Many Sparrows

Thoughts on Latter-Day Saint faith in the twenty-first century.

I've been thinking about a metaphor for gospel living, which in this case I'm using in the sense of “making things like gospel study a part of daily life.” There's a common problem that people have with creating a spiritual aspect of their life, and it goes something like this:

  1. I see people who really have their lives together.Who are deeply spiritual. I want to be like them!
  2. When hard times come, I try harder to be deeply spiritual.
  3. My immediate problems aren't immediately solved.
  4. I decide I'm not good enough and despair a little bit. I tried being good for three whole days and it didn't change everything!
  5. Repeat.

Intellectually, of course, I know that real change takes time, that thinking I can suddenly be problem-free is folly.

So I've been thinking about a better way to understand how the acquisition of spirituality helps a person. I think it works more like building a sea wall, hence the title. Here's what I mean:

The purpose of a sea wall is to protect the ships in the harbor. The wall has to be strong enough and high enough to prevent large waves from making it into the harbor. But you have to start the construction of the wall deep under the water. When you first start laying the foundations of the sea wall it provides almost no protection at all. But you can't start building it at the top, that's not how construction works. So for the first little while after you start building your sea wall you still have to deal with the storms, seemingly unprotected.

After a while the sea wall is big enough that it starts providing some protection against big rollers. The large, deep waves break against the sea wall, even though it's still entirely underwater. While your spiritual progress is still mostly invisible, you are starting to internally see the benefits.

As the sea wall begins to appear above the waves it becomes obvious to anyone why it helps. Many waves still rise above it and crash over it, but it's clear that it's tempering their fury.

Eventually the sea wall is high enough to block just about everything. But even now all is not done. The sea wall still requires maintenance and frequent repairs to continue to provide the protection for which it was built.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father... Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:29,31 KJV

This is Christ talking to his followers, and I love the imagery here. If God notices the fall of a single sparrow, he definitely knows what's going on with each of us. I also love the very gentle humor in this verse. Being measured in sparrows is unexpected, and feels affectionate. Christ knows and loves and values us. Any time I'm feeling down I can remember that I'm not worthless, I'm worth many sparrows!

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