A conversation with a family member this past week has me thinking a lot about choices, God’s will, commandments, promptings, and agency. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “supposed to.” People of faith often talk about feeling that they are “supposed to” do something, be somewhere, help someone, etc. My mind has been turning this over and over. Would “supposed to” situations negate agency? What is the difference between a prompting and a commandment? How specific is God’s will in the details of our lives?
A few days ago, we found out that it was necessary to cut our vacation short in order to complete the purchase of our new home. Despite valiant efforts on the part of the title company and others to enable us to remain out of state and the fervent prayers and creative problem-solving of the family members I was visiting, we couldn’t stay. The back and forth as we negotiated was stressful and anxiety-provoking, but at the same time I had a feeling that there was some reason we were “supposed to” be home. I began to feel deep peace about going home, and the thought of remaining on vacation felt wrong. On the eve of our departure, a friend of the family offered to purchase an expensive last-minute plane ticket to allow my husband to go home to complete the purchase and then return to our vacation. But we didn’t feel good about it. We knew we had to go home. So home we went.
In Abraham 3:24, the Lord declares that the earth will be created to house the spirit family of God, and then:
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (vs. 25).
This verse suggests that one of the primary and most crucial tests of this life is to demonstrate our willingness to obey God in all things. Keeping God’s commandments to all men is the first step: don’t kill, steal, lie, commit adultery, and the rest. The real complexity of life becomes apparent when we have mastered those basics and move to a higher law. What about when you are prompted, as an individual, to do something specific? Is this a commandment from God or just a suggestion? Is it God’s will for you to do that thing or just one possible positive path? Are you “supposed to” do that thing? What about when the prompting contradicts what would seem reasonable? What about when the prompting tears us from the people we love? What about when the prompting contradicts a prior commandment (go kill your cherished, long-awaited son, for instance)?
Elder L. Tom Perry said this:
As James 3:3 states, ‘Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.’
We must be sensitive to our spiritual bits. Even with the slightest tug from the Master, we must be willing to completely alter our course. To succeed in life, we must teach our spirit and body to work together in obedience to God’s commandments.
As I have pondered all of this, I keep thinking about the pre-mortal life. I do believe that we made promises to each other before we came here that we would participate in each others’ lives at key moments. When I faced my dark night of the soul, I believe there were people who had promised me in that pre-earth realm that they would help me to bear that darkness when it came. They were “supposed to” help me. Of course they had the freedom to choose whether to heed the whisperings of the Spirit once the moment of truth arrived in this life.
So were we really “supposed to” come home two days ago? Maybe. I was able to serve someone here yesterday with my unique, specific talents and knowledge. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did from out of state. As I drove to this person’s house with the intention of helping her, I marveled at the possibility that God had plucked me from a state away, moved mountains so-to-speak, just to lift the weary heart of one of His cherished daughters. That’s what Divine Love looks like. Wow.