Like most parents these days, we have found that one of the most essential tools in preventing degenerative insanity while driving in the car with the entire family is the car dvd player. I have no idea how we as children survived. Not only did we have to endure oppressive hours of boredom during longer trips, but we had to do it all while in closed quarters proximity to each other. For the Alexander kids, it also meant someone had to go to the rear facing, nausea inducing back seat of the Caprese Classic station wagon, also known as “purgatory”.
While we usually piled into the car at the beginning of the trip not wanting to strangle each other, it most certainly required regular divine interventions, and some not-so-divine interventions, to ensure that our actual family size was not diminished by the end of each trip. Today, however, the threat of self destruction during family trips is much, much lower thanks to this life saving technology.
As the years of parenting have gone by, I haven’t actually “seen” a lot of the movies that have played for our kids, but I’ve certainly heard enough of Grease, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Open Season 1 and 2, All the Toy Stories, Monsters Inc. and each Kung Fu Panda to be able to recite them almost word for word. I’m sure this knowledge will be very useful to me someday.
Interestingly enough, sometime between the 78th, and 79th rerun of Kung Fu Panda 3, I caught a line or two that proved to be almost prophetic. It has been probably the longest running movie in our car over the last few years, and for once, something quite profound popped out. This prophetic message taught by Master Shifu not only impressed me as a movie line, but also ended up being played out in real life only a few weeks later.
The scene in the movie of which I reference is when Po, the main character, a Panda, and unlikely hero and recent graduate Kung Fu master, had been tasked by his master, Shifu, to further train the “Furious Five” who are his colleagues, and the best of the best that Kung Fu has to offer. Needless to say, he fails. Miserably. He can’t train the already trained Kung Fu Masters. He feels that he is the most unqualified person ever for the job, and that he won’t ever be able to be as good as they are.
Here is the clip
Master Shifu, the wise, experienced Master that he was, gave Po some great advise. He taught, “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are”.
This line is a perfect description of many of our lives. We allow ourselves to feel like we aren’t good enough, or that someone else is always better than us, or they were simply blessed with more ability etc. So, we stay safe. We settle. We don’t want to stretch to reach higher, be uncomfortable, or try to expand our abilities. We stop trying to be better because its hard, or difficult, or so far out of our comfort zone, that we feel like we are in outer space.
This concept isn’t new, and it’s frequently taught, and it’s all fine and dandy in a movie, or a catchy Facebook video, or a motivational speech by Toni Robbins. But this time, I was able to see it in action.
A little over a week ago, my wife was asked to speak in church for the following Sunday. Not a huge deal right? Well, maybe not for some people, but my wife hates speaking in church. Like, really, really hates it. She has said on multiple occasions directly to the bishopric that she would rather walk outside, stand in the road and get run over by a speeding semi than to speak in church. And she was dead serious.
And thats not even the hard part. This wasn’t a normal day at church. It was the adult session of Stake conference. Still not enough? This session also would have a visiting general authority (a member of the seventy), as well as the mission president of the Gilbert Mission (who is also a seventy). Thats like going from 0 to 120 mph in no time at all. I can count on 2 fingers the times that I remember my wife speaking in church. Period. And we’ve been married 17 years.
But what happened in that moment when she was asked to speak, and really, the whole week leading up to that very intimidating situation, was amazing to see. She was calm, collected, and faithful. She immediately accepted.
I was so impressed by the huge change in not only her willingness to do something so intimidating and miles outside of her comfort zone, but also in the way she had complete faith that she could do it. Of course she had the moments where she wondered why in the world she was asked, when there are so many other great people available, just like we all would. But she worked through all those thoughts and feelings and went on to do an amazing job that night.
It was simple, meaningful, heartfelt, and honest. It was everything it was supposed to be. She expressed her concern for our kids and how we have always tried to teach them what is right, and how now, as they are getting older, we just want them to develop a relationship with the Savior, above all else. She bore her testimony that the Savior has made all the difference in her life, and that we, as parents, need to learn how to trust our kids enough to allow them to make their own decisions. Which isn’t always easy, especially with teenagers.
After the rest of the speakers were done, Elder Jones, the visiting seventy, got up and spoke. Looking back, it’s interesting to me to see how perfectly orchestrated our lives are in the symphony the Lord is playing. I say that because, as Elder Jones began his remarks, he took a few minutes and addressed each of the previous speakers individually. He shared comments, scriptures, experiences, and testimony while turning around at the pulpit as if having a personal conversation with each person who had spoken. For Catie, he shared a scripture along with his testimony,
“For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh…God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Reedeemer.”
-2 Nephi 10:2
To hear that directly and personally from a general authority was amazing. I can’t help but think, that Catie was asked to speak that night, not necessarily for everyone else, but specifically so she could hear that response from Elder Jones. We had been talking, and praying a lot over the last several months about this same worry. Sometimes the answers to our prayers are quiet and private, and sometimes they come when we least expect it, right after we speak in stake conference.
It was a special day, and I have been able to just sit back and enjoy it. Its fun to see how my wife has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. If you would have spoken with her 3 years ago, and told her that she would be called to serve as the Young Women’s president, and then speak in stake conference, she would have laughed at you, but here we are today.
Just like Master Shifu taught Po, “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are”, My wife has shown me that this is more than a cool line in a kids cartoon, it’s the honest truth. She has taught me that literally anything is possible if you trust in the Lord, and leave it up to him. She has become so much more than she ever thought possible. I have always seen this in her. Now, I guess the secret is out.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust…”
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe”
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.”
-2 Nephi 22:2
“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.”