Matterething

I agree with Mike’s post — there are some things the Lord just leaves up to us to solve in our discretion. In other words, the Lord trusts us to make decisions (at least, some decisions – there are some where He deigns to give us His explicit direction). But I have a beef.

The beef is this: just because the Lord trusts us to make our own decisions does not mean that those choices don’t matter or are unimportant to Him. The temptation is to say that if God doesn’t send His angels to tell me whether or not to go to law school, well, that’s because He doesn’t care whether I go or not. [1] This is not the case. I don’t believe in a God who is uninterested in our affairs. I believe in a God who deeply, deeply cares about our lives — even (or perhaps, especially) in those aspects where we don’t care ourselves.

In fact, the scriptures tell us to cry to the Lord, to importune him regarding these things, even though they seem mundane. We are commanded to pray always, but in case that is ambiguous we also have specific direction, in Alma 34:

17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;

18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.

20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.

22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.

23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.

24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.

25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.

26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.

27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

And so, yes, God may not tell you whether to get that burrito smothered (yes, get it smothered) or what route to take on the way home (avoid I-15), but that does not mean that (a) we should not ask Him these things or (b) that He does not care. We mattereth to him.

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[1] Don’t go to law school. Seriously.

Comments

  1. I’ve found that much of the tenor of the revelation I have received in relation to life decisions has been God telling me that the decision was up to me but what is important to him is how I go about trotting along whatever paths I end up on. Do what you’re going to do ethically and wholeheartedly and awesomely and without crowding out me, your family and your church stewardships.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. But a smothered burrito? Utah food must really be terrible.

  3. It’s nice to read something here that I can agree with wholeheartedly. And I especially like the fact that you managed to avoid the modern fad of saying “disinterested” when “uninterested” was what you meant!

  4. I also wondered if your beef was a beef burrito.

  5. I liked this pair of posts. It’s a good reminder for me as I wrestle with matterething and -not.

  6. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    But maybe we really shouldn’t ask about things such as whether to get our burrito smothered, or which route to take home. Maybe these things mattereth to us, even greatly, but not so much to God. The fact that he may be uninterested in these things is not evidence that he doesn’t care greatly about my life. I suspect that God’s hand in the creation of Yelp and Google Maps was an indication that he wants this kind of stuff off his plate.

  7. Turtle, I see nothing in the scriptures or any other revelation that leads to that sort of conclusion about not bothering God with the details. To the contrary.

  8. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    You’re right, Steve. I don’t get that from the scriptures, either. One of the many area I wish would have been addressed, so I would no longer have to listen to people stand during testimony and talk about how God helped them choose the color of their car. But, I’m too cynical.

  9. No, there’s something to the complaint there, but it’s not on God’s side that the problem exists. Perhaps it’s in how we share spiritual experiences, or in how we attribute to divine intervention stuff that isn’t. But the injunction to be constantly with God is there and isn’t diminished. Maybe we just need to not be weirdos about it.

  10. even (or perhaps, especially) in those aspects where we don’t care ourselves.

    Given what I care about, I’m sure this is the case.

  11. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Agreed, Steve. Not being weirdos about things seems like the kind of thing that could have been addressed on the Mount of Olives, though. Or, perhaps that was exactly the message.

  12. I usually say something like, “OK, I’m going to go with the regular burrito this time. Lemme know if that’s a problem.” That way, if he wants to send down an angel with a flaming sword to tell me to get the smothered burrito (or two or three), he can. Otherwise I just assume he is cool with it.

  13. That’s the real danger, isn’t it? Interpreting silence as assent? Or interpreting good feelings as assent, etc.

    I can tell you that most of the times I’ve been messed over by business partners, etc., they’ve been Mormon, and it’s happened at what they felt was the direction of the Spirit. I seriously question whether the Spirit told them that they should break their promises and welch on a deal. And yet there we are!

  14. Regarding weirdos – does divine guidance in spotting quarters to purchase fried chicken on the way home from work qualify as weird? If one accepts that God did indeed answer Elder Cornish’s prayer, then either God caused a quarter to be put in the street after he prayed, or God knew he would be hungry that day so he caused someone to lose a quarter in that spot sometime before the event. Either way, it’s hard to reconcile this with idea that there is anything mattereth not at some level.

  15. I guess sometimes it can be hard to tell when things are matterething to Him… except for those times when it’s like, whoa, this is totally matterething to Him.

  16. I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen on discernment, and I recommend it. Discernment is a spiritual gift and also a discipline. “Living a spiritually mature life requires listening to God’s voice within and among us. To discern means first of all to listen to God, to pay attention to God’s active presence, and to obey God’s prompting, direction, leadings, and guidance. Discernment of spirits is a lifelong task. I can see no other way for discernment than to be committed to a life of unceasing prayer and contemplation, a life of deep communion with the Spirit of God.”

    God’s active presence can participate when we decide what to eat, and when we sit down to gratefully enjoy our food. No experience is too small for seeking this presence within it. Is this kind of what you’re getting at, Steve?

  17. Bingo. Thanks.

  18. I think one of the hardest times to seek the spirit of “matterething” is in other people’s (especially the weirdos) expressions of testimony. Being present, paying attention, feeling the spirit of someone else’s testimony about things that wouldn’t normally matter to me–that’s hard stuff. When someone shares a spiritual experience about finding their keys, it’s easy to zone out or be dismissive. But it matters to them, and if I’m going to get anything out of the testimony meeting, I need to participate in that mattering, enjoy and be edified that the experience mattered to them and find some grace there.

  19. Willie makes a good point. I think God sees us each so individually that sometimes, He’ll help people with things that wouldn’t matter to us, or maybe wouldn’t even matter to them under other circumstances, for the sole reason that they’re important to that person.

    As a mom who regularly deals with little people’s crises, I can embrace this idea. Sometimes I’ll tell the kids, “Look, it’s no big deal.” Sometimes “this is what you should do.” Sometimes “why don’t you work it out for yourselves?” My answer usually depends on the situation and which child I’m talking to.

  20. Geoff - Aus says:

    Jenny obviously sees some of her children as needing different handling to others. My observation is that he also treats us differently, either that or others are perceiving much more attention than I am, because I am much more like the previous blog “Mattereth not” To deal with the fact that I have rarely if ever had communication from God, I have concluded that he sees me as able to go it on my own, so I do.
    So might he be treating us differently?

  21. Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me and I am thankful. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here’s the deal: you freeze everything as it is, and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. [brief pause] OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, please give me no sign. [brief pause] Thy will be done!

  22. @Romni, we only remember the times the quarter was there, the people who recovered, and the keys that turned up. All the other times that make up the rest of the normal distribution are easily forgotten in favor of our desire for God to treat us like we’re special exceptions in world filled with his children.

  23. I can’t get on board with these sentiments. An all concerned god diminishes god, the individual, and all those billions of people of humanity’s long march who objectively can’t be said to have benefitted from god’s minute care. Unless you are going to make the claim that for most of our species’ existence god was mostly concerned with making people wretched and violently abused and so forth. I think it a symptom of privileged western modernity to think that pretty much any of my choices, desires, peccadilloes, and such mattereth to god.

  24. Hey thanks for throwing the privilege word around.

  25. Uh yeah, I don’t through it around lightly in the face of humanity’s experience. Your throwing around care and concern is far more an egregious case of misused rhetoric. But whatever.

  26. *throw around, obvs

  27. Theodicy concerns don’t trump scripture. I’m not articulating sentiments here. Your argument basically goes: bad things happen, therefore God doesn’t care about us. That’s a terrible way to approach deity and it’s ascriptural, but whatever floats your boat.

  28. No, you are confusing love with care. I believe in a loving god, but the way you map it out here is officious deity concerned with mundane things. And yeah, sure my belief may not be scriptural but you and I both know that this is a terrible trump card to throw down when it comes to a person experiencing and coming to terms with divinity in their lives. I don’t need god to care for my every action, but I do need his love. They aren’t the same thing to me.

  29. Okay!

  30. Okay then!

  31. I have come to understand from the scriptures and experience that God gives us direction based on expediency. He generally doesn’t intervene unless we seek guidance. And then, most matters are still left for us to work out ourselves. Only if something is expedient for us – in other words, it’s both important AND timely for us at that particular moment in life – does He steer us one way or another.

  32. Whether or not God cares for or loves others who’ve had horrible experiences throughout the history of humanity, I know that he has answered prayers in my life (and not always the way I wanted). I can’t convince anybody else of that, and I’m often cynical of others’ claims, but in my life I know it’s happened. And I’m grateful.