Friday, August 5, 2011


I had the rare pleasure of reading Dante's Commedia last semester, but of course, as per my usual study habits, I left all of the reading to the last three or four days of class.  In my frenzied devouring of the material, not much actually sunk through to long-term storage and I'm fairly certain all of it left my head a few minutes after the final exam.  Still, one point stayed with me.

After the fictional Dante descends through the various pits of Inferno and then rises into Purgatorio, he encounters a wall of fire separating the land of penance from Paradise.  After seeing his guide Virgil go through the flame and emerge to the other side unscathed, one would think that Dante Alighieri, brave and intrepid thinker that he was, would readily walk through to begin his road to glory.  But he hesitates.

Peter, one of Jesus' apostles, had a probably-similar experience.  He saw Jesus walking on water, and yet he hesitated a little bit and lost sight of Jesus as he began to sink into the tempest.

When I lived in Georgia, selling security systems, our team had an awful summer.  One of the reasons for this was that I was the most experienced sales rep in the office, which is only because I arrived in Georgia a day before any of the other rookie salesmen.  With me as a leader, the team fell apart.  There was a galaxy of natural talent in that office, men and women who were trustable, charming, handsome, attractive, honest, and knowledgeable.  But for the first month, I was the most experienced.  I tried my best to train the team as well as I could, but I just didn't have enough hands-on knowledge to be a successful teacher.  By the time more experienced sales reps arrived, we had already formed almost-unconquerable bad habits and doomed ourselves to a mediocre summer when we could have been great, all because the best pacesetter we had was me.  There wasn't anyone to show us that it was possible to post big numbers, so we all assumed that small numbers were all we could do.

What, then, is Dante's excuse for his hesitation?  What is Peter's?  These men were the acolytes of two amazing pacesetters.  They received inspiration and instruction from the greatest man and one of the greatest thinkers this world has ever seen, and yet, they failed in those moments.

Now, it's not honest to call these two men true failures.  Peter did walk on water and Dante eventually crossed through the fire to gain Paradise (I love the account of his crossing, saying that the fire burned his skin but his nerves were unsinged.  I'd like to feel that painless burning he talks about someday.)

And now, to be humble, how many times do we cast off our pacesetters?  I'm not positive, but I think that even if I had someone to really teach me how to sell, I still might have done pretty crappy, because I had (and have) a pretty lame work ethic.  So what's that say for things that are really hard?  Like, say, living with same-gender attraction while still trying to serve a mission, find a companion, and please my Heavenly Father?  I've got a few pacesetters in that respect, including Jesus Himself, who suffered my specific sorrows and trials and still endured.  And yet, how often do I cast His example off, preferring instead to see the tempest raging around me or imagining the actually-harmless flames licking and burning my body?  If I'm honest, probably more often than I'd like to admit.

(To make myself feel less guilty, I'm going to lump you all in with me too.)

Why do we do it?  Why do we damn ourselves to a life of fear when we have a perfect example right in front of us?  Perhaps it's a niggling worry that God won't really save us when we sink, so why try to walk on water?  If that's our excuse, then we need to strengthen our testimonies in God's love, because "perfect love casteth out all fear."  My good friend once told me that, if we really honestly look back at the hard times in our life, we can't honestly say that God wasn't there to get us through.  If there was a limiting reagent, it was us, not God.  That means that God's probably batting a thousand, so why would He break His perfect record now? The logical answer is that He won't.  He will still do all He can to get us through the tempests and beckon us through the fire into eternal rest.

Let's not hesitate to step off the boat next time, eh?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...