The last story we told you was about how God loved the Lamanties just like He loved the Nephites. And once the Lamanites knew that they were loved, they became kinder, and peaceful, and more loveable.
People are like flowers. And when you love them, you are like the sun. And people bloom when you shine love on them because love makes them feel warm and comfortable and confident enough to be seen. They say, “Here I am!” And they smile. And they bloom.
Those three words, “here I am,” are very important words. They are words we say when we are playing hide and seek. They are words we say when we are called by our father or our mother to come to dinner. Everyone says these words and they are beautiful words. Even Jesus said these words.
But sometimes, when you are playing hide and seek, and someone calls your name, you might not say anything because you don’t want to be found. And sometimes, when we are ashamed or embarrassed we don’t want to be found either. And we hide. And we do not say, “here I am.”
And that’s what was happening to the Nephites. While the Lamanties were just beginning to feel the love of God again, the Nephites had been feeling God’s love for so long that they had stopped feeling it. Just like you are not feeling your toes or your nose or the tip of your lip. Because those body parts are always there. And so they are easy to forget about.
It is this way with the love of God. We stop feeling it. But unlike your ears or your lips or toes or nose, you cannot wiggle the love of God to make sure it’s still there. And so you might sometimes forget that you are loved and forget what it feels like to be loved. And like the Nephites, you might stop saying “here I am” and hide instead.
More and more the Nephites were hiding. At night they would sneak into dark, secret rooms. They would talk only with their closest friends and shut everyone else out because they were insecure. And they would try to find ways to become richer, cooler, better dressed, and more popular and loveable than everyone around them.
And during the day, they would walk around the street and say hello to each other and act like they were not hiding. But this was just so people wouldn’t know what they were really doing. That they were still hiding inside of their own bodies. Inside of their own heads and hearts. And while everyone was laughing and smiling on the outside, everyone was scared and hiding on the inside. Because they had stopped feeling God’s love, they were no longer sure if they were good enough or cool enough or smart enough to be loved. And so the Nephites became very good at hiding.
But Nephi was not very good at hiding. When he was happy, he would smile so brightly that you could count all his teeth and people around him would think, “Ah. There goes a happy man.” And when he was sad, there was no mistaking his tears and his frown. It is like that with some people. Their faces are books that say exactly what they think and feel. These people are no good at hiding.
And when Nephi saw that so many of the Nephites had become so good at hiding, he felt very sad and lonely. He would not be very good at this game the Nephites were playing. And so Nephi went on a walk. He wanted to talk to someone but they were all hiding. And so Nephi climbed up the tallest tower he could find so that he would be closer to God. Because he knew God was okay if he was sad. And God would listen.
“God,” Nephi said, “I am so lonely and sad. Everyone here is playing a terrible game of hide and seek. Of course, that can be a fun game. But only because you are about to be found. No one here is being found. They are all hiding and hiding and hiding. And nobody is finding anyone else, because everybody is hiding.”
And while Nephi was talking with God, the people hiding below began to listen. And they began to listen because they had not seen anything like Nephi in a very long time. “This person seems sad, and he is saying exactly what he feels,” they said. In short, he was being vulnerable.
Vulnerable, a definition
To be vulnerable is the opposite of hiding. Vulnerable people are seen, and allow themselves to be seen. This can be hard for anyone because nobody is perfect. But it is particularly hard for adults, because even though they’ve had so many birthdays to become perfect, they are still flawed and very much imperfect. And that’s why it’s hard to be vulnerable. Because to be vulnerable is to let people see you for who you are. And to trust that who you are is loveable.
And that’s what Nephi was doing. He was standing on top of a big, tall tower so that everyone could see him. And people came running from all around, as if Nephi had just yelled, “Olly olly oxen free.” They all wanted to see the man who was not hiding. Something about him was glowing.
He was like morning glory. Morning glory is a vine that grows up fences and trellises and towers. And when the sun comes out, purple flowers bloom all over. And Nephi was blooming all over because he was basking in the love of God. And when he opened his eyes he saw everybody standing below him and scratching their heads. “Hello,” he said. “What are you doing there?”
“We are just looking at you,” they said. “Because you look very beautiful.”
“It isn’t hard,” he told them. “You just have to be vulnerable.” The people just blinked. So Nephi kept talking. “You think that everything you do is hidden. That nobody knows what you think or do or say at night in your secret rooms. But you are wrong. Nothing is ever really hidden. Because you can’t hide anything from God. You are always vulnerable to His love.”
“So please stop hiding and start seeking. Because we need a lot more seekers if this game of life is going to be any fun at all. Go and find people who are hiding so they can jump from their hiding place and say, ‘Here I am!’ Then we can get to know each other like we are supposed to be known. Then you might start feeling God’s love again.”
But a lot of the people did not believe Nephi. They said, “Maybe you are right and maybe you are wrong about God. But you are certainly wrong about us. Some of us are smart and rich and beautiful and worth getting to know. And some of us are dumb and poor and ugly and not worth getting to know. If we are going to be successful, we have to surround ourselves with other people who are worth knowing.”
“Ah,” Nephi said. “That’s where you are wrong. There is no one who is not worth knowing. Because while we have different size noses and IQs and shoes, in another way, we are all the same size. Because much bigger than us is this world and much bigger than this world is the universe and much bigger than this universe is God. And so we are all very very very small compared to God. And still God loves us more than the world and more than the universe. And so, though it doesn’t make much sense, a single person can be bigger and more important than the entire universe and every other person in it.”
This did not make any sense to the people. “Nephi has gone crazy,” they said. And they were about to leave. But Nephi said, “Wait!” And Nephi told them a secret. He told them that while they thought their hiding and secret telling was making them happier, it wasn’t. It was tearing their society apart. And if they did not stop, it would kill them.
But still the people did not believe him.
And so he took a deep breath and told them another secret. A secret no one knew. He told them that it was already starting to kill people. He told them that while they were talking, someone had killed their president.
It turned out, Nephi was correct. The president had been killed. And this surprised the people and terrified the people. And for a moment, Nephi thought they might stop hiding and start listening. But the people were just grateful to be alive and not dead. They did not want to die like the president. And so they left Nephi. And they crawled into their secret rooms and hid.
And very suddenly, Nephi was alone again. And he shook his head and he prayed. “God,” he said, “Please help my people to be brave. Please help my people to speak what they feel, not what they think they should say to be safe or cool or popular. Please help my people to come out and be seen by each other just as they are seen by you.”
And this was Nephi’s prayer. Because he was a man who was no good at hiding. And we are all like Nephi and like flowers. We are meant to be seen. And we bloom and glow in the light of love. And that light is all around us. It is there shining in the day and it is there shining in the night. It is shining when we are outside and it is shining when we are hiding in our basement. It is shining even when we cannot feel it.
And when you cannot feel it, be like Nephi, be like morning glory. Climb up a tower, and say “here I am.” And if you don’t think anyone hears you, bloom anyways.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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