It was a hectic start to breakfast…as usual. In all my attempts not to be a short-order cook, I had committed to making toast (one piece with peanut butter and one piece with cinnamon sugar), scrambled eggs (not too gooey), hot chocolate (NOT from a packet), and oatmeal (brown sugar, no milk)—all for a bevy of impatient boys under the age of ten.
In my haste to get the food on the table, I had forgotten the all-important utensils. Before the shrill cries of “I need a fork!” could reach my ears, I raced to the drawer and pulled out the appropriate tools, passing them on to their starving recipients.
The ritual of the breakfast feast commenced when suddenly one of my three-year-old twins, in a “hangry” outburst, screamed, “I want a red fork!”
“Just use this really cool silver one,” I coaxed in a sing-songy voice, “It can still grab your eggs! Besides, the red ones are all dirty and in the dishwasher.”
“NO!” was the reply. “I WANT A RED FORK!”
“Come on! Your eggs are going to get cold—just eat them with this fork!” I persisted in a slightly less Mary Poppins-ish way.
“No!” the stubborn tot screeched.
My next move was to…
Wait—I digress. I actually need to stop right here with this cliffhanger ending. The “rest of the story” is for an upcoming parenting post entitled “How to Stand Your Ground with a Very Loud Toddler.” So…I’m going to keep you guessing as to whether I stuck to my guns or gave in to the little guy.
The reason why I’m telling this story is to share a lesson I like to refer to as the “The Parable of the Forks.” You see, the Spirit took a toddler crisis and turned it into a gospel teaching moment for me.
The Parable of the Forks
The best way for me to share this parable is to outline the mental conversation I had with the Spirit directly after the breakfast drama.
Me: “It’s so crazy that he won’t just use this other fork. It does the same thing…he’s starving…I can’t believe he’s so obsessed with those red ones.”
Spirit (interrupting my complaints): “He’s a lot like you, isn’t he?”
Me: “Me? What do you mean? What in the world does this have to do with me?”
Spirit: ‘Well…remember that _____________ (fill in the blank with any blessing you’ve currently been petitioning for)?”
Spirit: “You see, you were given this…and this…and this…and this…and they all serve the same function and can do just the same thing as that one blessing. But because they are not in the exact package you want, you’re not really recognizing or using them.”
Me: (Sheepishly and slowly starting to put two and two together) “Ohhhh…so what you are saying is that I have a perfectly fine silver fork to eat my eggs with but I’m still set on getting that red fork. Hmmm…”
Needless to say, after a little soaking in of that point, in addition to some early morning, toddler-free pondering time, the Spirit was able to drive home three really important principles.
Principle #1: Revelation Can Come ANY Time If We Are Listening…
…even during a toddler tantrum. We think the most likely moment might be in the temple or on a peaceful walk. However, due to the nature of the fast-paced times we live in, I think often the Spirit has to squeeze in lessons whenever he can—whether we are dealing with an angry three year-old or on our morning commute. So, as long as we have practiced listening to that still, small voice and developing a good relationship with the Spirit, we will have ears to hear the divine tutoring catered just for our needs.
Principle #2: Ye SHALL Receive
The second lesson is a variation on a theme repeated more than 15 times in the Standard Works. One of these instances is very familiar to most of us and is found in Doctrine and Covenants 4:7, “Ask and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
If I had been faithfully asking for it, why did I assume it hadn’t come? I mean, I know the Lord has His timing and everything, but is it possible that sometimes we get to a point where the blessing has arrived and we don’t have the proverbial eyes to see it? Don’t we believe Him when he says “Ye shall receive”?
Principle # 3: My Ways…
The third principle is closely linked to the second and is a great explanation of our nearsightedness when it comes to identifying blessings. It stems from the concept of the omniscience of God—essentially, how His understanding completely surpasses ours. This truth is acknowledged in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
A silver fork may not look like a red fork, but it will obviously perform the same function. My home/car/material possessions may not look like what those TV families enjoy or even what’s displayed in my friends’ Instagram posts, but does it shelter my family/get me where I need to go/raise me to a standard of living that most of the world can’t begin to comprehend? Besides, wouldn’t He (as our loving, caring Father in Heaven) know best in what form and in what way to bestow our blessings?
Ultimately, the Parable of the Forks taught me that sometimes the Lord has already given us a desired blessing, but we have yet to identify it as such (because we are so focused on that silly red fork). All we have have to do is open our eyes and see life through a lens of gratitude in order to fully comprehend the truth of this testimony shared by President Thomas S. Monson in the October 2012 LDS General Conference:
My brothers and sisters, the Lord is in all of our lives. He loves us. He wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His help. As He guides us and directs us and as He hears and answers our prayers, we will find the happiness here and now that He desires for us. May we be aware of His blessings in our lives, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
So the next time you ask for a blessing, be prepared to notice it at any time and in any way the Lord sees fit to grant it, especially if it doesn’t come in the size, shape, or color you’re expecting. After all, He may be waiting for you to stop pleading for that cheap, plastic red fork long enough to recognize the brand new full set of fine silverware He has already placed on your table.