"In your faith journey when you feel a little lost, when you feel like you want to hide or are apprehensive to show up, may I just assure you that Jesus will always be at your side. "
“Hide & Seek”
Ensign College Devotional
March 7, 2023
This is Shrek. Shrek lives on a farm in New Zealand. Shrek is a special kind of sheep that produces merino wool, a lovely, fine, and soft wool that is very popular and commonly used by the clothing industry. My guess is that many of you might be wearing something that is made of merino wool; scarf, suits, sweaters or socks.
Merino Sheep, like Shrek, live most of their days roaming the beautiful hills and green valleys of New Zealand. Once a year, they are all brought back to the farm to have their fluffy fleece of Merino wool sheared from their bodies. The average one-year fleece for a Merino Sheep weighs about 10 pounds. This shearing process can be a bit scary but it is essential to the health of the sheep to be sheared once a year. Too much wool on a sheep can lead to serious problems, overheating, lice, flies, parasites, maggots and nasty things breeding into the coat of wool. Too much wool and the sheep bend and nibble at the wonderful grass for nutrition.
Some groups denounce sheep shearing claiming that it is too stressful, too painful and too dangerous to the lives of the sheep. The exact opposite is true. Shearing each year prevents issues and can avoid prolonged death or the sheep carrying too much wool.
Back to Shrek. When Shrek was just a little lamb, his fleece was white as snow. When shearing season rolled around, Shrek just would not go! He did not return to the farm with the rest of his herd. He had disappeared, nowhere to be found. After an extensive search, his owners thought he was dead but Shrek wasn't dead. Shrek was just hiding. Shrek lived in caves and nooks and valleys and year after year, living in shear terror, his fleece grew and grew and grew. As his fleece grew, Shrek’s problems grew. He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t graze, and his fleece became infested with all sorts of nasty things. Finally, after 6 years on the lam, Shrek was found and brought home but his owners barely recognized him.
Shrek staggered back to the farm with 6 years of accumulated wool weighing just over 60 pounds, enough wool to make 20 men’s suits. Surely, no sheep ever shorn in the history of shaggy sheep shearing ever showed up with such fleece with Shrek’s shape and size.
Shrek’s shearing was televised by the national media and his fleece was auctioned off and the proceeds were donated to charity. Shrek met with New Zealand’s Prime Minister. He appeared at celebrity events and several children’s books were written about him.
Shrek died in 2011 at the ripe and happy old age of 16. To this day, he probably remains the most famous of all sheep ever to live in New Zealand.
Shrek’s story is a lovely metaphor for our lives. The one and only person on earth that could help Shrek shed all the excess weight and unnecessary baggage was his shearer. The very person he was most afraid of was the very person who could help him and save him from all sorts of problems!
Elder Holland says it best in a 2020 devotional to Young Adults:
"One of the grand ironies of the gospel is that the very source of help and safety being offered us is the thing from which we may, in our mortal shortsightedness, flee. For whatever the reason, I have seen investigators run from baptism. I have seen elders run from a mission call. I have seen sweethearts run from marriage. I have seen members run from challenging callings. And I have seen people run from their Church membership. Too often we run from the very things that will save us and soothe us. Too often we see gospel commitments as something to be feared and then forsaken."
Jesus is not only our Good Shepherd, He is our Good Shearer, our source of help and healing. The more we connect with Christ, the sooner we will be cleansed, saved and shaved by His redeeming love. The moral to Shrek’s story? Don’t run from the one who will, “save us and soothe us.”
Shrek’s story should sound very much like another well-known story of hide and seek. After the creation of the earth, God placed our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. They lived in a blissful state of innocence and remained in the presence of God. At some point in the narrative, mother Eve, recognizing that as long as they remained in this state, there would be no family, no mortality, no opposition and no spiritual growth, all essential to becoming like and returning to our Heavenly Parents. So what does she do? Eve exercises her agency, made a choice, partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which triggered the process that would bring about God’s plan of the salvation of all of his children. Many refer to this event as the “Fortunate Fall”, mankind’s first disconnect with Heaven. In this fallen condition, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, aware of their transgression, and knew they were completely exposed and vulnerable. Emotions like shame and guilt entered their hearts and they began to feel afraid to face their Heavenly Father. Like our friend Shrek, Adam & Eve went into hiding.
In the next scene we find a loving parent seeking after His children. “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” “Where goest Thou?” I love this verse. Here we have the creator of heaven and earth, who knows all things from the beginning to the end, asking Adam “ Where Art Thou?” Let me fill you in on a little secret. God knows exactly where Adam is. It’s Adam who doesn’t know where Adam is. He is inviting Adam to figure out where and who HE is, what direction he is facing and what HE is becoming. He is basically saying: “Adam, I know where you are. I know what’s happened. I know you to use your agency to separate yourself from My presence. Will you now use that same agency to come out of hiding and return to Me? Which direction are you facing Adam?” Such a powerful reminder of the constant need for each one of us to look at our relationship with our Father in Heaven. If you feel close to God, count your blessings. If not, ask yourself what has changed? Who has moved?
Again, Elder Holland says it best:
". . . I ask you to come unto the Savior, Jesus Christ, as the imperative first step in getting to your personal destination, in finding your individual happiness and strength, and in achieving your ultimate destiny and success. All of that can be yours if the answer to the question “Adam, Eve, Jordan, Brenda, where goest thou?” And if our answer is “Wherever you are, Lord.”
Another truth you don’t want to miss out on with this hide and seek, Adam and Eve story, is that God is always aware, always searching and constantly seeking for his children, especially when they are hiding or they are lost. Adam and Eve believe Heavenly Father is angry and disappointed and will punish or reject them for their choices when the exact opposite is true. God seeks out Adam and Eve to assure them of His love, and as evidence of that love, God introduces a series of ordinances that will help them return to His presence. He sends messengers from Heaven to guide them along the Covenant Path. He provides protection, in the form of holy garments, to help them resist the future temptations of mortality. Best of all, He introduces Adam and Eve to their Redeemer and Savior, even Jesus Christ. If Adam and Even choose to follow this Savior they are assured, as we are assured, that we will return in deed back to the presence God after our mortal journey is through. Does that sound to you like a vindictive, angry, displeased, upset God? It’s really our choice, brothers and sisters; remain in fear and hiding or make and keep sacred covenants and connect with our Savior and Redeemer.
Can I just share one more principal from this story that I think is beautiful?
"And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he [Adam] said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Why were they hiding? “I was afraid! I was naked.” Where does this come from? One moment Adam and Eve are enjoying a deeply personal, intimate relationship and constant companionship with their Father in the garden. Then comes the transgression. Now they hide, move away, and distance themselves. Why? Because they were afraid of how God will react to their transgression. Yes, Adam and Eve were warned of consequences that would come as a result of transgression but nowhere does it say that God would be angry with them and that they would no longer be worthy of His love.
Think about this for a second. Why would any of us, children of a living, forgiving, perfect patient, loving Father in Heaven, ever feel a need to hide from his presence, even when we have made terrible mistakes? Somehow this seed of fear or shame was sown into their hearts and they started thinking: “Father is so angry with us that he no longer loves us.” Someone planted this thought with Adam and Eve that because they were naked, they needed to distance themselves from God. Someone got them to believe that because of transgression, they were no longer worthy to stand in God’s presence and that they should be ashamed of their condition and their choices. It is Eve, once again, glorious mother Eve, who tells us who that someone is: “The serpent beguiled me.” [i] In other words, The serpent deceived me. The serpent misled me. The serpent tricked me. THAT someone, that serpent, was and is Satan. The misleading, evil, hurtful, harmful and deceiving thought that he planted into the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve, that when they made a mistake, they were no longer worthy of God’s love, is, in one of my personal opinions, one of the most insidious and damaging lies in the history of mankind. And, unfortunately, it is a lie that has withstood the test of time because some of us are still buying into it today.
Let me be clear, when we make a choice that we know is contrary to God’s laws, we will experience consequences. We are going to feel an emotion that we call “guilt” and guilt tells us that we need to recognize that we made a mistake, that we will own up to that choice and do whatever it takes to right the wrong, and move onward and upward, hopefully learning from our mistakes. But we cannot buy into the lie that whenever we make a mistake, we are unlovable or flawed. That is shame. When we tell ourselves that our behavior is bad so I must be bad. That is shame. Guilt propels and motivates us to change, to learn from our mistakes and grow and progress. Shame, on the other hand, drives us deeper and deeper into a feeling of helplessness to the point where we just want to give up. Shame sends us into hiding from God, from those that we love and from those who can help. Shame tells us to run, hide, blame, and that there is no hope, I am broken and beyond repair so why even try. Guilt helps us turn our face towards God, engage in the glorious process of repentance and seek our ultimate source of redemption, even Jesus Christ. Remember: “Adam, where goest thou? Which direction are you facing?”
I’m not a perfect parent. I would like to think I am a perfect parent. I am not. As much as I love my children, I can unknowingly perpetuate Satan’s lie when I communicate with my kids when they make a mistake. When they steal a candy bar from Smiths or swear at the official during a church basketball game or when they etch their name with a screwdriver on our neighbor’s brand new minivan, I find myself in the heat of the emotion saying: “Why did you do this!?” You’re a knucklehead! Don’t you do anything right?” And when I focus “you, you, you,” what am I communicating? My focus is not about the choice (guilt). My focus is about them as a person (shame). If I could do it all over again, I would follow the pattern that father provided to Adam and Eve and I would try a different approach, a more supportive approach. I would say something like, without mentioning any of my children’s names: “Jordan. Can we talk about you punching the other player in the face during last night’s hockey game? You are really an amazing young man but let’s talk about this decision. What do you say we role-play some responses when you are having feelings or anger during the heat of the hockey game. Rather than say: “You are such a knucklehead. Why did you do this?” As parents, as future parents, as youth leaders, as educators, when we focus on the person and not the behavior, we can unknowingly foster feelings of shame.
Now, this is the great part. If you really want to know how God responds when we hide or are lost or make mistakes and are found, check out Luke 15. Here, the Lord makes it absolutely clear how he feels about us when we are found. We find Jesus spending time with the broken, the outcast, the unlovable souls in Jerusalem. The religious leaders at the time, puffed up with hypocrisy and self-righteousness, pass judgment and murmur saying: “This man, Jesus, received sinners, and eatest with them.” [ii] The Scribes and Pharisees would never be found with such people. They were simply not worthy of their love and attention.
So what does Jesus do? He gives three parables, the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son or the parable of the prodigal son. We know from each parable that the thing that was lost was eventually found. But do you remember the response and emotion and reaction of those involved in finding the lost sheep, the lost coin or the lost son? When the shepherd finds his lost sheep: “He layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing.” [iii] When the woman finds her lost coin, she calleth her friends, her book club, her relief society sisters, gets them together and says: “Rejoice with me, for I have found the [coin] which I had lost. [iv] And when after many painful years of hiding, the prodigal son is seen walking back up the path towards his family home, and when his father saw him, he “. . .had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.” [v] In each of these examples, the response to the thing being found is joy, rejoicing, celebration, compassion, and love. That is exactly how our Heavenly Father feels about us when we show up in any condition of our lives.
I’m reminded just this last week, some of you aren't old enough to remember, but it was 20 years ago Sunday when the entire nation wept and rejoiced as 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart was found. Kidnapped and forced into hiding for many months, suffering unspeakable evil and horror, Elizabeth returned to her family. Our family didn’t even know the Smart family, but there we were, praying for Elizabeth’s return every night and when she was returned to her home, we were weeping with joy when we heard the news. That is just another glimmer and glimpse of how Heavenly Parents feel when each child, in any condition, returns home.
My dear friends, students of Ensign College, I hope you know how much you are loved. We love you however you show up. In your faith journey when you feel a little lost, when you feel like you want to hide or are apprehensive to show up, may I just assure you that Jesus will always be at your side. He is at your side when you pray or when you are taking that final next week and you attend the temple. He is with you in your classes, on your snowboard or on your skateboard. He is with you:
· when your heart breaks
· and when your friends are flakes
· and when you can’t buy a date
· and when your spirit aches
The time has come to stop hiding. No more playing hide and seek when your personal salvation is at stake. Like Shrek, come out from your caves and your hiding places. Show up for the shearing season. Cast aside every burden that weighs you down. It’s time to get to the plate and knock it out of the park. It's time to declare to the Savior: “Here am I. Send Me. Put me into the game.” Like President Nelson said: “Your Heavenly Father know that you want to help.” Ask Him to put you to work in this glorious cause and then stand back and marvel at what happens when you let God prevail in your life. Give your bishop a heart attack this week as you walk into his office, shake his hand, look into his eyes and say “Bishop, I need a calling. Put me to work.” Send your parents into shock when you call them up and say: “Mom. Dad. I’m active in the Gospel but I want to offer more. I want my heart, my soul, my mind, to be consecrated to this greatest and glorious of all causes.”
In conclusion, with St. Patrick’s Day next week, lets conclude with a little limerick.
There once was a sheep named Shrek
The Shearer he avoided like heck!
Not knowing a good shave
His health - it would save
And would lighten his load on life’s trek!
Like Shrek, we oft share the same fear
Run and hide when the healer is near!
Let us seek out His face
And His open embrace
And redemption, eternal and dear.
Five weeks ago, an apostle of the Lord, spoke to you. I think it was from this pulpit or someplace. Do you remember what he said right at the beginning of his remarks? “As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, if you don’t want to change, . . .” Do you remember what he said? “. . . go find another church.” He wasn’t being silly or sarcastic because he went on to testify that’s what this life is all about, to change and grow. I’m so glad -- I’m almost 100 years old and I can still grow and improve because that is what the Gospel demands of us.
I bear testimony, with Elder Holland, and I conclude with this.
"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”
I bear this testimony to you with all my heart that the Lord lives, that He loves us and that he wants us to return home. I testify that the plan of redemption is real for you and for me and I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] Moses 4:19
[ii] Luke 15:2.
[iii] Luke 15:5
[iv] Luke 15:9
[v] Luke 15:20.