In Elder William H. Bennett's 1971 Conference talk, "Help Needed in the Shaded Areas," he compares color blindness to a person who is seeking truth, but will not humble himself, exercise faith, or live the gospel. You might expect that a conference held that long ago would be largely irrelevant, but of all the talks that day in Conference, this was one of two which I needed to read.
Because in many ways, I am in my very own "shaded area." The magic numbers hidden in the shaded area are the promised blessings we get for being righteous and doing the right thing.
Religion and faith to me has largely meant fighting to hear and understand the Lord's will for me. It's been a struggle to learn submission, to understand my place in God's plan, if any. I have placed that struggle, that fight to submit, at the center of my life. I'm not any better at it than anyone else, but I thought I knew what it meant to be in tune, to hear the voice of the Lord, and to be His disciple. It was a feeling of warmth for me, a brief sense of belonging...of sudden balance. Like the sparkle of sunlight through storm clouds, or the thrill of sliding on a sled after tugging it up the steep hill.
I am certainly "anxious to develop a strong testimony," but I find that the testimony I hear in Church doesn't resonate. It does not align with my experiences. I no longer believe in the promise that "all will work out" if I have faith, because it didn't. And, if my story is like Job's in the promise of increased future blessings, I doubt any number of (highly improbable) new children can drown my grief for the old which are lost. I'm not a man. It doesn't work that way for me.
I still have faith in God, there is no doubt of that. And my life is so much more joyful than it was when I had the challenges of my marriage to endure. But I do not believe in His predictability, nor do I have any expectation of blessings. I can't see the magic numbers in the shaded areas that everyone else seems to see. I've gone colorblind, with only the memory of color differentiation to tell me it's not a lie.
It is almost that blessings are irrelevant to what I will do, irrelevant to my faith. I can believe the numbers are there in the shaded areas, even if I no longer see them. I believe that God loves me, and wants what is best for me, but I do not believe I have any idea of what that will be.
Sometimes, I do feel angry at the loss of clarity that I had. I miss being able to see the blessings and proceed with confidence in what will happen if I make the best choices I can make. But for the most part, I have learned to be content with not knowing. Counterintuitively, I have found that as I have lost clarity in the effects of discipleship, my faith has deepened. I have become, I hope, more patient and humble, and willing to submit to anything the Lord wishes of me.
Elder Bennett says, "As we journey along through life we, as individuals, come in contact with many shaded areas, twilight zones, and even dark alleys, where we, unless aided by a higher power, are not able to see clearly, to interpret correctly, and to come to sound conclusions."
But I have found that often, even aided by a higher power, that aid does not come in the form of clarity, understanding, or sound conclusions. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we are to fumble blindly through parts of our mortal life, unable to feel the sense of God's help or presence. In those moments, we are faced with a choice of whether to stop or to go on, trusting that what was once seen is still there, and what was once known is still true.
"As individuals, we have some limitations when it comes to our understanding of things as they really are. We can see so far, and then the earth and the sky come together, so to speak, and we cannot see beyond. But there is something beyond."
We are not always given clarity to see past our normal scope. Sometimes, there is no way to "improve our vantage." But I have found that I don't have to. Christ has the vantage I don't, and if he should guide me through marshes and wastelands, I trust it will "be for my good" and give me the experience I have begged for: to learn to be like Him and His Son.