Good counsel comes to mind when needed
"Your voice woke me up this morning," said my wife.
"Sorry," I said. "When did I start talking in my sleep?"
"It was what you said yesterday. I woke up with your voice ringing in my ears: 'Don't you need permission to do that in the park?'"
Our youngest daughter and a good friend of hers were planning a shared 16th birthday party midway between the two birthdays. One of the activities they decided on was a game of Battle-Sock -- basically Capture the Flag, only you throw rolled-up flour-packed socks to "tag" opponents. It's a game that girls and boys can play on a fairly equal footing, with the flour making sure nobody can deny when they've been tagged.
But it's also a loud, rambunctious game that covers a lot of territory. It seemed to me the kind of thing that you couldn't do in a Greensboro city park without some kind of permit.
When I first raised the question, it was dismissed. But at 5:30 in the morning on the day of the party, my voice, with that question, came into my wife's mind with such force that it woke her out of a sound sleep.
She went downstairs to her computer, got on the internet, looked up Greensboro's policy on activities in parks, and found out that organized games were banned in most of them.
It was a simple enough matter to move to Plan B -- our yard. The party went off without the police putting stop to the game.
And I had the remarkable experience of being thanked for a bit of counsel that nobody listened to at the time I gave it.
The experience made my wife think back to an earlier event. My brother drove large trucks for a while a few years ago, and during that time he told us about how maddening the drivers of cars could be. "They whip around in front of me and then slow down," he said. "Don't they realize that a fully-loaded truck that size can't stop in time?"
Well, a few months ago my wife was driving along a six-lane road in Greensboro. Going up a hill, she passed a big rig, and then, seeing the light turn yellow, she changed into an open lane -- forgetting that the truck was in that lane behind her.
She came to a stop as the light turned red -- and then my brother's voice came back into her mind as clearly as if he were sitting in the back seat. "Don't they realize that a fully-loaded truck that size can't stop in time?"
The intersection was still clear; my wife ran the red light. In her rear-view mirror she could see that the truck, which had been barreling right down on her, was fish-tailing in the frantic effort to stop. The truck came to a halt with its nose about ten feet into the intersection. If my wife had not heard my brother's advice at that moment, her P.T. Cruiser would have been a hood ornament.
It isn't just scripture that comes to mind when it's needed. It's whatever voices you've been listening to.
In seminary the Monday after this last General Conference, the teacher gathered her students in a circle and asked them what impressions they'd got from the talks.
They said that the single most common theme of the Conference addresses was that parents needed to talk (and listen) to their children, so that their best counsel would be in their children's minds.
"So what's your part of this assignment?" asked the teacher.
"To listen to what our parents say," they ruefully admitted.
One girl mentioned that she had a disagreement with her father the Saturday night of Conference. She stormed out and went upstairs to her bedroom; her father followed her. "So I turned to him," she said, "and told him, 'They said in Conference that just because I don't act like I'm listening it doesn't mean I didn't hear you!'" Argument over.
Sometimes buried thoughts come to mind at the moment of need through the normal workings of the unconscious mind -- my wife and I aren't sure the Holy Ghost was awfully concerned about a birthday party in a park.
But for my wife to remember something my brother had said years before, saving her from getting rear-ended by a massive truck -- that's one we're inclined to give thanks for.
In my life, I've seen again and again that when the Lord needs to send a message, he tends to use "angels" that we see all the time. If one of those mysterious or shining strangers from urban legends delivered the message, it might be easier to accept it.
But when the counsel comes from a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling -- someone whose track record for wisdom may be less than perfect -- it takes humility to hear it. And if, having forgotten it, you need a bit of a nudge, the Holy Ghost can make that voice come back -- with urgency.
Even when good counsel goes unrecognized or comes at an unwelcome time, once you've heard it, it's there to be drawn upon at need.
Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card
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