Can I really be content to get Clark Kent?
When I really need a MIRACLE to burst these bands?
This guy who looks low rent- turns out, is Heaven sent!
And underneath that suit- IS SUPERMAN!
A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School, our teacher shared a little tidbit that was awesome (Thanks again Gena). I want to try and pass on and summarize what I learned.
It was a perfect example that highlighted the difference between the realistic and unrealistic expectations in our minds when we pray for help. We seem to want, and expect the Hollywood movie version of real life. We want the dramatic flair and instantaneous resolution to our problems, but have a hard time when all we get are the seemingly plain regular answers.
The story was when Nephi and his brothers were headed back to the wilderness where their father, Lehi, was camped. This was after having returned to Jerusalem for the second time. This time, they had just convinced Ishmael and his family that it would be a sweet idea to head out into the desert for some unknown amount of time, and towards some as of yet unknown promised land.
However, somewhere along the way, Laman and Lemuel and their newly-formed merry band of misfits, did their thing, and got ticked off at some imaginary slight. They tied Nephi up, bound him with cords and left him out in the middle of nowhere in the desert, to be eaten by wild beasts. And I thought I fought with my brothers growing up…
If you were Nephi, how would you pray in this situation?
If I were a Hollywood producer, Nephi would pray, and then legions of fiery sword wielding angels would descend upon Laman and Lemuel and turn them into barbequed mincemeat, then cut his bands triumphantly and carry him on a chariot of clouds back to the desert while the Hallelujah chorus blared for everyone to hear. But, that’s not what happened.
Remember, Nephi had been down this road before. He had to deal with his bonehead brothers over and over and over again. He had also overcome all odds, and retrieved the brass plates from a wicked maniac (Laban). Nephi knew he could be delivered from the measly ropes he was tied down with. No problem. So, knowing all that, lets pay close attention to what he asks for is his pleadings with the Lord…
“But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may BURST these bands with which I am bound.¹”
Burst the bands? Thats what I’m talking about! Lets look at the definition of the word “burst” to see exactly what Nephi was asking for.
Burst = to issue forth suddenly and forcibly, break open, or fly apart with sudden violence:, to issue forth suddenly and forcibly.
Yes Please! How awesome would that be? Shards of severed ropes flying through the air as trumpet music blasts our ears and Nephi’s hands rise in clenched fists as he yells triumphantly….. Now, lets look at the actual result of that prayer…
“And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were LOOSED from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.²”
Not exactly Hollywood flair. For comparison, lets now look at the definition of “loosed” (what he received) as compared to the “Burst” definition from earlier.
Loosed = free from anything that binds or restrains.
Pretty vanilla huh? The Lord got the job done. His way.
How many of us pray like that? We pray for the dramatic hero on a white horse to come in and save the day. We pray for Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan to ride over a distant hill and strike fear into the hearts of the Orcs who are attacking us. We pray for sudden, forceable deliverance from hardship, pain, or struggle. We want deliverance from whatever is ailing us, we want resistance to go away, we want instant peace, and resolution.
When we pray like this, we want, and even expect results. Now. Or at least in the next few minutes, maybe a week at most. We want results, dramatic, perceptible, obvious results. We want Clark Kent ripping off his shirt revealing Superman results!
And, if they don’t come, we are disappointed that the Lord didn’t hear us, or help us, or deliver us.
Instead of Superman, ripping off his shirt, we get this…….
We pray for “burst”, but get “loosen”.
We pray for Superman, but get Clark Kent.
We pray for Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan, but get 4 tiny hobbits with hairy feet.
Nephi had asked for enough strength to perform the Superman “burst”. What Nephi got was Clark Kent secretly unbuttoning his shirt in a phone booth, methodically, slowly, maybe even awkwardly.
But, this is the exact point, and heart of the lesson! His strength was increased! And it was enough to loosen the bands. Probably after much wriggling, struggling, pulling, twisting, pushing, and pulling. He did not sit idle and wait. He did receive strength to loosen the bands that held him captive. He was able to become stronger and overcome. It just wasn’t in the dramatic hollywood way.
Remember, this was the same Nephi that fashioned a wooden bow and arrow after his fancy steel one broke leaving his family without any means of obtaining food. This was the same Nephi that built a ship after never having built one before. This was the same Nephi that smote Laban after shrinking, having never before spilt the blood of man.
His actions were coupled with, and enabled by, the strength from the Lord. That is how He works! He just doesn’t swoop in and do it for us, He allows us to grow and be able to help ourselves!
When we think about it, that Clark Kent answer that Nephi received, just like in the movies, eventually did change into that same Superman.
His bands didn’t burst, but he also didn’t wait for that to happen. He didn’t wait for Superman, he was strengthened to become a superman.
Do we do the same thing? After we receive strength, do we attribute that help as coming from the Lord? Or do we think that it was us, ourselves? Do we give credit to the Lord when all we get is just what we need? Or do we get upset, impatient, and resentful that we seemingly have to do it all on our own? Do we embrace the struggle, wriggle, fight, and strain? Do we recognize the small changes that the Lord effects in us to alter the outcome?
If the change or added strength is slow, methodical, gradual, almost imperceptible do we STILL give the Lord the credit for fostering that change like Nephi did? The Lord is certainly capable of bringing about dramatic and immediate changes, but He gives us just what we need. Its much more likely that He will strengthen us just enough for us to grow, stretch, and overcome.
Lets remember that the Lord is perfectly in charge of every little aspect of our lives. He knows. He knows exactly what we need, when we need, how we need, and who we need. He already knows. Sometimes “My way” needs to take a big old back seat to “His way”.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths³.”
And for another final piece of humble pie….
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts 4.”
Lets try and trust him a little bit more, and never just stop and wait for the Hollywood version of real life. Lets continue fighting, wriggling, straining, pulling, tugging, and pressing forward. Lets be happy with Clark Kent, because he is Superman5! Lets be happy with the 4 hairy hobbits, because they are the secret heroes. Let’s be happy with loosened bands, because they still allow us to be free.
“Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him 6.”
1. 1 Nephi 7:17
2. 1 Nephi 7:18
3. Proverbs 3:5,6
4. Isaiah 55:9
5. Riley beat me to this Superman subject. His original post can be found here.
6. Psalms 28:6,7