Several years ago I met an amazing young lady who was probably 27 or 28 years old. I watched as she sincerely tried to be obedient, kind, and happy. She was striving to get an education, build relationships, and serve. But it seemed under the surface there was something else going on. One day she came to talk to me and she shared how much she was struggling to find peace in her life and a sense of worth. As we were talking, I felt to ask her this question: “Do you believe that Heavenly Father loves His children?” She looked at me with a confidence and boldness and said, “Absolutely. Heavenly Father loves His children.” And then she paused, “. . . except me.” I said, “So you are telling me He loves all of His children except you?” And she responded, “Yes. I know He loves His children. I just don’t believe He loves me.” “Why?” I said, “Why does God love everyone else besides you?” “I don’t know. I just don’t think He loves me. There’s just not really anything to love about me.” Now, from what you now know and understand about beliefs, can you recognize her false belief? Well, I watched what that false belief was doing to her. It was killing her. She didn’t handle challenges well. She would get easily discouraged and depressed. Yes, she tried very hard to reach out to others, but she was insecure and sometimes judgmental. And so sometimes she would keep herself away from people and hide in social situations. Then others wouldn’t talk to her or even notice she was there. And so her false belief was fed and she would be get worse. All because she believed she was an exception to God’s love. Sometimes we make ourselves an exception. Meaning we exclude ourselves or pull ourselves away from something. We don’t always realize we are doing it. And other times we consciously do it thinking there are greater benefits to being the exception. But what I have found is that anytime we make ourselves an exception – whether it’s to a rule or to our Heavenly Father’s love – we pull ourselves away from protection, connection, and blessings. One time I was speaking about making ourselves an exception at a youth conference. I had brought my wife with me and after I spoke, they brought me some lunch. I snuck up to the front of the long line of kids to get my wife some of the lunch, and one of the brave young women in line behind me said, “Brother Hunsaker, are you making yourself an exception?” Well, I was. I was making myself an exception. And that may not seem like it was a huge deal. But I am finding that the principle here is something more than that. We’ve talked about the spirit of entitlement. Making ourselves an exception is something else we might do when we feel entitled. It could be something as simple as sneaking candy into the theater because “the candy is too expensive anyways.” But it also can be an attitude that we don’t deserve to struggle because we have tried so hard to be obedient. Maybe it’s because we are poor or because we had a hard childhood. Or because we are a new member of the Church or we strive so hard to be obedient? Do we believe that the Lord should only ask certain things of us? Or that we don’t deserve certain life circumstances?
How can this happen in our relationships?
When we make ourselves an exception, we pull ourselves away from so many things. If we don’t think we should struggle, then we will struggle with every trial – big or small – that comes our way. If we don’t think rules apply to us, we pull ourselves away from protection. There was a young man I know who used to listen to really bad music. And his friend once asked him, “Why do you listen to that music.” The young man replied, “It really doesn’t affect me.” In other words, “I am an exception. I can handle profanity and vulgarity and sexual innuendo.” Now the interesting thing about this story is he said, “I don’t feel bad about it. So it must be OK.” Of course he didn’t feel bad about it. He had listened to it long enough that he had pulled Himself away from the Spirit. If we think we deserve special treatment or privileges, we pull ourselves away from peace and joy. One man share with me that he realized he did this at work, always thinking he should get the nicer office or the better assignments. And all it was doing was making him miserable at work. If we think we are better than others, we pull ourselves away from guidance and knowledge. We think that we know better. That somehow we know more. Seeing something bad is not a sin. It is when we think that we – our brains, our hormones, our passions – are somehow different, stronger, or more resilient than the billions of other children that God has created. That somehow we know more and are stronger than an evil spirit, the great deceiver, who existed for eons of time before we came to this earth, who must have a different veil drawn over his eyes, and who has been at work for at least six thousand years deceiving God’s children. When we make ourselves an exception, we make others our enemy. We distance ourselves and walk out on an island and then wonder why no one talks to us, why the Lord feels so far away. Is it possible that the times that we feel excluded – the times we feel excluded from others or from God or from blessings – we put ourselves there? Is it possible we have pulled ourselves away from the very things we want and need? Elder oaks quote Put this at the end? To better understand why, let’s look at the life of one of the great kings in the scriptures: King David. I think it’s safe to say that David was 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. At one point when David had been king for several years, 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. His first 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. Accidently seeing her was not necessarily a sin. But maybe he said to himself, “I can watch. I am strong enough.” Well, he watched long enough to know that she was “very beautiful.” (v.2). And he decided to find out who she is. When he discovered she was Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, he asked for her to come meet him. David probably knew Uriah was at the battle. Maybe at this point he thought, “I’m the king. I can have anyone I want.” Or “No one will know.” When Bathsheba came to him, David ended up lying with her and it wasn’t much later before David found out that Bathsheba was pregnant. Now David had a dilemma. His pattern of exceptions led him into a huge problem. And so he sent for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. He called him in from battle. Another exception. No one comes homes in the middle of the battle. But David was hoping that he could get Uriah to go lie with his wife, if even for one night, to cover up what he had done. So he brought in this lowly soldier from the battle and asked him about the war, asked him how it is going. He had probably never even met Uriah before. And all of the sudden Uriah was asked to report to the king how the battle was going. After interrogating him, he sent him out with a bunch of meat and food and told him to go home to his family for the night. But 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 during that time that you weren’t supposed to be able to enjoy the comforts of home. And you especially weren’t supposed to be able to be with your wife during a war. 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) Why should I be able to eat and drink and be with my wife when all of the other soldiers are away from the comforts of their homes? Why should I be different? Why should I be special?” Well, when David found out Uriah hadn’t gone home, he was upset. And so he told Uriah he could stay one more night before going back to battle. He brought him into his palace and got him drunk, thinking surely that he would go home to his wife if he was drunk. But Uriah again went and slept with the servants and “went not down to his house.” (v. 13) Even with his defenses down, his integrity stood firm. He wouldn’t do it. In desperation, David sent Uriah back to the battle with a letter to be delivered to the leader of his army, Joab. Have you ever thought how hard it might have been for Uriah to not read that letter? We know he probably didn’t or he wouldn’t have walked into his own death. In the letter, Joab was commanded to send Uriah back into the worse part of the battle, pull all of the troops back, and leave Uriah there to be exposed and hopefully killed. Joab obeyed. And Uriah was killed. David later 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 to a tragic conclusion. But then think of what we learn from Uriah, an otherwise unknown figure from the scriptures. Uriah didn’t make himself an exception. Even when the king gave him every permission and every opportunity to be the exception, he wouldn’t do it. No one would have known what he did. No one, that is, except His God.