I believe it happened during a month when I was spending an inordinate amount of time in bed because of a pressure sore. Thankfully, when I spend time in bed I am able to work on my laptop computer making the downtime not as "down" as it would be otherwise. For some reason I was spending a lot of time reading the Old Testament. I just couldn't seem to get enough of it. I was reading 2 Samuel one afternoon when some words just leaped off the page at me. These words were David's final words recorded by the author or authors of Samuel, preserving a metaphor regarding Jehovah, Christ, The God of Israel. "Now these be the last words of David...The God of Israel...the Rock of Israel spake to me [saying]...And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds..." [2 Samuel 23:1-4] [Emphasis added]
I think David's metaphor concerning Christ struck such a responsive chord in me because of my love for the precious rising of the sun I have witnessed and enjoyed during my lifetime.
I have diminished eyesight. I can't really see out of my right eye and only good enough out of my left eye to read on my computer with the fonts magnified to the max. I can watch TV if I sit close enough to the screen and also movies if I am close to the front of the theater. However, one of the things I still am able to enjoy about life is to wake up each morning just as the sky is beginning to gray and witness the sun beginning to stream through the two large windows in my bedroom. To me it is a glorious and comforting sight.
I believe my love of the morning began when I worked for Kennecott Copper Corp. each summer as a young man. I would make enough money each summer working for Kennecott in Eastern Nevada to pay for two semesters at BYU the following fall and winter. I invariably worked what was known as the "Graveyard Shift" which began at 11:30 p.m. and ended at 7:30 a.m.
The summer I worked as a drill helper I will never forget. The drill was mounted on a rig that could be driven slowly from site to site depending on where holes needed to be drilled. We would drill holes all night and then in the morning the powder crew would come and fill the holes with explosives, ignite them, and the entire town would shake, rattle and roll for just a few minutes during the moment of explosion. Immense electric shovels would then scoop up the shattered earth which contained the precious copper ore, and deposit it in large trucks for ultimate transport to the mill and smelter.
Once the drill began its work the driller and his helper didn't have much to do but watch the drill and correct any problems that might occur.
The Liberty Pit in Ruth, Nevada, where I worked is located in a mountainous area which is more than 7000 feet in elevation. I remember standing and shivering outside in the very cold Nevada night air, hour after hour and night after night, anxiously awaiting one thing -- the arrival of morning. The Nevada nights were beautiful, full of stars, but I felt a great joy inside me as I looked at the Eastern Mountains and could discern them against a graying sky. The dark would reluctantly and imperceptibly give way to the powerful light of the rising sun. The morning star would still be visible, and then the sun would just seem to explode above the mountains and bathe me in its warm, life-giving rays. The long, cold night was over, and one of God's greatest gifts to his children, a new day, had dawned.
In the mission field I became an "early morning Nazi"(translation -- fanatic). I made it part of my mission to always be out of bed before any of my companions. I felt so righteous (self-righteous) as I would sit at my desk studying Spanish and searching the scriptures for an hour or so before my companions would begin to stir. Those hours, undisturbed by the awakening world, became precious to me. I would always make a point of going outside, or looking out the window as the sky would begin to gray to witness another glorious morning burst upon the world.
Arising early did not end with my mission. My most productive time of day was in those early hours before the sun would break over the horizon.
While I served as bishop my two oldest children were in early morning seminary, but not old enough to drive. We had an old Volkswagen bus and I would take my two children and pick up three or four of their friends and drive them to the chapel each morning. While they were in seminary I would run from the chapel up a street that led me into the foothills. My run would begin in the dark, but as I would return, the sky would begin to gray and by the time I reached the chapel to pick up the kids, the warming rays of the sun heralded that indeed, once again, a new day had been born.
I could go on with many more sunrise experiences, but suffice it to say, I think I know why David chose to describe Christ the way he did: "... He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds..." David was a shepherd boy who cared for his father's sheep in the hills surrounding Bethlehem. How many long nights did he spend guarding those precious sheep, anxiously awaiting the glorious sunrise and dawning of a new day? How he must have enjoyed the warming and life-giving rays of the sun that would come each morning bringing life to him, the sheep, and to the earth.
Christ himself said: "... I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." [John 8:12] Christ disperses darkness, the darkness of sin and of death. Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time. David's metaphor is very powerful in teaching us that Christ is as the "light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds", dispelling the cold darkness of night and symbolically reassuring mankind that just as the night of death will come to each one of us, so will their come a glorious and literal "morning" of resurrection.
The scriptures reveal the following significant truth as well: "...Christ...is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings... Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things..." [Doctrine & Covenants 88:7,11,12-13]
I believe when Christ comes to usher in his millennial reign he will come as the "light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds." I hope we will all be "morning" people then.
Yes, mornings are special as they remind us of the "light and life of the world".
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Well, I hate to admit it, but I am not nearly as wise today as I was a couple of days ago. I had to go to an oral surgeon to have a bottom wisdom tooth and the one next to it extracted.
When I was a young married man I let a dentist in Ogden, Utah talk me into pulling all my wisdom teeth. As it turned out it was not a very wise decision on my part. He started in the afternoon and by 8 p.m. I was still in the chair with only the two wisdom teeth on the right side of my mouth having been pulled. As he was working on me he would say things like, "Oops, I think maybe I shouldn't have done it that way," and etc. He wanted to make an appointment to pull out the wisdom teeth on the left side but for some reason I did not feel inclined to take him up on his offer. He said that at some point in time those remaining wisdom teeth would be a problem to me. I never wanted to see the fulfillment of his prophecy and ever since that time one of my life's goals was to die before the wisdom teeth went bad on me. No such luck!
In all honesty it was a brutal experience. Several times during the procedure I wanted to cry, but old men are supposed to be tough and so I stifled the desire to scream, moan and groan, and just suffered in silence.
The longer the tooth extraction took, the oral surgeon began to look, in my mind's eye anyway, like a hairy, muscle bound, 800 pound gorilla, who was trying to pull my head off.
I must admit that as the procedure continued on and seemed that it would never end I was only thinking of one thing and that was me -- Jack Rushton and the pain and misery I was experiencing at that moment. With the oral surgeon's hands in my mouth, along with his various instruments of torture, I was not very concerned about those troops who had been recently killed at Fort Hood, Texas, and their surviving families and loved ones, or the thousands that have been killed in recent earthquakes and tsunamis, or the poor starving children in Africa, or even some dear friends that are suffering from severe health problems much worse than mine -- I was only thinking about one thing -- me!
I had the same feeling when I suffered my injury many years ago. I was consumed with "me." I was totally self-absorbed in my pain and in that condition could not reach out to help others or to even be concerned with their unique and individual challenges.
I take comfort in the fact that I think all of us, because of our humanness, are much the same way. Victor Frankl, the author of the important book, "Man's Search for Meaning", drew the following analogy regarding the relativity of human suffering: "... a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative." [Man's Search for Meaning, Pages 61-62.]
I believe what he is saying is that if I am having wisdom teeth pulled out in California while people in Fort Hood, Texas are being slaughtered by a maniacal killer, or the good folks in Samoa or Peru are losing their lives because of earthquakes and tsunamis, I am going to be much more concerned with my pain than theirs. I believe like Victor Frankl that each individual's suffering -- regardless of the kind or "size" -- can completely fill his soul and conscious mind leaving little room to be concerned about the miseries of others. Because of this I also believe one of the challenges we all face is to rise above our own self-absorbing pain and misery and be able to reach out emotionally and spiritually to help others in need.
I took a life altering course at BYU as a junior. It was called "Major British Authors." My teacher, absolutely the best one I ever had from kindergarten through graduate school, Nan Grass, had written her doctoral dissertation on the great English writer, John Donne (1573-1631).
Because of her love for the writings of John Donne, we as her students began to love them as well. She felt his prose was the most sublime ever written in the English language. I do not doubt that statement was just hyperbole on her part.
One of her favorite passages from his writings, and one of my favorites as well, comes from his "Meditation 17, from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions." (1624) "...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."
I have pondered for years about what John Donne wrote so long ago, and believe he described beautifully an eternal principle. Truly, "No man is an island" and any man's death (or suffering) diminishes us because, hopefully as he stated "... [we are] involved in mankind...."
As I think about Donne's words I cannot help but think of the suffering experienced by all of God's children during their Telestial tour of duty upon this earth. As we struggle with our own pain and observe the pain and suffering of others we have several options available to us. We can, for example, ignore and pretend we don't see the suffering of others. At our worst we could take advantage of the sick and weak and take from them what little resources they may have, or on the other hand, be willing to give of our means and time to bless the unfortunate about us.
One thing I know for sure, based on my own personal experience, none of us will ever successfully traverse this Telestial terrain alone without the love and support of others.
We need one another! That is the genius of the organization of the Church. We simply cannot go it alone. Eugene England, many years ago, wrote a profound essay entitled "The Church Is As True As the Gospel!" This was no clever play on words but a profound statement regarding how a divinely inspired Church organization would bless us with the love, support, and strength of others to carry us through, because truly, "No man is an island." Without my family, friends, and the love and support that has been constant from members of the Church since the day of my injury I would certainly have perished long ago.
When the hairy, 800 pound gorilla comes into our lives and is trying to pull our heads off hopefully we will be able to see beyond our own pain and misery and reach out to bless others, and in so doing bless ourselves as well.
"It's Good to Be Alive!"