One Saturday evening several years ago, I turned off my TV frustrated after another BYU football loss. There was time left in the game, but it was clearly over. I was on my own that night and had no plans. I decided I’d make the 3-minute drive up the hill to the Timpanogos Temple to spend the rest of the evening there. As I approached, I saw the empty parking lot and realized it was closed. I decided to head south over to Provo and go to the temple next to the college campus, not thinking about the BYU football home game from which 60,000 fans were leaving.
A trip that should have taken me 20-30 minutes, took over an hour. I tried side roads and detours and was angry at how many others had the same idea. Shouldn’t everyone have been driving away from campus? The more time in my car, the worse my mood was. I finally made it to the temple very grumpy and not even sure with my mood that I was fit to enter. The Provo Temple sits near the base of a mountain facing west and has a stunning view of the valley. As I walked towards the temple, I saw that several people were stopped and looking across the valley.
I turned as well and the beauty of the sun setting (as pictured) took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. The picture doesn’t do justice to the colors or how Utah Lake on the west part of the valley reflected and enhanced the colors and light. I suddenly felt so grateful for the traffic that made the timing so perfect to witness such beauty. If there would have been no delays or obstacles getting there, I would have missed it.
As I worshiped and served in the temple that evening, I had a conversation with God after pondering Isaiah 55. I reminded God of an almost unbelievable and miraculous experience with a promise that He’d given me four years earlier that had yet to be fulfilled. I reminded Him of my current circumstances as I saw them and asked if I could still hope for the promise to be fulfilled. I was mostly just checking in to see if I was still on the right path and being faithful as He’d directed or if any new steps were required of me.
As it so often happens when the Lord gives me answers and understanding, it seemed so obvious, plain, and clear. How did I not see it before? Once seen and understood, it could not then be unseen. Many examples from the scriptures and my church’s history were brought to my remembrance that this was indeed a pattern with God. As I reflected and read Isaiah 55 again, it was like that sunset, made even more beautiful from the additional light reflected by Utah Lake or in this case, understanding. It says:
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts…So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with JOY, and be led forth with PEACE: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”Isaiah 55
I’m not sure how the mountains may sing or the trees clap, but perhaps that is symbolic of simply getting our attention to look up and around us. If we but look, the mountains and trees can testify and witness of God’s ways and thoughts which are of us ultimately having joy and peace with Him, in His way, and in His timing. If I had continued in the temple that evening with my head down and back to the sunset, I doubt I would have been taught as I was. The mountains, valley, and sunset together transformed my mood from one of grumpiness and frustration to gratitude and joy, ready to learn a bit more of God’s thoughts and ways. I needed gratitude and joy to accept that delays can have a purpose higher than my own shortsighted goals.
Today we celebrate Easter and the empty tomb testifying of the risen and resurrected Jesus Christ. We can also remember that his closest disciples and friends did not initially understand His ways and thoughts as He was crucified and died or the promise of his return on the third day. Mary Magdalene was lovingly and faithfully going to the tomb to finish the burial preparations. Finding the tomb empty, her own grief delayed her in the garden while the others who had been with her continued away from the tomb (see John 20). She, who was a close associate of Jesus Christ, did not immediately recognize Him or even His voice until He spoke her name. Her grief and anguish that kept her by the tomb allowed her to become the first witness of His glorious resurrection.
Whether your frustrations and delays come from traffic or profound grief, trust in the ways and thoughts of God to grant you peace, understanding, or answers. Search for the patterns in your life and the scriptures for the purpose and beauty experienced after being delayed. As you do, you too can rejoice and witness of the higher ways and thoughts of God.