By Dave Sandberg
Like many, I heard the news Thursday evening with varying waves of shock, skepticism, anger, tears, sorrow, and pain. Sunday was a spirit-filled day: my wife, Cindy, and I fasted to prepare for our Sunday evening vigil at our home in Minnesota. We were also able to teach in three different Sunday schools in our stake calling as Marriage Enrichment Teachers. At the end of the morning Sacrament meeting, I was also unexpectedly asked to bear my testimony. We felt renewed and strengthened as we participated in worshiping with our church community.
At moments when the feelings and conflict have been strongest, I have thought back on my own rocks of revelation. They have helped me navigate the riptide of emotions both within me and visible in others. I am grateful for the many thoughtful and heartfelt posts that were shared over the weekend by members of Affirmation.
One of my most recent “rocks” was at the Affirmation annual conference in Provo. Cindy and I witnessed the unmistakable presence of God’s spirit guiding and blessing those that were there. We both left humbled and grateful. It increased our capacity to live and love as our Redeemer would have us do.
A few years ago, someone close to me asked for a blessing of counsel as she sought to understand some personal struggles she was going through at the time. The surprising counsel that came through the spirit was that she had been called to serve in the work of grafting the tame and wild olive trees. She was counseled to not be discouraged because it is very challenging work, and she should give herself permission to take rests as needed. She should not try to take on so much that it overwhelmed her.
Thus, at the Affirmation Conference, I was glad to hear Fiona Givens explore this topic in her remarks. She pointed out that even the Lord of the vineyard feels ready to give up on this project, yet continues to persevere, knowing that both the tame and the wild olive trees will perish if left to themselves. But if grafted together, they will become different from what they have been – and provide vital nourishment and strength to each other as they continue to grow. There are both tame and wild olive trees that grow within my own character that need pruning, grafting, and managing. Likewise, I believe that this story also applies to the daunting work of integrating the church with those who have been planted in the furthermost parts of the vineyard (whether culturally, geographically or personally). Yes, this work is discouraging. But, as Christian Harrison said on Friday on Common Consent, “Yet I have hope. The promised land is out there. A land where the full spectrum of godly love is embraced… Where families of all stripes are nurtured by the good word of God, as they go about magnifying their holy calling.”