that.


Thing I'm thankful for: German pancakes with whipped cream, cinnamon, and maple syrup from Vermont. I eat very well. I'm grateful for that every day.

5 Comments:

Blogger cardlady said...

I like your spunk and ability to think! I like that you use examples of my life to explain your opinion. Hahaha. And Bruce did not introduce me to dad. It was just his apartment I was at when dad was there about the third time a girlfriend and I went over begging for a couple of bucks to go to a dance hall that night, that dad was there and noticed me and said a word which turned my head. Hahaha.
Otherwise I wouldn't have noticed him sitting there in the background quietly.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Lauren Barnes said...

Hm. Have to say, my first reaction to this was, well, I disagreed. I do believe that God does guide our paths. Daily. (Maybe I shouldn't use the word "paths," because that implies linearity. But whatever. You know what I mean.)

I agree with you in the opinion that there's not only one person for everybody. And I FIRMLY agree that how we "play the hand we're dealt," how we learn and respond from situations, has the ability to shape/change our lives.

But what I realized is that, for me personally, finding Zeb meant listening to "divine revelation," a prompting of the Spirit, whatever you want to call it. It was God and it was defined and I listened. Thankfully. And that was in a gray phase of my life when I believed myself to be anything but spiritual.

You are so right, though. We had both learned over the years who NOT to end up in the trenches with, and I'm so glad we both were able to confirm our reasoning and our spirit-led nudges in each other.

So basically, I think reason and revelation have everything to do with... everything. Not just love. Just my opinion.

And hey! I luuuuv YOU, Sara Snow. No really, I do.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Shanna (Gibbs) Smith said...

yes!

but maybe I agree with you for different reasons.

While I believe God wouldn't lead us astray, I'm also a strong believer in "divine indifference." Not because our Heavenly Father doesn't care, but because God puts a lot of trust in us. Maybe "trust" is the wrong word. Perhaps agency describes it best. Because of agency, I think there is a lot of "indifference" when we seek revelation because there is more than one "best" option. We are so free when we make good decisions and there are so many options. It really is great news.

So yes, I'm also big on the idea that there are a lot of paths we could take that would be pleasing to God. Some may lead us to certain blessings (marriage for the sake of this post) more quickly than others but I have a feeling that God isn't always in a rush because he's already promised us things that are as good as received so long as we're doing our part. I don't always like the timing thing, but it's an ok reassurance when stuff is not so great.

Now that I sound like I don't think the spirit leads us much, let me clarify that I do believe we can be led by the spirit. I just think there are multiple paths that the spirit could take us. The thoughts that come to our head that are uplifting and lead us towards righteous desires and worthwhile ambitions, to me, are the spirit. I think it's far less common than our culture says for the spirit to get preferential when we're choosing between righteous paths.

Also, forgive me, but I get terribly skeptical of receiving answers to questions of romance. I was even skeptical when I was deciding to get married. This is probably due to my nature of using my head over my heart. My bad. It's too easy to use lovey feelings to convince yourself that God sanctions or even encourages the marriage when the answer you receive is just that God is pleased you plan to marry in the temple. Well obviously. And now everyone gets to think I'm attacking their personal revelation. I'm not, it's just what was going through my head as I was making the marriage decision.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely believe that marriage, and many other things, happen in God's time. What I don't believe is that God's time is what you described in the first paragraph. That timing is definitely a product of man. How can we truly understand God's timing when we cannot truly comprehend God? (Of course the more we know Him, the more we'll know about his timing; but it's still limited.) Based on what the scriptures tell us about God's view of time and what God himself tells us about using himself as a modifier (thinking of his explanation of "eternal" in particular here)--I can't possibly believe God's timing is some serendipitous meeting of kronos. I find it a lot more likely to refer to "lines" and precepts being in place, for readiness--like some of the examples you referred to. Like the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the beginning of the restoration of the gospel--in God's time? Absolutely. But I don't think the dates themselves were important, I think the preparation and the pieces and the people were important. (And those were all shaped by things that exceed the time and space we mortals know about.)
I found it interesting that you had this post in here. I've been pondering a lot about what "God's time" means for several months now (is God's time different than God's timing?) and was excited to hear what you had to say. Well, still unknown, but like I said--whatever it is, it's not just luck.

Oh, and lots of non-Mormons also believe in serendipitous meetings and God having a hand in their meeting, "the right time," and so on and so forth. And they recognize the miracles that can lead to marriage. (At least my friends). Once upon a time a friend said to me, I think every marriage is a miracle. I think of that often and I am inclined to agree. (I don't many every crazy arrangement that people call marriage (I see plenty of those in my job); I mean true uniting of two people.) It's incredible, when you really think about it. But like any miracle, it doesn't mean God just reached down and ta-da made it happen.
(And miracles don't rule out people's agency. Faith precedes miracles and faith is absolutely an exercise of agency. I believe miracles come because of people's exercise of agency, not in spite of it.) Well, enough of that.

In a completely different vein---I just want you to know that some random person you don't know at all, aches deeply for your loss, for the marriage that wasn't. It surprises me how much it has affected me, but for several months now, as little pieces of your sadness have been expressed, I have felt such a deep sadness. I'm sorry. And I wish I could make it better somehow. I know I can't, but I want you to know that others share a little bit of that pain--even this other, random person who is far away and only knows you through your blog.

6:15 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I think you offer a good perspective! In my life, the timing was everything with my hubby. BUT, along with what you said, I had to CHOOSE what to DO when the time came. Otherwise, it would have been no different than any other night out with friends.

1:57 AM  

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