My car lurched forward and then died in the middle of the intersection with a Christmas tree tied to the top and six kids holding their breath inside. I had noticed problems as we drove home from the Christmas sing-a-long — loose steering, weird sounds. But my car had just been fixed, so I kept going. Until I didn’t.
We had left our house earlier that evening basically for the free donut, discount Bees tickets and forced joviality of Christmas cheer. The evening ended in a tow truck as I contemplated the why me’s of the universe. I still don’t know how the car got from the middle of the intersection to the safety of the coffee shop parking lot 20 feet away with a collapsed control arm and tires that wouldn’t roll.
At least that’s what the nice man who stopped to diagnose the problem told me was wrong with it. Another man stopped later as I stood outside in the freezing cold to make sure I had a ride home.
The kindness of strangers warmed the cold night on a corner in Millcreek and reminded me that life wasn’t all bad.
The repair was quick — I had my car the next afternoon. I also had an updated outlook for the holiday season and the new year.
In the midst of the car fiasco social media was blowing up with the breaking story about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ $100 billion fund of tithing monies set aside as investment, presumably for a rainy day. I commented on Twitter that while I realized the church had good reason for saving the money, and that the report would not likely result in any civil or criminal liability on the church’s part, it still stung to realize the church didn’t really need my tithing check.
Please, I know we don’t pay tithing because the church needs the money. I know it’s a spiritual law meant to enrich my faith and my experience. I had a great conversation with George Prentice on NPR / Boise State Public Radio about just that.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to know that I sent a large chunk of money to a church that doesn’t need it when I’ll be short on bills this month (see car fiasco above).
The conversation about transparency and charity funds is a good one, despite the obviously maligning intentions of the whistleblower. In other words, it’s OK to talk about hard and uncomfortable feelings.
In fact, I believe it’s helpful for those who have similar feelings. I would much rather have them see their own struggles and feelings represented by a faithful, believing member than by someone who has left the church. I believe when they see themselves represented, they’re more likely to stay.
So, I’m OK with the pharisaical judgments from those who insist a negative thought must never be expressed and a doubting question must always be repressed. The goodness of the Gospel of Christ can withstand such expression.
For those who respond to such expressions with scripture quotes and pious lectures, I wonder if they realize Christ taught in parables for a reason. Layered meaning, layered teachings and growth, line upon line, are the foundation of the Gospel. In fact, the Gospel was restored because of such questioning. Opposition in all things, after all.
For example, when we think of the widow’s mite, should we be congratulating the widow for giving what she can, and teaching she probably gave in nonmonetary ways too, and therefore she gave enough? Or should we wonder why the widow only has a mite? (See Luke 20:45-47.)
The parable of the prodigal son — is it about loving and receiving the wayward son, or is it more about the condemnation, resentment and envy from the brother who stayed? Even the Good Samaritan — are we meant to learn we should help anyone in need, even if they’re different than us? Or are we supposed to understand that the Savior loves everyone, even those who are abandoned by all, and especially even ourselves?
I mentioned my updated outlook for the new year. It comes from Psalm 30:5: “Joy cometh in the morning.”
The men who stopped to help me in the street didn’t first condemn me for my broken car. In this new year, may we all give each other more room to doubt, grace to question, and light to see the morning joy.
Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.