Usually, parables provide a type or representation of things as they are. But in the case of the Parable of the Backwards Lesson, I set out to illustrate the opposite of the truth.
The teacher in this parable seems naïve at best and incompetent, unfit, at worst. Does she know anything about kids or about learning? What’s she doing in the classroom?
Of course, no one would teach the way she tried to, skipping past basics just because the class would have understood them. The capacity to comprehend isn’t the same as comprehending, because the capacity must be combined with information and experience, ideally under a knowledgeable, guiding instructor. We learn, and things make more sense to us, as we make connections, especially when we can connect something new to things we already know.
Heavenly Father is the perfect Teacher—and He created our brains—so He knows best how to help us develop. He does so with His infinite foresight, patience, and attention to detail. His method for our spiritual growth is explained in both ancient and modern scripture:
- “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30; see also Isaiah 28:9–13).
- “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).
When I was a kid, I had a small sense of how complicated being an adult was, and I wanted no part of it. But as I grew older, I went through the steps of developing the knowledge and skills of an adult: earning money, getting a checking account, learning to cook some meals, learning to budget my money, renting an apartment, living away from my parents, and so on. Eventually, I got to the point where I could undertake major life decisions such as buying a car and a home and setting up insurance policies. Yes, it’s complicated, and could I have done it as a kid? Not a chance. But having added experience upon experience, I’m now managing the aspects of life that my parents were when I was young, and I feel much less intimidated doing so. As each major development or milestone arrived, I was prepared by previous experience.
If we let God guide our lives, He will prepare us in much the same way. Sometimes He prepares us for significant challenges by providing us with smaller challenges (or allowing them to come our way). Sometimes He prepares us to provide comfort and counsel to someone who is going through a difficult time because we went through something very similar. Sometimes He prepares us for a demanding role by opening doors to gain the skills we will need. Sometimes He prepares us for a particular work by giving us the experience to see that there’s a need for it in the world.
To me, it’s comforting that the One who has my best, ultimate good in mind and knows exactly what I need to develop is the same One who provides my schooling and will lead me along if I let Him. Ever in the details of my life, He builds me one line, one precept, at a time.
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I relate directly to this statement: “Sometimes He prepares us to provide comfort and counsel to someone who is going through a difficult time because we went through something very similar.” Many times I have looked at my trials and challenges as completely nonsensical and not at all applicable to what I need to learn in life, only to find later that my experience is exactly what someone else needed from me. Letting God lead and trusting Him are so hard. But the alternative is a wasted life of regret.
Yes, if we’re going through something and we manage to ask, “What do I need to learn from this?” (rather than “Why me?”), I wonder how many times the answer would be, “So you can empathize with and know how to love others.” Thanks for your comment!