Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving our mark

A couple of weeks ago Jo Anne loaded me into the van and we drove over to the neighborhood car wash.  I always have mixed feelings when we go to get the van all spruced up by our Hispanic brothers.  I'm happy that the van is going to look so nice, but there is also a definite downside to the experience for me.  When we get to the giant vacuum cleaners that emit a sound similar to that of a wild and tempestuous tornado, Jo Anne lets the ramp down, guides me carefully to earth, and then the humiliation begins.  She takes the larger-than-life vacuum hose and begins vacuuming me and my wheelchair.  I always hope nobody will be around to observe the spectacle, but inevitably a few curious onlookers gather around to see whether I will get sucked up into the giant vacuum tank along with the other dirt and debris.  The thing that kind of bothers me the most is that they seem to enjoy watching me suffer, and I even suspect they are making bets as to whether Jo Anne is going to send me through the car wash as well. 

This particular day after I had been thoroughly cleansed by the "Moby" vacuum cleaner and the van was all shiny and clean, I started driving my chair toward the van, anxious to be welcomed into its safe environs and away from public scrutiny.  I was going about as fast as my chair would go when I gave it the command to stop...and it didn't stop!  I was helpless, panicked, but could do nothing to save either myself, or worst of all, my shiny new van.  I hit the passenger side front door full blast.  There was a sickening, wrenching, noise.  The right leg rest on my wheelchair was crushed and fell to the ground. Of course, my leg was all bruised up, but since I am not able to feel anything, that was the last thing I was thinking about right then.  The only thought in my mind was, "What have I done to my van?"

Well, it could have been worse -- I had just left a big mark on the door that looked like the mark of Zorro.  I was relieved it was not worse, but it was the first ding on the new van and, wouldn't you know, I was the one that put it there.

I suppose it was justice, however.  I have left my mark on several of our beautiful and sacred temples.  One day in the Los Angeles Temple I sipped when I should have puffed and ran into the wall, leaving a gaping hole, all while the Temple matron was watching.  I thought they might take my recommend away; however, they were gracious and forgiving.  I dinged up the gorgeous woodwork in the San Diego Temple and crashed into a wall in the brand new Newport Beach Temple.  The Newport Beach Temple also left a mark on me one day as well, when I scraped my arm going through one of the doors and saturated my white shirt with blood.  Thankfully we caught it before it spilled off onto the carpet.  The Temple Presidencies have been very kind through it all and have assured me that I am still welcome, although I am somewhat of a liability to the well being of these sacred structures.

As I have thought about some of the marks I have left around the country by banging into things with my wheelchair I became interested in the word "mark."  All of us are making a mark by which we will be remembered by the way we live, or we are aiming for a mark -- something we would like to achieve -- or we are being marked by life and the way we live it.  Some dictionary definitions of this word, that can have profound meaning in our individual lives, are: "... a distinguishing trait or quality..." "...a symbol used for identification or indication of ownership..." "...a conspicuous object serving as a guide..." Some synonyms are: target and goal.  [Merriam-Webster online dictionary] 

The Scriptures are peppered with uses of the word "mark."  For example, the Jews at the time of Christ, according to the great Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, "... were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble."  [Jacob 4:14]

For me personally this verse is extremely meaningful.  There is a temptation, at times, to look beyond the mark -- the plain and precious truths contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the testimony of a young 14-year-old boy who actually saw the Father and the Son and translated the ancient record by the gift and power of God -- desiring something more spectacular or intellectually challenging.  How many have lost so much by looking beyond the "mark?"

And then, life can leave any number of marks on us.  According to the Scriptures the wicked always have a mark placed upon them because of their wickedness [Moses 5:40, Genesis 4:15, Alma 3: 4, 6-7, 10, 13-16, 18]

The book of Revelation reveals many kinds of marks mankind may receive that will have eternal consequences for their ultimate salvation or damnation. Hopefully, at the conclusion of our lives, the mark we will have received from the Lord will be evident to all because we will have "... received his image in [our] countenances... having the image of God engraven upon [our] countenances..." [Alma 5:14,19]

Hopefully we will leave much more than the mark of Zorro to be remembered by when we depart mortality.

"I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  [Philippians 3:14]