An Understanding Heart

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Paul BuckinghamDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University–Hawaii

October 12, 2006
Paul Buckingham
Director of Counseling Services
& Assistant Dean of Students

I am called upon to speak to you and this is a heavy burden upon my frail shoulders. For you that know me, you know of my weaknesses and my inadequacies are spread out before you. My limitation and inconsistencies are in full display. As cited in Doctrine and Covenants Section 50: 21-22, I pray that we might understand one another, that we all may be edified by the Spirit of the Lord and that we may rejoice in the loving kindness the Lord has extended to us.

There are all kinds of things that happen to our hearts. Our hearts can be touched by someone's kindness and consideration. Our hearts can be sensitive to the pain of others or we can be tender hearted and appreciate the sensitivities of others. Indeed we all know of people who are so tender hearted they struggled in this fiercely competitive world. The Lord says often in the scriptures that in true repentance we must present a contrite spirit and a broken heart. I would imagine that we hurt so much over our sins that it breaks our hearts to reflect on them and brings forth our Godly sorrow. I do know that repentance does heal that broken heart.

Sometimes we get our hearts broken by those whom we loved and think we can never love again. And the Spirit of the Lord can also heal those hearts. Our hearts are damaged by betrayal, cruelty, ignorance and insensitivity. Indeed by our life's end our hearts are well battered and scarred but within the heart resides one of the essences of our lives.

Our own hearts can help us so much. A happy and contented heart is where peace resides. The sharing of our hearts enlarges our lives. And often we can use our hearts to understand.

In 1 Kings 3:9, King Solomon asks for 'an understanding heart.' This is a gift and virtue that is comes with much effort and time. A few years ago my wife Ligia asked us if would please, please clean up the kitchen while she was at Relief Society. We readily agreed and away she went content that she would come home to a spotless kitchen; dishes washed, counter cleaned, floor swept and if she was lucky maybe even mopped. As I prepared the dishwater my daughter yells out that a particular movie had just came on. We had both read the book and had a high interest in this movie. We hit upon a plan: since mom would be gone at least two hours we would wash the dishes during the long commercial breaks. In two hours we would have the kitchen finished, the movie watched and a happy mommy.

For whatever the reasons, that now escape me, something went wrong. We were only half way through the dishes when we saw the headlights coming on to the driveway Liz and I looked at each other like the proverbial "deer in the headlights." I think she said something like "we're toast." We made a mad dash to finish up the dishes and were fully engaged when she walked in. We were full of feeble excuses but they could not wash away the look of disappointment on her face. We still had not finished the dishes at 10:00pm that night. In one of my brighter and more insightful moments I said, "You're not upset about a few dirty dishes are you?" And with tender eyes she said, "It is not about the dishes."

Proverbs 2:2: "So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding." In another incident a few years ago while I was driving, I complained to my daughter that she had changed all of the radio stations in the car. She had removed my favorite station that played all the old songs. She mocked my music and ridiculed its simplicity. I finally found the station and we started to listen, I told here this particular song came out when she was in kindergarten, the next song came out when I was dating her mother, and the next song came out when I graduated from college. I admitted the songs were dumb, but I told her, it's not about the songs.

It is not only what it is but what it means. It is not about dirty dishes but respecting and honoring the requests of a love one. It is not about the simple little songs but what they mean to me as audible milestones in my life. And the meanings come from the heart. When you come to comprehend the meaning, you understand the heart and you grow in learning and wisdom. Psalms 49:3: "My mouth shall speak wisdom and the medication of my heart shall be understanding." I have struggled to understand the layers of meaning in the spiritual concepts and eternal principles of the gospel. I have been to easily accepting of first definitions and have not explored them any further; content with the simple "one liners" that I have been spoon fed throughout my life.

For example, being a follower of Christ. I adhere to his teachings, right? But the Lord would have me understand a bit further and so has started a discomforting stage of my new understandings; for so it would seem that increased comprehension of eternal principles does not come in the midst of entertainment and having a good time. Happy days are not the setting for understanding principles of exaltations and experiences of growth. To the contrary these come from the furnace of affliction. So can we be disciples of Christ in the midst of personal pain, when all we want is to just stop hurting? Can we keep following Christ when to do so would just continue with the pain? How can we start to comprehend the deeper meanings of discipleship in the midst of a whole array of unmet needs? How do we continue to adhere to obedience and cooperation when it only seems like the needs will continue to go on empty and open. Yet when I have talked to those whose testimonies have touched me deeply and who are so full of love and peace, without fail they mention on how they have paid a price for this testimony with personal sacrifice and pain and in return have experienced spiritual gifts and the love of a Heavenly Father and the redemption of their Savior. Through it all the pain and darkness they followed Christ and their testimonies are like unto Job 13:15: "Though he slay me yet will I trust in him..."

One day when I was about nine or 10 my brother and I discovered a well on Grandma Buckingham's place. It was merely a cement circular wall of about three feet high around this big black hole in the ground. So we started to through rocks into the well but we did not hear an immediate splash! It would take a long time and then we would hear this faint and distant splash. We could not believe our ears! So we did it a couple of more times, the bottom of this well was very, very deep and we had a hard time estimating just how far away it was. The depth of this well was at the limits of our comprehension. So it has been with the principles of grace and mercy that emanates from the atonement of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Nephi 25:23: "...for we know that it is by the grace that we are saved, after all we can do." In 2 Nephi 10:24: "That is only in and through the grace of God that year are saved." In Alma 34:16: "And this mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." These are deep doctrines and are at the limits of my understanding. Yet when I have reached the edge of my emotional and spiritual strength, when I just couldn't keep going on, when I was fatigued beyond my own understanding, and the well of my resolve had dried up. When I had walked up to the wall that was my limit in combating my personal problems, I received grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. I know what mercy and grace taste like, and it comes from the deep, deep well of ever flowing charity.

Once, in talking with Ligia about charity, I happened to mention that I was a loving kind of guy. She agreed that I was loving with those who loved me back, but that was not the meaning of charity. I was taken back and argued with her. Later there came into my life those whom I would love. I gave them my love, my time, my energy and they loved me not. I gave service and of every resource I had and they never reciprocated. I proffered my efforts, my money, my heart and my home and on a good day they were disinterested and on a bad day they were simply apathetic. I sacrificed much for them and they never saw it.

Then one day, I had no more love to give, yet I had to love and I needed to love. No morsel of recognition of my sacrificial love was ever given and my love died, it failed me. That natural gift of mine was no more. I needed a spiritual gift to continue to love. And I discovered a deeper meaning to charity: what it has been to sacrifice for love and know very well that they shall never, ever love me. But I loved them then and I love them still. And I have caught a glimpse of a Christ-like love.

I Kings 4:29: "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore."

If we are to become one with our spouses we must all come to understand their world of meaning. All too often we conflict and dispute what it is when all we simply have to ask is what it means to them.

In the beginning of our marriage I understood that love was romantic cards and dinner at a nice restaurant. It was my way of saying "I love you" and it worked for awhile. I found that I loved my wife the way I would be loved, not as she would be loved. Years into our marriage raised the persistent issue of dirty bathroom, especially the one the children used. You know how they look: as if an explosion took place behind the doors. Ligia would coax and coerce me but often she wound up doing the work herself. One day before company came to visit she was very serious about cleaning up the bathroom, mentioning that a very clean bathroom was very important to her and that it meant that I cared about her very much. I joked that a clean bathroom couldn't compete with a romantic night out. Then there came this eerie silence, and then she said, "Why not?"

I replied, "You're kidding right?"

"No I am not!"

So now I proclaim my love by cleaning bathrooms. I boast and point out the highlights of the job, (did you notice I got the cobwebs out of the corners, and got all the toothpaste off the mirror) and then bask in the light of her approving love. I have learned new meanings to love and care. The shiny bathtub exclaims, "I love you." The sanitized basin is my banner of devotion. Romance is not dead, just transformed into the smell of cleanser and Windex!

Ultimately we must come to comprehend what the Lord means when it comes to the profound understanding of eternal principles. These are discovered in the temple of the Lord. In Psalms 27: 4, King David says, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple." There is much symbolism in the temple and it represents what the Lord would have you understand about you and your family's exaltation, those that preceded you, and those that will follow you forever. It is at the temple where you learn the profound nature and pattern of covenants and the eventual consecration of your lives. As you grow in understanding of consecration for example you begin to understand your purpose at this university. How would consecrating your education to the Lord change the reasons as to why you are here? If you consecrate your study time, your intellectual and artistic talents and abilities to the Lord, how would these change the meaning of obtaining an education?

But few of you are understanding these principles, and the profoundness of the symbols of the temple. The spiritual epiphanies are becoming fewer and farther between because you come not to the temple. The waters of the baptismal fount often lie still and undisturbed because you are too busy to come to the "House of the Lord." The rooms where they would pronounce the wonderful blessings and promises of royal exaltations are dark and silent. The sealing rooms where all roads of the gospel lead to and where eternal families are founded are closed shut. Their symbolic mirrors reflect no light because you do not come to the temple. All too often there are just a few who attend the endowment sessions and much too often sessions are cancelled because there are no Latter-day Saints. In Ezekiel 37:26 it reads, "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore." We have a temple in our midst yet I have seen temple workers wait at the door for you, and they are waiting still for you to come. Please come and be healed at the "House of the Lord." Come and serve your brother and sister and learn the ways of the Lord.

In parting I invoke that great priesthood blessing that was pronounced upon Israel found in Numbers 6:24-27: "May the Lord bless thee and keep thee. May his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace. And may you take upon yourselves the name of the Lord and may the Lord bless thee." In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.