“Being human, we would expel from our lives sorrow, distress, physical pain, and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort. But if we closed the doors upon such, we might be evicting our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education.”
—Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 168
Yes. Big shocker. I practically ooze the grace of a toddler anyway.
There is one particular little man that I care for that is the funniest, most determined, and smallest toddler that I have learnt from. To avoid having his mother find this, and destroying me with the sheer power of her stare from me using her son as a gospel teaching tool, I will name him 'Thor'.
So one day while I was caring for Thor, he was very adamant about playing with this peculiar race car track. To put it simply, in order to place the cars at the top of the racing track, you had to lift this handle and this 'boxed garage' bit would open so that you could place the cars, and then by angling the track, the cars would fly out of the garages and down the track. (I should be the World's Greatest Toy Explainer or something...one of the Ikea instruction writers). I sat back to watch Thor play with this intricate toy, and also because I'm sure if I went over to touch it Thor would have smote me down with his mighty hammer of thunder. The mjolnir of screams. So, here is Thor, happily playing with his toy as he is racing the same car back and forth, over and over, in the same spot. It even became slightly exhilarating for me just watching him, never knowing any second that he might just suddenly change direction to go back and forth in. Suddenly, Thor changed his mind and decided to play with the Racecar Track. That's what disaster struck. Thor is so tiny, that he doesn't have enough strength to lift the 'garage' while balancing and trying to shove the toy car into the this garage for it to race down the track. I watched as he spent the next ten or fifteen minutes desperately holding the track high, but then weakening as he couldn't hold it for any longer, then dropping it. Next, he tried to prop it up against the couch but he still needed to hold up the garage. Sometimes he held the garage handle up long enough for him to place the car in and the garage contraption to slam shut on his fingers when he couldn't hold it anymore. Occasionally Thor managed to get the car in, but then after releasing the garage handle, realised that he had now locked the car into the garage. I was so fascinated as I watched Thor and his mind work over a thousand different scenarios, how he could lift it and also place the car in AT THE SAME TIME. I'll even admit that sometimes I laughed just because of the look of sheer determination on his face, which was followed by a look of complete and utter failure when his plans didn't happen accordingly.
As demonstrated below ---v
Thor unleashed a thunderous burst of aggressive tears as he had enough of slamming his fingers in the garage doors. He started banging and slamming the contraption around, gesturing it to me like somehow I was made of magic and could make everything go the way he wanted it to. In his desperate attempt of speaking, - "NEEEEEEH! CAR CAR! CAR GO IN! I WAAAA*cue long breath in for a giant scream*AAAAAAAANTTTT" -. I smiled, and demonstrated quietly how it worked. I held it open for him, and pointed at where he could point the car to go in. He slowly and, like he had been injured before(?), carefully placed the car in without his fingers following after it. I lightly tilted the ramp, and the car went speeding out of the garage and down the ramp. It made Thor laugh deeply.
Seeming pretty confident of himself and thinking that he understood it, he pushed my hand away and went back to try it for himself. Lifting it up with one hand, pushing the car in with the other, the garage door slamming down on his fingers again as he couldn't hold the handle anymore.
What happened next I can only describe as all the pain he had ever felt, was feeling, and will feel in the future coming all out at once as he dramatically flung himself to the ground and rolled around a few times before deciding that the ground wasn't going to give him the reaction he wanted, so he threw himself head first at my chest and near certainly ruined the chances of me probably caring for twins at the same time ever again. I went back to the contraption and tried to teach it to him again, only offering the slightest help that I could so that Thor could learn for himself how to do it, because to be honest...would he really enjoy himself as much if I just held it open for him and he kept placing the car back on the ramp over and over and over again, or would he have enjoyed it knowing that he was independent enough to hold it open for himself and play with it?
The reason why I share this story of Thor is because it was one of those 'revelatory light switch' moments that you get, which are very special. As I was sitting beside Thor and watching him struggle, eagerly looking to me for help and at some times, questioning my sheer existence because I wasn't helping him, and probably wondering why I wouldn't just help him instead of leaving him to himself and his own abilities...it struck me that this is what Heavenly Father must feel like sometimes.
Like the wonderful quote that Jeffrey R. Holland said in the April 2013 General Conference,
"Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it."
That quote really stuck to me like hot glue, for the unimaginable realisation that that's basically what it is. Heavenly Father watches us go through hardships, trials, tribulations, torments, sorrow, sadness, times where we honestly think we can't do it because our own strength is failing us. Many would be quick to think it's because He is cruel, or because He doesn't love them anymore, or because perhaps He even enjoys seeing them suffer...just like how Thor was eagerly looking to me to fix his problem quickly...but I didn't do it for the same reason that Heavenly Father doesn't leap in instantaneously to fix OUR problems.
If He did, there'd be no growth. There would be no challenge, no opportunity for us to learn new things, for us to use our agency and think, "Well...how can I face this? How can I cope with what's happening?", instead of just laying on our backs and hoping that God will see us and pick us back up without any effort on our part. We weren't given this life just to sit back, enjoy ourselves, not work and have the time of our lives while He pats us on the head and does all the work for us. He wanted us to get out there in the field, dig our nails into the grotty dirt, and put all of our blood, sweat, and yes, even our tears, into what we worked so hard for to come down to Earth for, which was experience. I'll be the first to admit that I find myself sometimes thinking the same that Thor did when I go through trials.
"Why has God forgotten me? Doesn't He love me enough to help me and answer my prayers?"
"Maybe God doesn't love me anymore"
"Maybe I don't deserve God's love because I don't pray or read my scriptures as often as I should..."
I forget that the thing that I'm complaining about so much is the EXACT thing I chose to follow and accept in the Pre-existence.
It was only when Thor realised that he couldn't do it ALL on his own, and asked me to show him how to do it properly, was then he able to enjoy playing and without the unnecessary pain he experienced because he didn't ask for help. He learnt in that experience because he went through the frustration, to learn from his mistakes, and to ask for help when he needed it because he couldn't do it alone.
Heavenly Father helps us in a way that simply points us in the way that is right, He doesn't push us aside or near Him as he does it all for us. He gently holds open the garage door, pointing us to where we can places our cars, and how the ramp works, and then lets us learn through trial and then, inevitably, earn our own experience. He is a loving, guiding, parent. Not a forceful one that takes away our agency and experience.