Vertically Connected Blog
One day, a young woman named Rebecca came in to talk to me. As we talked, I discovered she was a wonderful young lady. Although she was a little bit reserved, she was definitely a "go-getter," usually taking around 18 credits a semester, working over 40 hours a week, and still managing to accomplish so many other things.
In fact, whatever she did, she did well.
And yet, she was really struggling: “I just can’t find joy or happiness in my life,” she said. “I am struggling to find peace and contentment and purpose.”
As we talked about why and how she could be feeling this way, I had a feeling to ask her, “Rebecca do you believe Heavenly Father loves His children?
“Absolutely,” she said. “I know He loves His children.”
And then she paused . . . “He just doesn’t love me.”
I asked what she meant by that and she explained, “I know He is our Heavenly Father who loves us like a Father would love us. I know He loves you. I know He loves others. But I honestly believe I am an exception to His love.”
As we talked, it became apparent that Rebecca's unending effort to "do everything" was somehow trying to "earn" a divine love she didn't think applied to her. We also both realized not only how easy it is to make ourselves an exception, but how dangerous it can be.
This seems to be one of the many lessons we can learn from the story of King David.
He was perhaps one of the most righteous men of his time and one of the most righteous kings in human history. That is . . . until he made himself an exception.
David had been king for several years when one day he decided to send his troops to battle and stay back in Jerusalem. Kings are always supposed to go with their troops to battle. But David decided to stay.
Maybe he was tired. Remember, he had been in battle most of his life, starting with his encounter with Goliath as a young lad. Nevertheless, it was a mistake. A seemingly innocent mistake, really.
But that one exception put David in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For, that night he couldn’t sleep, and when he went out on his roof, he accidentally saw a woman bathing. And he chose to stay and watch.
Accidentally seeing her was not a sin. Staying was.
Maybe he said to himself, “What’s the big deal? I can watch. I am strong enough.”
And so he watched long enough to know that she was “very beautiful.” (v.2).
When he discovered her name was Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, he asked for her to come meet him. Another exception.
David probably knew Uriah was at the battle. Maybe at this point he justified, “I’m the king. I can have anyone I want.” Or “No one will know.” However, when Bathsheba came to him, David ended up lying with her and Bathsheba became pregnant.
Now David had a dilemma.
His pattern of small exceptions had led him into a big problem.
And so he called Uriah in from battle. Another exception. No one comes homes in the middle of the battle. But David was hoping that he could cover up what he had done. Uriah was given meat and food and told to go home to his family for the night.
The only problem is Uriah wouldn’t go home.
He “slept at the door of the king’s house with all of the servants of the lord, and went not down to his house.” (2 Samuel 11:9)
Why? Because there was a law - and maybe more importantly an expectation - that you weren’t supposed to be able to enjoy the comforts of home during battle. And you especially weren’t supposed to be able to be with your wife.
You were supposed to focus on the war.
David knew that.
So did Uriah.
And Uriah did not consider himself an exception to that law. “Why should I be able to sleep in a bed when Israel was sleeping ‘in tents . . . in the open fields’? (v. 11), he said. Why should I be able to eat and drink and be with my family?
Why should I be different?
Why should I be special?”
Upset that Uriah hadn’t gone home, David brought him into the palace, got him drunk, and sent him home, thinking surely that he would go to his wife in that state.
But Uriah again went and slept on the steps with the servants and “went not down to his house.” (v. 13)
Even with his defenses down, Uriah wouldn’t do it.
In desperation, David sent Uriah back to the battle with specific directions that Joab assign him to the worst part of the battle. Joab obeyed. And Uriah was eventually killed. David made Bathsheba his wife and she bore him a son.
The interesting but truly sad thing about David’s story is that we know now from David’s writings that he will forever regret that decision he made.
It seems that David never intended on seeing something he should not have seen. He never intended on lying with another man’s wife. David never intended on killing her husband. I’m not sure that was ever his nature or his desires.
He just chose to be an exception in a small, inconsequential way and it led down a slippery slope to a tragic conclusion.
Both David’s and Uriah’s stories compel us to ask ourselves “Are there times I make myself an exception to the rules? Do I consider myself an exception to one of God’s commandments?”
And as in Rebecca's case: “Do I think I am an exception to God’s love or kindness or forgiveness? Am I beyond the scope of His patience? Is what I have done beyond the scope of His mercy?”
When we do make ourselves an exception in some way, what can happen in our lives? What are the consequences?
When we sneak candy into the movie theater “because it’s so expensive to buy it there and it’s ridiculous they have such a rule,” we may not find ourselves in David’s shoes, but we may find ourselves making another exception somewhere down the road for something else.
We may find ourselves feeling anxious, lonely, or unfulfilled because we have moved ourselves away from intended blessings or what we believe is the reach of God’s love like Rebecca did.
Or we may find ourselves feeling we are an exception to trial or struggle.
One man shared with me that unknowingly he had made himself an exception at work. He was a truck driver and had worked at his company for many years. Whenever they would get a newer, nicer truck, he would assign himself to that truck. “I deserve to be in a nicer truck. I have been here longer,” he would justify.
He realized that he had made himself an exception: he shouldn’t have to “suffer” in an old truck.
His co-workers should, but not him.
And he didn't even realize he was doing it.
Years ago, I had just finished teaching this concept about making ourselves an exception to a group of youth and we all headed to lunch. The directors of the conference brought me a plate of food but didn’t realize my wife had come to listen to me speak. “I’ll just go grab her some food really quick,” I thought. So I went to the front of the line and kindly asked if I could get a plate for my wife. A young woman a few kids back in line called out to me smiling and said, “Hey Brother Hunsaker! Great job making yourself an exception!”
I almost dropped that plate of food right then and there! I felt horrible.
It is so easy to do!
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the perfect example to us in all things.
And it should come as no surprise that He never made Himself an exception.
Although it seems He really didn’t need to be, He was baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Although He had to power to, Christ did not turn stones into bread when the adversary tempted Him to. He did not unnecessarily use His power to call upon angels to deliver Him. He did not ask to be an exception in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked if there was another way. But He submitted to the Father’s will.
Our Heavenly Father gives laws, commandments, and expectations for us to follow.
He also gives us opportunities to have divinely customized experiences.
And each one is perfectly designed to fulfill His greatest work in bringing to pass our "immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39).
Every time we choose to follow, choose to be obedient, choose to submit, and choose to see ourselves as no better and no worse than anyone else, we not only place ourselves on solid ground, even the "sure foundation" of Christ (Helaman 5:12), but we actually become more and more like Him in the process.
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.