The Sunday School and Relief Society lessons at church today were so inspiring, and I felt impressed to spill some of my thoughts about those lessons onto paper (or screen) here.
First, for whatever reason, I get really excited when I find scriptures that demonstrate the humanity and weakness of the Lord’s prophets (Mosiah 2:11 and 2 Nephi 4:17, I love you guys). Seeing their struggles helps me let go of shame about my own. Maybe you’ve always known about this time in Moses’ life, but I must have been asleep that day in seminary. I’m not a prophet leading thousands of frustrated people to the Promised Land, but these verses (from Numbers 11) were a gift to me today:
11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? . . .
14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
The footnote for “out of hand” in the last verse lets us know that it could be translated as “immediately.” So Moses was basically saying, “God, this is too hard. If this is how it’s going to be, please just kill me now.” I turned to my husband, grinned wide, and laughed as I heard those verses. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve uttered words like that to God and my husband on dark days. Moses, you are a guy I can relate to!
Then, in Relief Society, the lesson was about grace. It seems such a hard thing to define something so divine as grace. I still don’t feel that I could necessarily give you a definition of grace. But I loved this story our teacher shared from President Faust about a young piano student:
His mother, wishing to encourage him, “bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.
“Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’
“His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
“In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing’” (Source).
As I heard this story, my eyes welled up with tears. Sometimes, playing my little “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” feels like the hardest thing in the world. And the Master’s request, “Don’t quit. Keep playing,” feels like the tallest order ever given. Endure to the end? Really? I so often respond, as Moses did, “It is too heavy for me,” and in my darkest moments, “Kill me, I pray thee.”
But grace. Grace.
God told Moses: “Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel. . . . and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).
Grace comes to us in so many different ways. For me, in my life, grace has so often come to me in the same way it came to Moses here… people. God gives me people to help me bear my burden–doulas to give me counter-pressure through the hardest contractions. In October of 2012, after surviving many months of intense darkness and despair, I wrote a thank you letter to some of the “doulas” who had been the grace that kept me going. To them, I said:
And now, looking back over that valley of heartbreak behind me, I can see just how beautiful it was. Your words and actions have illustrated in vivid detail the beauty and perfection of God’s loving, tender mercies. You have painted a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering. If I hadn’t needed you so desperately, I would never have had the privilege of witnessing those countless acts of love and friendship.
Grace is the reason I’m still here. Grace is the reason I haven’t quit. Grace is the reason I keep playing my little song. Grace is the Master turning that feeble song into something beautiful. Grace is God painting a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering.
Grace is yours too.
Don’t quit. Keep playing.