The other day I was driving with a couple of my kids and my 4-year-old asked me, “How many miles till we get home? What time are we going to be there?”
If she was an adult I would have had no problem answering her questions, but this was a little kid! She was clever enough to ask two questions in a row that dealt with distance and time, but she had no understanding of the particular units of measure so how could I answer her questions?
I could have said that we were about one hundred and fifty miles away, but she has no concept of how long a mile is let alone one hundred and fifty of them. I could have said that we would arrive at approximately 8:24pm but she can’t tell time so she couldn’t use the car’s clock to know the current time in relation to the destination time. Telling her “We’re about 2 hours away” wouldn’t work either because she doesn’t understand hours.
The point is that the exact, true, and in my mind, simplest answer would have been useless to her. I wanted her to understand all the particulars but realized that she is not yet at a level where I can give her certain answers that she is capable of comprehending.
Her questions were good, but the answers were beyond her comprehension and did not solve what she really wanted to know deep down. She just wanted some way of comprehending how close home was.
As a loving father, I thought really hard about how I could answer her question. Thankfully, an idea came quickly to mind as I looked right out in front of me. My experience as a boy scout along with spending a lot of time outside enabled me to roughly estimate time by looking at the position of the sun in the sky.
So I answered by giving her a sign. I directed her to look towards the setting sun and said, “When the sun touches the mountains, ask me again because we will almost be home.” This satisfied her, she didn’t need to know anything more because she could observe the sun and have a sure understanding of where she was in her journey.
If you haven’t made the connection yet, don’t you think there is a parallel here to how God feels about responding to the questions we pose to him? Answer: there is.
This morning I gave this exact example to my nine-year-old daughter who has one single question that she wants an answer to more than anything. Believe it or not, this kid’s question is, “I want to know how the first being came to be, where did God come from and if he had a father, who was his father, and his father and his father; where did it all begin?”
I’ve told her that there is probably an answer to her question, but it might only exist in the mind of God. I pointed her back to the story of her little sister asking about “how far and what time” and that it is possible that God could give her the exact answer, but she might not have sufficient knowledge, experience or faculties to even comprehend it. The right questions do not guarantee us the answers we may think that we want. The less we know God’s mind, the more difficult prayer is; we pray at him instead of communing with him. Read what the LDS Bible Dictionary has to say about prayer some time and read the entire entry because the latter half has the best stuff.
My two oldest daughters and I continued our conversation about the meaning and purpose of prayer and the personal necessity to know God by our own experience if we truly desire salvation. We talked about how ordinances only benefit us to the degree that we invest in the promises we were making and the openness we have to God’s mercy.
We referenced the Lecture 6 of the Lectures on Faith, Alma 12:9-11, 1 Nephi 15:7-11 and the first three verses of 1 Nephi 11 that go so wonderfully together.
We talked about how the hardness of our heart is determined by our willingness to engage God in desire-fueled prayer as opposed to habitually “saying” prayers devoid of any real intent or desire.
The best part is that I could see it sinking in. I could see them revolving the implications in their minds and their little visions expanding with new ideas.
It is these moments that I truly cherish being a father and understand, just a little bit more, the mind of our own Heavenly Father.