It's always been sort of a mystery to me how we are eternally connected to people. Like who exactly are we connected to? Where are the lines drawn? Obviously we're connected to our immediate families, our spouses, our children, our parents and grandparents, etc. But as our children grow up and get married are we also eternally connected to their spouses' immediate families and ancestors? Because if we are, and if you tied all those eternal strings together, that would pretty much connect just about everyone in the world to just about everyone else, wouldn't it?
I think it would. And I think we are! That's the conclusion I came to last night anyway. I think we are actually all connected...like everyone on the planet. It says so right in the scriptures that we are literally sons and daughters of God. There's even a whole song about it! Which makes us all spirit siblings and therefore connected in an eternal way, right?
These are the Thunell and MacIntyre families, both sides of Paige's family. Paige is the beautiful blonde bride in the middle of that picture and the oldest Thunell grandchild whose wedding we went to last weekend in Salt Lake City. Paige's mom, Jill, is next to her and Craig's brother, Bret, is right beside Jill. The MacIntyres are Jill's side of the family from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They have only been to Utah a handful of times, so I just barely met some of them for the first time this weekend. A few of the teenagers I only saw or waved at from a distance. And Jill's mom, who passed away last July, I never did get to meet. But I think I'm still connected somehow to all those MacIntyre's...right? In two weeks, Bret and Jill's son, Jed (right behind Paige's new husband, Lee) and his fiancee, Carly (right behind Paige) will be sealed in the Provo City Center Temple. Craig and I won't be there for that wedding, and we won't meet any of Carly's family, but I assume we will be connected to them in the same way we're currently connected to the MacIntyres.
And what way is that exactly?
This is the Essig family which Paige is now a part of. Lee is the seventh of 11 children. And they are, incidentally, quite possibly the nicest family in the world. But there are a LOT of them, and I definitely didn't meet them all. In that temple ceremony, though, my father-in-law clearly spoke to all of us collectively as if we were all now part of one eternal family.
So does that include the people who weren't in the room with us? Like my kids?
How can we be eternally connected to people whose names we don't know yet or whose faces we wouldn't even recognize if we passed each other on the street? Is it necessary to physically see people to be eternally connected to them? Apparently not...because there are generations of ancestors who I've never met but who I've certainly have felt deep connections to while doing genealogy and temple work on their behalf. Clearly there is a distinct eternal connection.
Maybe it's that eternal string thing...the part where we're all literal children of God.
And maybe...even before I walked into the temple or saw any of the Essigs or the MacIntyres in that sealing room on Saturday, there was already a skinny little divine thread connecting us as eternal spirit brothers and sisters. At some point in the pre-existence we probably knew each other on some level. And now after this wedding, maybe that string has become less skinny...like maybe eternal guitar strings instead of eternal threads? And now potentially we have the opportunity to know each other on a more meaningful level as we share relatives and come into contact with each other more frequently...maybe. Or maybe not. Canada is still pretty far away, and Craig and I aren't getting any closer to Utah with this relocation to Birmingham...
But...! What about all the people in my life who I love deeply, who I do get to interact with meaningfully and fairly regularly, but who I'm not necessarily connected to through any sealing authority or temple ordinances...what are my eternal connections with them? Do I even have any? Surely there's more than just that same skinny eternal thread tying us together as the one that ties me to someone in India who I've never even met!
So here's what I thought about that...
(Are you shocked at the amount of time my head has to think about these things when it should be thinking about whether to keep the Battleship game or leave it behind?...yep, me too. Imagine living inside my head every day. Sometimes I can get it to turn off for a few hours when I'm sleeping...but mostly it's just like this all the time...)
Obviously Craig and I have an eternal connection and a sacred obligation to each other and to our children and our parents. Because we've been sealed together in marriage we have not just an earthly relationship, but also an eternal relationship and therefore a stronger eternal string, like super thick rope with multiple braiding which probably would come from all the other generations before us woven in there to make it really strong. And the eternal connections between us and our children I would think would be similar to that rope.
But then...along with those kinds of obvious eternal connections, I think the multitude of relationship possibilities and the varying strength of eternal strings we have with one another is vast and far greater than any of us can possibly comprehend. I'm sure there are so many more possibilities than just husband/wife, parent/child, familial kinds of relationships.
There are people I am not related to in any way, nor have I been connected to through any temple ordinance, and yet their lasting impact has been woven into my life through years of meaningful interactions. They have left, and continue to leave, indelible impressions on my life that have changed my character and my focus, my level of confidence and my testimony, sometimes in larger ways than even the people in my own family. Surely there must be some pretty strong eternal strings there, too. Maybe they are our eternal paracord bracelets? :)
OK...time to wrap up this post and stop the ridiculous string analogies and move back to the decluttering of my house...because I just found that last one way too funny...
I think the whole purpose of our lives is to find those eternal strings that connect us with the other people who occupy this planet. To really see each other. To look hard enough and care deeply enough and stay long enough to see the divine potential underneath all that surface-y stuff we present to the world. To reach out, and by doing so, find the people who will reach back, because it's the ones who reach back and take our hands that we're supposed to bring home with us. Some of those connections are with people in our family, and some of them are not. I don't think it really matters. What matters is that we find each other and fulfill the sacred obligations we have to one another...whatever they are. To lift. To testify. To teach. And ultimately to bring each other home.