Ever have a spiritual near miss, where the Lord kindly gave you some personal inspiration about a matter where you listened to and responded to the message — and, though lack of diligence or follow-through, still blew it, barely missing the blessing He was trying to give you? Being in tune and getting personal revelation is not enough — it can be in vain if we don’t follow up with diligent effort on our part. I think we need to learn from our near misses in order to avoid them and have more spiritual “hits” our lives.
This morning my wife needed me to do some shopping to help her prepare for the Stake Auxiliary Training session she was running for Primary (the LDS children’s organization) leaders in the units of the Appleton, Wisconsin Stake. As Primary President, she does a lot of extra-mile efforts and has spent hours preparing and planning for this day. As crunch time approached, though, she needed a little help to get a few more items for refreshments. I left at 8:30 am with instructions to be back by 9:15 am, when she needed to leave.
I ran to a major grocery store and snagged everything needed, and was back on the road by 9:04, just five minutes from home. Success! I felt like I should call her and assure her that I would be back with a few minutes to spare, but passed on that idea, perhaps ignoring a prompting. No need to call, I reasoned – I’ll be home soon enough.
I came home, expecting to see some frantic last minute rushing, but everything was calm. Cool. We chatted and I helped put a few things away. Then after being home for about five minutes, as I was leaving the kitchen I looked at the big clock on the wall, the one that had shown 8:30 a.m. when I left, and puzzled over the time. It now showed 8:40 a.m., in contrast to my watch that read 9:15 a.m. I casually said to my wife, “Hey, that clock is off. It says 8:40, but it’s really about 9:15.” She thought I was kidding at first, then looked at her watch – and panic set in.
She raised an eyebrow and, with a tense but gentle smile, whispered, “My, my, this could be a keenly inconvenient time for that clock to fail, because now I suppose I’m going to be rather late and my hours of preparation may prove to be futile after all. I thought I was ahead of schedule and so productive, but disaster was looming – courtesy of batteries that suddenly died. Well, isn’t this an interesting learning experience? I do hope you’ll blog about it. Now please excuse me while I zealously strive to change, do my hair, my makeup, and about 40 other things in the next 30 seconds.”
Well, those may not be her exact words, but that’s how I interpreted her highly nuanced and intricately modulated shriek. It’s a marvel how much can be conveyed by the female voice in times like this.
Moments after she pulled out of the driveway, she called me and expressed concern that she may have left some things that she needed. My first impression – yes, definitely an impression – was to head to the printer in the basement where I imagined she had printed some documents needed for her event. “I’m heading to the printer. Anything there?” She didn’t think so, but I felt that I should look. Ah, there was a stack of colorful primary documents on the desk. I asked her about them, and she said no, she didn’t need those. Shouldn’t be anything there she needed. OK, I thought. I noted some documents were in the output tray in the printer, but, assured that she didn’t need anything, I ignored them and went upstairs.
Twenty minutes later, when I was halfway to the church (our Stake Center in Neenah), she called again, hoping I was still home. She realized that some printouts she thought were in her Primary bag were still at home, and hoped I could bring them with me. But I was too far from home now to get them in time to help her. Had I gone the extra six inches to reach into the printer tray and describe what I saw, the impression to head to the printer would have born fruit – and I would score a few extra admiration points. One’s account can never be too full. As it was, it was a sad near miss.
This is a trivial event in the big scheme of things. Her event was successful, the people she served were grateful, the food she brought was delicious, and life goes on, in spite of some stress and a few glitches. But I could have done a little more to help my wife if I had been a little more diligent and faithful in responding to what may have been a touch of guidance. As I pondered this event, I could see that I’ve got a stream of near misses in my life, where things went wrong in spite of seeking and receiving helpful inspiration from the Lord, not because of flaws in the guidance, but in the execution.
The challenge of turning personal revelation into success is much like the challenge of turning good ideas into successful inventions or commercial products. There’s a lot of work that has to come after the idea stage for it to be any good. Revelation plus active faith and diligence is what we need.