Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wife Rule #115: Find the One

Some of the most powerful learning moments in life come from experiences my wife and I share together. As background, consider what the Savior taught in Luke 15:

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth....

I have had faith in Jesus Christ since I young. This faith has only grown stronger as life's experiences have worked their lessons on me. I have never considered myself to be one of the "lost sheep." Sure, I'm a sinner, but I have always known the way back; my sins have been out of weakness or pride, not out of ignorance. But last weekend I gained a little bit of insight into how grateful a truly "lost sheep" can be for those who find it and bring it home.

We were in Idaho, to celebrate my wife's sister's wedding with our family. On the morning of the wedding, we were to leave from where we were staying in Idaho Falls about an hour before the wedding, to travel to the Rexburg temple, where the wedding would take place. We both thought we knew the way, having traveled through Rexburg a couple of times in past years. I knew that when we got to the highway, we turned right and drove until we got to Rexburg. What we didn’t realize is that there was more than one possible road to travel.

As we set out, we made the mistake of turning right on the first highway we encountered. We were running just a little behind, and I was driving as fast as I dared. We tried to distract our restless kids by pointing out the beautiful scenery around us: rolling fields of golden hay with forested mountains on either side of the valley. I was a little puzzled when I recognized the Snake River running parallel to the highway, and I wondered why we hadn’t seen any mileage signs for Rexburg yet, but it wasn’t until the road started turning and descended towards the river that I realized--to my horror--that we were on the wrong road.

After verifying our error at a little tourist shop, my wife burst into tears. The wedding was starting in fifteen minutes and we were now thirty minutes out of Idaho Falls, in the wrong direction. We turned around and started back, going faster than ever, but we really didn’t know where we had gone wrong or how to get on the right road. We desperately tried calling my wife's siblings, but we could not hear anything on our cell phone. After several failed attempts to call for help, we realized our phone had been put into headphones mode, probably through random button-pushing by little Charity. We didn’t know how to fix it. We were stuck. It was now 11:00, time for the wedding, and we were still lost. My wife broke into fresh tears.

Then, as an answer to our silent prayers, the phone rang. She tried to answer it, but again, no sound. Then she remembered that there was a speaker phone feature, and by using that, we were able to finally hear the sweet sound of a concerned brother’s voice, calling to find out why we were not with the rest of the family. We knew we were hopelessly too late, since the sealer performing the wedding, the photographer, the luncheon, and the reception all hinged on a tight schedule for the day. Still, we felt a great deal of comfort knowing that the family was aware of our predicament. She told her brother where we were, that we were probably still 45 minutes away from Rexburg, and that they should go on without us and we would eventually find our way there. After heartfelt “I love you’s” from both ends of the phone, she hung up.

Ten minutes later, as we were approaching Idaho Falls, the phone rang again. It was another brother, one who knew the roads, who understood where we had gone wrong, and who was able to give us detailed directions to get us onto the right highway. His step-by-step instructions probably prevented us from getting lost again, we were so frazzled and disoriented by this point. Again, already ten minutes after the wedding start time, my wife asked them to go on without us.

We finally made it onto the correct highway and saw the road signs confirming this. We were about fifteen minutes out of Rexburg when the phone rang again. It was a brother again, checking up on our progress and making sure we knew which exit to take. My wife broke into tears again, and then on the phone came the voice of the sweet, old temple president. He wanted to assure us personally that they would wait to begin until we arrived.

When we got to the temple, all the workers were waiting for us. They ushered our kids into the waiting area and a worker had us run up the back stairway, since that would be faster than the elevator. When we reached the third floor, panting, my wife's sister and her fiance were there, waiting for us with a smile. They embraced their lost sister and brother in a big hug and told us that how glad they were that we had made it and that they never would have gone on without us.

In all, close to “ninety and nine” people waited for almost an hour for us at the temple. The rest of the day we had both old and new family members telling us how glad they were that we made it. This was sometimes mixed with some good-natured ribbing (I got a new nickname: "Tom-Tom"), but never in a resentful way. There was no passing judgment, no rebuke. Our desperation and embarrassment at having been the “lost sheep” gradually melted away to feelings of gratitude and love for those who reached out to us and waited for us, and that in the end, the whole family was together in the temple. We were whole.

My wife and I have talked about this experience a lot over the last week. There are many good analogies that can be drawn from it, but one stands out to us. Every person on earth is a child of God and thus, we are all one big family. God wants nothing more than to gather the whole family together, for eternity. We know that not everyone wants to follow the Savior, but there are many--millions or perhaps even billions--who would gladly gather together with the believers if only there was someone to reach out and show them the way--to gather home the lost sheep. And we need not get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task--all it takes is finding those who want to be found, one by one.

Find the one.

(I told this story as part of a talk I gave in our church services today. You can read the full text here.)


Brooke said...

Nothing can soften the hard edge of a bad memory like a good story and a good moral. Thanks sweetie.

Christy Edgel said...

I'm so glad they waited for you! Be grateful for the day of cell phones. Jesse and I missed his brother's sealing because I had misread the information... I took us to Timpanogas temple, and it was at the Bountiful. It was in the days of pagers, not cell phones. The ceremony went on without us, and we got to the right place just as they were finishing. We got to go up to the sealing room and greet them on their way out:( Just thought I'd share this so you know it happens to others, too:)

LuckyMatt said...

Thanks for letting me know we weren't the only ones who have gotten lost on the way to a wedding. It was a relief that they waited--usually they can't because of schedules, but it all worked out this time, and made a nice analogy too.