On one of my many trips to Utah, I sat on a delayed airplane outside the Denver International Airport. A storm was pushing through and there was no way that plane was going to get in the air any time soon. Sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like hours, I had an experience that I know now, was not a coincidence. I chose the window seat (I always fly SouthWest so I get to choose), and a young man about the age of my oldest son sat down next to me. We didn’t converse much at first, he seemed to be exhausted and wanting to sleep. But after the captain came on for about the third time to let us know that we would not be getting off the plane or in the air for at least another 45 minutes, he struck up a conversation with me. He started by asking questions. And in a round about way we began to talk about marriage. I think I must have told him that I’d just visited my boyfriend in Nashville and was going home to UT.
When I told him I had 4 children, he asked what happened with my previous marriage. I explained the situation as best I could, and then he started to tell me about his family and how his parents had divorced. He was not so long married himself, I think about 10 years, and he wanted to find a way to stay married to his wife and not let that happen to him. So we discussed various reasons why divorce happens. And so the conversation went….then the captain came on and said we’d be in the air soon. We’d already sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half. I watched out my window as the storm clouds rolled in, menacing and gray. And thought about this chance encounter with a young man half my age, who seemed to know more about life than I did. And I realized that is was not by chance. You see, I believe that God places people in our paths for a reason. And depending on where we are at spiritually or otherwise we can see those encounters for what they truly are.
Before I knew it, he was telling me about his life long use of drugs and his road back to the LDS church. THE church, that I was in the process of leaving. He told me of an experiences that he’d had with God. Mind you, during this time in my life, I didn’t really want much to do with any church. I was perfectly happy where I was. He asked me about my boyfriend and we talked about him not being a member of the LDS church and that I was currently not active. It wasn’t until much later that I realized this young man was a messenger sent by God and he was there to give me a message. I began to listen intently to what he was telling me. It was incredible, the life he’d been through at such a young age. But what he’d learned and was able to share was truly extraordinary. After telling me pretty much his whole life story, he said that one conclusion that he’d come to after being at rock bottom and then working his way back up, is how important CPR is. Not the traditional CPR but CHURCH, PRAY, READ. EVERY DAY! He said that he felt like he’d found the solution to most of life’s ups and downs and that was CPR. I thought, ok I can see how that has worked for you in your life and I’m happy for you. But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me. And that was that. We had arrived in Salt Lake City and we said our goodbyes.
When I got home, I pondered on that conversation several times. I began to think, maybe I didn’t use CPR like I should have. Was I attending CHURCH ever single week (well yes, but was I REALLY doing the best I could to get everything out of it…probably not)? Was I really PRAYING? Or had my prayers become routine and repetitive? Probably somewhat. Was I really READING my scriptures every single day? No. Did I have a lot of work to do? YES! And slowly….. VERY SLOWLY…. my heart began to turn back toward God.
Now, it was a super slow process turning my heart back. It really took me getting to MY rock bottom, before I realized what a big part that chance encounter had played in my life. And this past 2 years since I came back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been 2 years of extreme spiritual growth. We have gone through temporal trials that have caused us to look inward and upward. We have struggled with questions like, why did this happen? And how long will it take to get through? And what did we do to get here? And where do we go from here? Questions that I think many of us struggle with. And I certainly don’t claim to have any of the answers to those questions. All of our trials are different, with different time frames, and different variables. But I do believe that they all have one thing in common. God knows us! God LOVES us and He knows, HE KNOWS what is best for us. Whatever we think is good for us in our life, God’s plan is better! It’s so important for us to look at where are hearts are and then to look upward. To look to God, He knows the way! His hand is in every facet of our lives and all He asks of us is to “remember HIM”. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Remembering him when our hearts are hard is not easy. When our hearts are hard we are far from him. We look to the world for our answers and not to our Loving Father in Heaven. It is only when our hearts become softened that we are able to hear and heed the voice of the Lord and remember Him always.
There are many other practices that we need to be doing to stay close to the Lord and keep our hearts soft. But CPR, CHURCH, PRAY, READ, is a pretty good recipe for success in the process of softening our hearts and learning to look inward and upward.
Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good… Doctrine and Covenants 90:24
When we are struggling, when we are having success, when we have doubts, when we have joy, our God ALWAYS, ALWAYS remembers us! Is it too much for Him to ask that we ALWAYS remember Him? Look inward and then ALWAYS remember to look up to that God that LOVES you!
I will be forever grateful for young man on a plane, that took the time to tell me about his life and his struggle to find life’s meaning. For having a soft heart and the courage to listen and act on the Spirit’s prompting, to teach a total stranger about CPR!