Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wisdom from a Passover Song

The last few days I've had Dayenu on my mind. Dayenu is the title of a memorable, lively Passover song that celebrates the Lord's blessings at the time of the Exodus from Egypt (Tzom Kal tomorrow to my Jewish friends for Yom Kippur - I know I'm in the wrong season to be thinking of Passover :) ). The title is a Hebrew word that means "it would have been enough" or "it would have been sufficient." The lyrics go something like this:

If He had brought us out from Egypt
and had not carried out judgments against them
         - it would have been enough!
If He had carried out judgments against them,
and not their idols
         - it would have been enough!
If He had destroyed their idols,
and not smitten their first-born....
...[or] had not given us their wealth...
...[or] had not split the sea for us...
...[or] had not taken us through it on dry ground...
...[or] had not drowned our oppressors in it...
...[or] had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years...
...[or] had not fed us the manna...
...[or] had not given us Shabbat...
...[or] had not brought us before Mount Sinai...
...[or] had not given us the Torah...
...[or] had not brought us into the land of Israel...
...[or] had not built for us the Holy Temple
         - Dayenu! It would have been enough!

I think the song is very Job-like. Job was righteous and obedient so he received blessings. But at some point, those blessings stopped. Not only did Job NOT receive further blessings, but the blessings he had already received were taken away. Job was left to wonder why the Lord had deserted him.

And yet! Despite everything that happened to him, this amazing, grieving man continued in faith, saying "I know that my Redeemer lives" and "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...He shall be my salvation." The testimony that Job had received early in his life carried him through times that were astronomically difficult. The early blessings he had received and the faith he had in the Lord was, as the song Dayenu testifies is possible, enough.

I have been feeling very blessed lately. Not in a happy, go-lucky way mind. I'm not always very good about ignoring small inconveniences and discomforts and being glowingly happy because of my blessings (did any of my other LDS friends completely identify with Sister Marriot's "dim light bulb" comment from General Women's Conference?). But there have been blessings flowing into our lives and sometimes Dave and I do feel like there isn't room enough to receive them:

  • We will be welcoming another baby girl into our family in just a few months. 
  • We are constantly delighted and entertained by our personality-filled toddler. She is ever a light in our lives.
  • We are healthy! Madelyn practices using her body every day and we marvel at her little legs and arms that run so fast and climb so well and swing on the bars above the slides at the park. She uses her sharp eyes to observe things like twisty clouds in the sky and uses her ears to pick up the sounds of trucks and airplanes and to take pleasure in music of all kinds. My pregnancy nausea has completely gone now that I am entering my third trimester and I am experiencing no other complications with my pregnancy. Dave has had a few random allergic reactions to some unknown thing in the past year, but otherwise is also doing very well. Our bodies are blessings that we try hard not to take for granted.
  • After a month of searching and offering on three total houses, we finally closed on one that feels even better to us than the other two, earlier offers. We are now in the process of cleaning, packing and moving, but we have a full month to do it before the last day of our apartment lease. We are grateful we will have space for the baby when she comes and space for active Madelyn to move around a little bit, both inside and outside! Coming from a miserable almost-20 weeks of pregnancy, I'm very grateful for a house that has tons of natural light and airflow (two things I didn't get much of in my basement apartment). 
  • David has a good job with reliable benefits. He also has the opportunity to take classes that will expand his education and skill set and hopefully move him into a career path that will be even more satisfying for him.  

I was pondering over these blessings the other night after my light was off and the house was quiet. And I thought about Dayenu and wondered if I, too, could sing that these things would be sufficient. If something really trying occurred in the near-future - maybe something unthinkably tragic (because what mother doesn't worry even when things are good?) - like the death of one of my girls, would I still be able to thank the Lord for my blessings? What if I never received another blessing of any kind, like Job? Would I be able to praise God for His goodness? It was a sobering thought that struck me with a force I had not considered before. Despite the wrenching grief and sorrow and the hollow ache that would come in dire situations, could I still say, "Lord, the testimony I have had until now is sufficient. The blessings I have received were enough that I will continue to sing to Thee with gratitude?"

I try to stay away from these trains of thought, usually, because deep inside of me I fear that dwelling on thoughts like these might invite the Lord to challenge my faith in such ways. I remember President Eyring praying for challenges to test his courage and faith and reporting that the Lord did indeed answer that prayer, sending him the hardest trial of his life to that point only a few days later! Certainly very difficult trials may and do come at different points through life. I don't think I'll escape that, so I try hard to record now my feelings of blessing, peace, and gratitude so that these times might sustain me through the difficult ones.

That being said, I think Dayenu teaches us another lesson as well. It teaches, of course, that we should be grateful in our circumstances and praise the Lord for the great blessings He does give to us, even if they are not so many as we would like. But I think it also teaches that, unlike what happens in the story of Job, the Lord doesn't often give just one or two blessings. He doesn't just perform one miracle in our lives and then go away to leave us to ourselves again. He doesn't lead us out of Egypt then let us fend for ourselves in the wilderness.

Instead, Dayenu teaches us that the Lord is with us every step of the way. He delivers us from Egypt and He gives us everything we need to pass through the wilderness. He brings us safely to the promised land and there He builds us a temple with the promise of every noble and magnificent thing. He sends us blessings because He loves us. That doesn't mean there isn't a sea to cross, or a wilderness after the sea! But the Lord provides throughout those trials when we continue in faith. He does send His tender mercies to buoy us up and strengthen our trust in Him. Really, I think it's a beautiful, beautiful lesson.    

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