Monday, May 2, 2016

Remember Their Degree of Difficulty

The Parable of the Divers

Many years ago, when I was somewhere between nine and eleven, I participated in a community summer recreation program in the town where I grew up.  I remember in particular a diving competition for the different age groups held at the community swimming pool.  Some of the wealthier kids in our area had their own pools with diving boards, and they were pretty good amateur divers.  But there was one kid my age from the less affluent part of town who didn't have his own pool.  What he had was raw courage.  While the rest of us did our crisp little swan dives, back dives, and jackknives, being ever so careful to arch our backs and point our toes, this young man attempted back flips, one-and-a-half's, doubles, and so on.  But, oh, he was sloppy.  He seldom kept his feet together, he never pointed his toes, and he usually missed his vertical entry.

The rest of us observed with smug satisfaction as the judges help up their scorecards that he consistently got lower marks than we did with out safe and simple dives, and we congratulated ourselves that we were actually the better divers.  "He is all heart and no finesse," we told ourselves.  "After all, we keep our feet together and point our toes." 

The announcement of the winners was a great shock to us, for the brave young lad with the flips had apparently beaten us all.

However, I had kept rough track of the scores in my head, and I knew with the arrogance of limited information that  the math didn't add up.  I had consistently outscored the boy with the flips.  And so, certain that an injustice was being perpetrated, I stormed the scorer's table and demanded an explanation.  "Degree of difficulty," the scorer replied matter-of-factly as he looked me in the eye.  "Sure, you had better form, but he did harder dives.  When you factor in the degree of difficulty, he beat you hands down, kid."

Until that moment I hadn't known that some dives were awarded "extra credit" because of their greater difficulty.....

Whenever I am tempted to feel superior to other Saints, the parable of the divers comes to my mind, and I repent.  At least at a swim meet, we can usually tell which dives are the most difficult.  But here in mortality, we cannot always tell who is carrying what burdens: limited intelligence, chemical depression, compulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, dysfunctional or abusive family background, poor health, physical or psychological handicaps--no one chooses these things.  So I must not judge my brothers and sisters.  I am thankful for my blessings but not smug about them, for I never want to hear the Scorer say to me, "Sure, you had better form, but she had a harder life.  When you factor in degree of difficulty, she beat you hands down."

So, enduring to the end doesn't have much to do with suffering in silence, overcoming all life's obstacles, or even achieving the LDS ideal ("pointing our toes" and "keeping our feet together").  It just means not giving up.  It means keeping--to the best of our abilities--the commitments we made to Christ when we entered into the marriage of the gospel.  It means not divorcing the Savior or cheating on him by letting some other love become more important in our lives.  It means not rejecting the blessings of the atonement that he showered upon us when we entered his church and kingdom. 

(Stephen E. Robinson, Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995], 34-38.)

The Parable of the Divers  

I absolutely LOVE that story and I've shared it before.  I guess I can't help but think about it from time to time.  I use to think about it in terms of my own life and others looking in, hoping that other's would remember our degree of difficulty when it comes to Kevin's recent health issues and all that that brings.  Today I can think of it in a new way, a way that isn't all that new to me, but one I was reminded of here in my own living room.....that is, that I need to remember outsiders degree of difficulty when it comes to dealing with our situation.  Not everyone is going to be nice to us.  Not everyone is going to try to understand us or our situation.  Not everyone is going to know what to say or how to say it and because of that, they may not come around at all.  I can honestly say that in the few short months, and I'm talking 8 months, my eyes have been opened.  You come to realize not only what you, your husband, and your children are made of.  BUT, at the same time, and at times, without really wanting to know, you also come to understand what others are made of too.  

I use to get upset when some people wouldn't give us the benefit of the doubt, or wouldn't try to understand where we were coming from, or flat out didn't believe a word I would say until they heard it from Kevin himself.  It was so frustrating!  I would pray and pray for those individuals to back down or at least try to understand.  I was beginning to think I was going to have to wait for this particular answer to come, and then certain things began to happen and I thought that was my answer, until today when the rest of the answer came.
It's funny sometimes how answers to your prayers come.  Today was one of those days, and the answer came right out of nowhere, but plain as day and right after I got off the phone with my oldest child.
  This story of the divers came to mind and the words, "remember they also have a degree of difficulty when it comes to dealing with your family situation."  

And then I realized that I was being taught something I needed to know and something I need to work on.  As I thought about this I was humbled by the things I heard and remembered how upset I would get and then it dawned on me that I have some repenting to do.  AND, my attitude to try and change and behaviors to correct, in an effort to not be so hard on others in an effort to remember their degree of difficulty.
  It's interesting to me how the spirit teaches me.  All this information in such a short amount of time.  It seemed like hours, when in reality it was only about 15 minutes.  What a blessing it is to know that I can pray to my Heavenly Father and He will hear and answer my prayers.  That means so much that I hardly have words to express just how much I appreciate that great blessing.  I love my Heavenly Father and I am so grateful that He is aware of me, that He knows me personally, that He is always be there for me, and that He will answer my prayers.  It brings me peace and comfort to know this and I feel so very blessed.

Enough said.
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