Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in many, many moons. I took more than one child to the grocery store.
Back when my third child was born, I decided taking those three, adorable, rambunctious boys to the store when I had serious grocery shopping to do was akin to running the gauntlet. Invigorating, courageous, and highly unnecessary.
The little market near our house has narrow isles and apparently, on Friday afternoons, a lot of people go shopping there. Now, I need to say we were not the main cause of a rather large back-up in front of the yogurt section (the boys were deciding between key-lime greek yogurt and strawberry) – the store people were also stocking shelves right next to us. The lady behind us, however, apparently decided it was our fault. She started to get pretty huffy as I tried to gather my children to let her pass. It couldn’t have been too long, but the impasse of the situation made it rather painful for both parties. Finally, she had enough room to shove her cart past with an audible snort of disgust.
Usually I try to stay nice even when people are mean, but before I thought through it, I said, “Excuuuuuuu-ssssse us!” hehe. So mean, I know! I thought to myself what a sad world it is when we get in fights with strangers in front of the yogurt isle.
A few minutes later, we were still in front of the yogurt. (please see my first paragraph) The lady returned.
“Humpf.” I thought, “We are going to take our sweet time choosing our yogurt, no matter how pushy she becomes!”
Instead, she smiled at me. Then she struck up conversation about the health benefits of greek yogurt and how impressed she was that my children like it, and have I tried this brand, it’s delicious… She was trying hard.
I appreciated her efforts so much. She made a nasty choice but realized it and then tried to fix her actions. That takes so much courage! It takes humility. And it takes love unfeigned.
Earlier this week, two of my sons became angry with each other over….I can’t remember what. A car, maybe? Or a block? Whatever it was, it escalated quickly. But before I could intervene, Henry saw a little conversation heart candy. He ran over, picked it up and ran back to Isaac, holding it out.
“Here, Isaac. This is for you.” HIs trembling hand showed how much he hoped his white flag of friendship would work.
Isaac hesitated for a moment – it is hard to let feelings go. Then he reached out his hand! “Thanks, Henry.” Henry gave him the little candy and they happily went back to playing.
In both of these stories, someone derailed the train of bad choice with a peace offering. The momentum of a negative moment is enough to snowball the littlest thing into a blowup. But the skill to stop in the middle can save the day.
Lately I’ve been practicing this by not letting myself finish a sentence that I’ve begun in an exasperated tone. It is hard to do…for example, “I’ve TOLD you OVER and OVER to STOP banging the- I mean, (deep breath), You need to find something more productive to do than bang cabinet doors.”
Stopping in the middle isn’t what the natural man likes to do and it isn’t what he is naturally good at. Stopping in the middle takes self-control, humility, love unfeigned and a whole lot of practice. What do you think it takes?
Spiritual confidence increases when your spirit, with the help of the Savior, is truly in charge of your natural man or woman.
Thanks for studying with me today!
S: (Prayer/Ask) To understand the natural man’s inability to do the harder thing…and strengthen the desire to be a spiritual person who does the harder thing!
- Here are some excerpts from a talk Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave in 1990. Look for his teachings on overcoming the natural man.
Stubborn selfishness leads otherwise good people to fight over herds, patches of sand, and strippings of milk. All this results from what the Lord calls coveting “the drop,” while neglecting the “more weighty matters.” (D&C 117:8.) Myopic selfishness magnifies a mess of pottage and makes thirty pieces of silver look like a treasure trove. In our intense acquisitiveness, we forget Him who once said, “What is property unto me?” (D&C 117:4.)
Such is the scope of putting off the burdensome natural man who is naturally selfish. (See Mosiah 3:19.) So much of our fatigue, brothers and sisters, in fact, comes from carrying that needless load. This heaviness of the natural man prevents us from doing our Christian calisthenics; so we end up too swollen with selfishness to pass through the narrow needle’s eye….
We can have real and justified hope for the future—enough hope to develop the faith necessary to both put off the natural man and to strive to become more saintly….
Just as Jesus warned that some evil spirits would come out only with “prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21), the “natural man” does not come off without difficulty either.
Of this personal battle, the Lord has urged us to so live that we would “come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5.) But we cannot “come off conqueror,” except we first “put off” the selfish, natural man!
The natural man is truly God’s enemy, because the natural man will keep God’s precious children from true and everlasting happiness. Our full happiness requires our becoming the men and women of Christ.
The meek men and women of Christ are quick to praise, but are also able to restrain themselves. They understand that on occasion the biting of the tongue can be as important as the gift of tongues….
- I’m sure you have this scripture memorized read it carefully and notice how the following verse reminds us that one day, every person will have a knowledge of the Savior.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
20 And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (Mosiah 3:19-20)
- This verse: 1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
- This quote from Brigham Young… notice what distinction he makes about our true natures
The natural man is of God. We are the natural sons and daughters of our natural parents, and spiritually we are the natural children of the Father of light and natural heirs to his kingdom; and when we do an evil, we do it in opposition to the promptings of the Spirit of Truth that is within us. It was never designed that man should naturally do and love evil. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9)
- Look back at the verses quote from Mosiah 3 above. Why do you think that right after teaching about the natural man, King Benjamin reminds us that all will have “the knowledge of the Savior”? What is the relationship between putting off the natural man and having a knowledge of the Savior?
- Why do natural man tendencies entice us so? Shouldn’t we know better?
- What makes us enemies to God? Our very souls? Our choices? Why?
R: (Write) your thoughts, what you learned, impressions you received, and anything else in your scripture journal (include your thoughts on the study session question: To understand the natural man’s inability to do the harder thing…and strengthen the desire to be a spiritual person who does the harder thing!)
- Make two lists. Title the first one: my natural man tendencies. Title the other one: becoming a saint. For your first list, write down three things you feel like tempt you to be the natural man (for example, maybe you catch yourself telling white lies, working harder when someone is watching, withholding praise, etc). Then on your second list, write down three things you’ve really tried to “put-off” “through the Atonement of Christ.” (maybe you’ve made a point of forgiving, reaching out to someone who looks alone at church, or sharing your testimony)
- Here is a list of scriptures from A Guide To The Scriptures that teach about the natural man. Look up a few of them and pick one to copy into your scripture journal.
- The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit:1 Cor. 2:14;
- The natural man is an enemy to God and should be put off:Mosiah 3:19;
- He that persists in his own carnal nature remaineth in his fallen state:Mosiah 16:5; ( Alma 42:7–24;D&C 20:20; )
- What natural man is there that knoweth these things?:Alma 26:19–22;
- Natural or carnal men are without God in the world:Alma 41:11;
- Because of his transgression, man became spiritually dead:D&C 29:41;
- Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God:D&C 67:12;
- And man began to be carnal, sensual, and devilish:Moses 5:13; ( Moses 6:49; )
E: (Prayer/Thank)- thank God for what you’ve learned and ask if there is anymore.
The Challenge: Look back at your list of natural man tendencies. Pick one to be painfully aware of today. Have the courage to stop in the middle!
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