"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
May 10, 2013
Beyond Gratitude Toward Mystification
by Jeff Lindsay

I've experienced numerous small and some large miracles in my life. My reaction has almost always been gratitude. This includes the kind of miracles and blessings that nearly all of us can share such as the joyous flavor of strawberries, the wonders of the eye, and the miraculous chemistry of life, as well as many personal experiences involving answers to prayer and seeing the hand of God in unusual and sometimes rather obvious ways.

Gratitude, of course, is the right response, but more recently I've found myself asking some tough questions about some of these experiences, questions rooted in a touch of doubt--no, not doubt, but bewilderment, puzzlement, and mystification.

I first noticed this shift in my attitude, this transition from simple gratitude into a questioning sentiment of mystification, earlier this year after a chance encounter at a Shanghai bakery. It began with a call from a branch president in another city in China alerting me that someone from his branch was at a hospital in Pudong, the east side of Shanghai, and could use a visit. My wife and I had time that evening and decided to go make the visit ourselves. Guessing that the sister we would visit might benefit from some good, safe food, we decided to stop at a favorite bakery in Pudong offering high-quality food and buy a hot sandwich to bring along.

It had been several weeks since we were at that bakery. That previous visit, like most of our previous visits there, had been motivated largely by the desire to meet with one of the most important and impressive men I know, a Beijing resident who is bringing about important advances in China through his visionary work. That man values quality food and when he is in Shanghai, often stops in to eat at that bakery. That night, after we picked up a couple of sandwiches and began walking toward the door to leave, we were surprised to see our friend walk in. He was surprised to see us. That was his first time back to Shanghai in about a month. He had just arrived and came in for a bite. We sat down and had a conversation about his work that left me inspired and so grateful for the encounter.

I felt it was an important and vital meeting, but one neither of us had planned. The response to a service opportunity--oh, right, that woman did get her sandwich and it was delicious, though not quite as hot as it could have been--resulted in a chance encounter in which we experienced some of the Lord's hallmark kindness and masterful control of timing.

It's hard to dismiss this as just chance because many aspects of our relationship with this special man have been the results of similarly strange coincidences and mysterious timing. It was so interesting to me that I could not stop with gratitude, but went beyond into mystification: "Lord, how is this kind of thing done? How is it even possible? Even knowing the precise time when he will walk through that door, how does Thou get us to be in that store for a few moments at just the right time to allow him to catch us as we were walking out the door into the dark night. How are these things managed?"

I could have been asking those kind of questions long ago for numerous similar blessings, including the strange mystery of how we found Selina in Hong Kong just a few hours after putting her name on the prayer role there, not knowing that she, too, had come down to Hong Kong from China and faced disaster had we not stumbled upon her that night. When I ponder all the details of that story, I marvel that our natural decisions and sequence of actions would lead us to that encounter. How is that done?

The mysteries are just as bewildering when I think of the more general blessings that so many can enjoy. The basic properties of matter that permit the existence of stars, planets, water, proteins, and DNA are a source of bewilderment. Stars, for example, are like eggs balanced on a razor's edge. If the properties of matter had gravity slightly stronger, stars would collapse readily into black holes and the universe would be dismal. Lower the force of gravity even slightly and the restraint of gravity can no longer keep a star from exploding.

That the properties of matter have been so precisely selected to permit stars and everything else we experience is not just cause for gratitude and celebration. It is a cause for mystification, because I am amazed that this solution that we experience was even possible. An appeal to God's omniscience in this case is not enough to satisfy my mystified mind. Even with all the knowledge of the cosmos, I am stunned that this existence that we experience could be made possible.

There are a lot more questions that we might ask. How I look forward to the answers, when the time is right.

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.

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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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