After an unusually warm July, August was cooler than usual this year, and as we have begun September, already the morning fog has begun. It’s usually not until October that the daily fog arrives, but it’s been with us for a week or so now.
As I was driving to work early last week, I crested a hill on a nearby country road and saw in the distance a large bank of fog. Its appearance was that of a sinister wall of confusion attempting to blanket the countryside – and at the very edge of the fog was a solitary tree, rising through the mist, seemingly resisting its advance. There were other trees on the hillside – but just the one was large enough to rise above the encroaching obscurity.
I have pondered on that tree a lot since that morning. Life can be full of mists and fog. The world clamours that we need better jobs, higher pay, greater prestige, more glamorous houses, fashionable clothes. Our children need to be involved in more after-school clubs, more sports, more socialising, more music or other hobbies. We need our holidays, our entertainment, our pampering. All because we’re worth it, we deserve it, or whatever other strap line used to make us believe that spending more on our image, relaxation or whatever the world happens to consider progress, is the most important thing we can do with our money and/or our time.
And all through this there is no emphasis on building family relationships, no encouragement for marriage stability, no acknowledgement of the value of faith. The values that were the bedrock of our modern successes have been tossed aside as irrelevant, if not mocked, in the modern age. And success has been redefined in terms of compliance with and furthering of the aims of political correctness. We stand in the midst of a fog which is no longer just encroaching, but which has succeeded in surrounding us: saving truths invisible, and seemingly inaudible, in the screaming mists of our times. Add to this our personalised trials and challenges, and it is not difficult to see how we can each so easily become lost.
But that tree rising above the mists – visible despite all attempts to obscure it – reminded me of another tree found through mists. The prophet Lehi dreamed of a mist of darkness that resulted in many being lost. But in the midst of this wilderness filled with mist was a Tree “…whose fruit was desirable to make one happy“, that, “…was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen”, and that, “…filled my soul with exceedingly great joy.” (1 Nephi 8:10-12). True, enduring happiness was only found at the tree. When his prophet son, Nephi, asked an angel for a meaning of the Tree, he was shown, “A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins…. bearing a child in her arms…”. This child, the angel explained, was, “The Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father.” (1 Nephi 11:15, 20-21)
And so it is in life. Yes, we are surrounded on all sides by mists that seek to distract, distort, and dismay; but standing above the mists is One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life – even Jesus Christ (see John 14:6). Speaking of our day in which no-one seems to know where to seek deliverance, Elder Jeffrey R Holland has stated:
If I may be so bold this morning, may I suggest “direction for deliverance”? In words of one syllable, we need to turn to God. We need to reaffirm our faith, and we need to reassert our hope. Where necessary we need to repent, and certainly we need to pray. It is the absence of spiritual fidelity that has led us to moral disarray in the twilight of the twentieth century. We have sown the wind of religious skepticism, and we are reaping the whirlwind of existential despair. (Jeffrey R Holland, Look to God and Live, October 1993 LDS General Conference)
Elder Holland’s suggested remedy for this is, in the words of Alma, to “…look to God and live”. (Alma 37:47) We will not find safety and happiness in looking to celebrities, to fashion designers, to sportsmen, to politicians, to newspaper editors or columnists. We will not find safety by looking to the great thinkers, educators and philosophers of our age. If we truly want deliverance from the mists that cloud and confuse our lives, we must look to God, and to his Son.
And in my life, I have always found that He is there. No matter what life has produced, no matter what mistakes I have made, no matter how confused I have become: when I have looked, He has been there – rising above the world’s mists, calling me to find safety and security under His wing.
So, this year I am grateful for our morning hill fog, and for a solitary tree that resisted its approach last week. For in that I have been reminded that Christ stands above all, and that there will always be safety if I seek His care.