In the Book of Mormon a famous dream is rendered a couple of times for our benefit. A good man has been making his way toward the tree of life along a path with an iron handrail. Smothering darkness swallows him from time to time, but he holds fast to the rod and makes it to the tree to partake of beautiful, delicious white fruit. Being a family man, he immediately turns to find his family, wanting them to have some too, and sees some of them making their way toward him.
Two of his sons, as well as many, many other people, have let go of the handrail and are picking their way across an open field toward a huge building floating in the air. Multitudes of people are looking out from that building, pointing and laughing at the poor saps making their way along the path toward the tree. Some of the people on the path and even at the tree grow embarrassed and start making their way toward the building.
The building represents “the world” – foundationless but still hauntingly appealing – and the path toward the tree a journey of enlightenment toward a oneness with Jesus Christ, the fruit of the tree. It’s a recognizable enough metaphor that one need only mention an element of the dream to someone in my faith and s/he will recognize the reference.
I’ve been thinking, however, that we may have a false sense of security about our place on the path if we think we’re always on the path just because we’re often on the path.
I know someone who is desperately fearful that she will never be good enough, and just as most insecure people do, she often turns that fear to criticism of others. Nobody else does what they do well enough, can be trusted with her children, or is worthy of emulation or appreciation. To say the least, she is prickly.
She portrays an image that she is sure she is on the path, but she points at others, noting what they do and don’t do, making people around her embarrassed and unsure of themselves. She is as surely in that building as any “worldly” person could be. But I too have a vantage point from that building as I look at her and note her failings (whether or not my “pointing” is ever conscious or spiteful).
Perhaps our place on the path is not so easily defined, if a simple change of focus can move us suddenly from one spot to another in that epic image, like characters in a virtual reality that disappear and reappear in a completely different position.
Another of the interpretations of the white fruit is “the love of God” – meaning the love God has for us that he would send a savior and all that that kind of love entails. I often comment that faith is loving God, hope is receiving the love of God, and charity is loving like God, so it seems that if I am making my way toward the tree, I am exercising all three in expectation of coming to a point that that fruit becomes part of me.
If so, then I am moving through life with love as the medium for everything I perceive and do, or at least more often as I progress. When I look at this woman, am I lovingly understanding that her life must be painful and desperately frightening, and am I acting in loving ways to encourage her belief that she is enough? Do I refuse to take offense when her judgment is directed at me or one of mine, feeling that same love I feel toward one of mine who might behave insensitively? Do I have a firm enough grip on the handrail and a profound enough sense of the sweetness of that love that I am unswayed by hers or anyone else’s pointing, not taking offense or assuming I know her intent?
John noted that they loved Christ because he first loved them; am I offering that to this woman? If I am moving toward a oneness with Jesus Christ, then I don’t make an instantaneous jump over to the great and spacious building, point without merciful love at her, then make an instantaneous jump back to the path and move forward with my better-practiced charities.
Pondering this image today, I’m inspired to keep an even tighter grip on the handrail, and maybe I won’t find myself blipping over to the great and spacious building to survey the view.
I love to read comments from people who visit my blog, but I have tended to end my thoughts with a summation that closes the door to the very insights I’d love to hear from others. So I’m turning over a new leaf, and I’m going to end each entry with a question, because I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts too.
How has your journey toward a oneness with the Savior been interrupted by blipping over to the great and spacious building, what does the view look like when you get there, and what do you do to get right back?