Exactly five years ago today, our little family neared the end of our first (and only) real vacation (you know the kind, where you go somewhere fun without the express purpose of visiting family!). With our Phoenix friends, the Koshars, we had rented a house in a quiet California beach town (that I had never even heard of) named San Clemente. Although we wanted something close to the beach, nothing would fit our combined families so the house we ended up renting was in an Edenic master-planned community called Talega high in San Clemente’s hills looking over the ocean. With large, family-friendly homes, lush green landscapes and ocean views, it was perfect.
Two days previously, M.E. and I did something we often do: we toured a few models homes in the community. And they did not disappoint! It was fun to look and dream, but when the agent handed us the pricing sheet all I could do as chuckle and think, “only in some other lifetime.” What a dream, though…
Well the following day, I hopped on a plane back to Phoenix so I could return to reality in time for my Sunday church obligations. During sacrament meeting, as I was sitting on the stand, my phone started to buzz. And buzz. M.E. was firing off texts in rapid succession. She, too, was in church (though a couple hours ahead in the three-hour block schedule). She was in the middle of a fifth Sunday lesson and filled with the Spirit of revelation.
And the gist of her texts was crystal clear: that community in San Clemente is where we need to be; that is where the Lord wants us to raise our family…
At first, I shrugged off her “inspiration”—when it’s 120 degrees in Phoenix, California has that effect on a lot of people! But then I saw that she was perfectly serious. And I needed to shake her back to reality.
Zach: I’m a lawyer without a license to practice in California.
M.E.:You can just take the bar, can’t you?
Zach: Well yeah, but my firm’s closest office is either San Diego or L.A.? That’s a heck of a commute! And you don’t really see me now as it is…
M.E.: But there are other law firms, aren’t there?
Zach: Well yeah, but they’d actually have to hire me. And don’t you remember how much those houses cost?!?!
On and on I went. Quite a logical list I must say. But she had received a revelation. She knew it. And she knew that God knew it. (See JS-History 1:25). M.E., ever the visionary who often sees from His inspired perspective long before I, knows that “God is in His heavens, and His promises are sure.” Now, I may be “slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord” (D&C 101:7), but do eventually hear His voice. So as they all returned from California and August turned into October, I put the wheels in motion.
October–March: I registered for the California bar exam, bought some use prep materials on Craigslist, crammed for two weeks, and miraculously passed the bar. California law license: Check.
May–June: Within two days of passing the bar, a recruiter I was working with set up an interview with my dream law firm, I interviewed, and miraculously was offered a job at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Irvine, just 25 miles away. Job: Check.
June: And the day after I received that offer letter, a new short sale was listed. We loaded up the kids that night and headed to California for the open house the next day. Offer made and accepted. House: Check.
June–September: Now, I am leaving out significant details: about how everything almost fell through on multiple occasions; about how I slept under my desk in my office while commuting back and forth to for work while closing on the house was delayed; and about how M.E. loathed the new house we purchased. (Really, everything was beige/peach…the carpet, travertine, paint and cabinets/trim. Gack!)
But, like everything else in this journey, that house was “but for a small moment” (D&C 122:8), a means to an end (His end), and ended up being the financial catalyst to where we are today. Moving forward exactly five years, the picture now is incredibly clear…
Indeed, in more ways than one, in this life we often “see through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). A glimpse here, a foreshadowing there. But we do not see all that He sees or know all that He knows. Instead, He asks that we walk by faith. For when we have the faith to “[d]oubt not, but be believing,” we can do (and become) more than we ever thought possible ourselves. (Mormon 9:27). And then, we start to see for (and in) ourselves what He sees.
Today, as I “remembered” (see Hel. 5:6, 9) these seemingly unrelated miracles that transpired over the last five years, I found myself sitting through a fifth Sunday lesson just like M.E. in that same ward and building in San Clemente. I was overcome with gratitude. And these words sunk deep in my heart, now with newfound understanding:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:8-11 (emphasis added)). These words are true and apply to every facet of our mortal and eternal selves. God has tremendous blessings reserved for His children if they will but hear His voice and hearken to His counsel. We are His work and glory. (Moses 1:39). And “all that [our] Father hath shall be given unto [us]” if we will do that which He commands us. (See D&C 84:38).
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All of which leads me to a final thought on obedience, which is where this story began. Our loving Heavenly Father will not make us become like Him. He will not compel us to seek out His greatest blessings. But we can choose to seek them (and Him) out. And by choosing to follow Him through His son, Jesus Christ, we are transformed, enlarged and exalted. Faith to obey—even when it seems impossible—is the transformative power. If we choose:
Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.
And now I, too, can see. Because M.E. had the faith to follow an inspiration. A commandment.