Peace—If Not Plenty—Here Abides

I turned off the lights in the already deserted office and locked the back door behind me. A cold February blast met me as I walked toward the only car left in the parking lot. It was a 1974 sports coupe, with the back seat taken out to accommodate all our little kids. I remembered how one of my friends described it. He said that with all seven of us crammed into that little green car, it looked like an aquarium with all the fishes’ faces pressed against the glass, looking for a way to get out.

I swatted the cookie crumbs off the old blanket that covered the front seat, lunged in, and on the second attempt managed to get the door to latch. The car started on the first try, and I eased our empty “aquarium” out into the steady stream of evening traffic. That done, the problems of the day returned to my mind.

I had to face facts. No amount of positive thinking or vain hopes could make them go away. The day I had most dreaded, and hoped would never come, had arrived. The business had run its course. And although I had realized for some time that I was “riding a dead horse,” I had hoped it would revive. It hadn’t. I was now financially finished and faced with the burden of carrying the carcass around with me for many years.

To get into business we had sold our first home, and with the limited equity and high hopes, we had launched out. We believed that what limited capital and experience did not provide, youth, hard work, and the ability to sacrifice would. All the elements for success were there; but work as we might, the troubles flooded into our financial ship faster than we could bail them out. Just when we thought we had turned a profit, there was another bill due, or a quarterly tax report. Between inflation and taxes, there was never enough left for us.

The two-lane road was thick darkness behind me. “I’m sure there are others in those passing cars who share this same sickening feeling,” I thought. “There must be others like me, who are going home to tell their families that tomorrow will be different—that changes are coming, tightening up—maybe embarrassment.” The family soon would know firsthand that along with the dream of success and prosperity comes the possibility of failure and loss. Whatever the reasons or rationale, they had to accept with me that I’d entered the race and lost.

As my mind turned again to the cars and trucks flowing past me into the night, I thought how easy it would be to turn the wheel ever so slightly and meet one of those huge, freight-laden semi trucks head on. Something that massive would flatten our little “aquarium” without so much as a rattle, I thought. It might be a painless “accident.” And the thought of possible insurance money for my family made it briefly tempting. Then thoughts of eternal ramifications, not to mention funerals, tear-filled eyes, and long times of loneliness overwhelmed me, and I banished the ugly plan from my mind.

But why had success and the attendant comforts of life been so elusive? I thought about recent weeks. I’d prayed for guidance, for answers to hundreds of business-related questions. I felt that I’d approached the Lord in the attitude of humility and with a sincere heart, really trusting in the promise of James 1:5. But night after night as I knelt silently in the darkness waiting for the Lord’s reply, nothing came.

And then, only a few days ago, in one disastrous turn of events I had lost nearly all of my operating capital. I became desperate. It wasn’t a matter anymore of saying that “it would be nice” if I had some answers; they just “had” to come. Quickly, plainly, and in a language that I could understand, I needed them now.

That evening, after a silent and troubled supper, I had read the kids a short story, visited briefly with my wife, and gone to bed. After many sleepless hours, I decided to get up and read, to see if I could get the events of the day off my mind. I went downstairs, picked up a copy of the Ensign, and began reading President Spencer W. Kimball’s article “Jesus of Nazareth” in the December 1980 issue. President Kimball recounted the Savior’s sacrifice—the hardships, the triumphs over Satan, the sting of hatred and disloyalty, and the sufferings in the Garden and on Golgotha. He described “a man of sorrows,” one “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3); but also he told of the dignity, the mastery and control that were evidence of the Lord’s divine love for us. He bore witness that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15.) Jesus was more than a perfect example, a great teacher and leader of men. He was our Savior.

After reading President Kimball’s closing testimony, I felt my heart swell within me. I switched off the lights and knelt down, taking a few moments to collect my thoughts before again approaching the Lord with my problems. At length I began to petition aloud for answers, for real solutions. Then, tears filled my eyes and I began to weep, as an almost audible voice said to me over and over: “Jesus is the Christ—Jesus is the Christ.”

I received no ideas for increased production, no thoughts on spiraling costs, no solutions on how to collect past-due accounts or cut down on the overhead. I remained unanswered on these questions. Instead, I received a greater testimony that the only thing I really needed to know was that Jesus is the Christ. With that I arose from my knees that night full of hope and courage to meet whatever tomorrow might bring.

And now, having shut the door to my office one last time, I followed the familiar patterns of rights and lefts that would bring me home. I slowed as I approached our rented home. How could I miss it? Bikes covered the lawn, and our tired old truck slumped wearily against the curb. Trashcan lids lay in the driveway, probably used earlier as shields to protect mighty warriors. I shut off the engine and lights and coasted to the curb across the street. It was time for mustering up. Time to get complete control of myself and forget the day. I remembered from the eighth grade Kipling’s lines:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss …

Then from across the street I began to hear the sounds of our old upright piano. My wife often gathered the children around the piano before dinner and had them sing with her until daddy got home. This little practice not only kept their minds off their stomachs, but established a real atmosphere of love and unity. The sounds of their high, sweet voices drifted across the street:

There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in every sound
When there’s love at home.
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on every side.
Time doth softly, sweetly glide
When there’s love at home.

Tears were now flowing freely down my face. I began to count my blessings. I was still young; I had a wife who loved and supported me in all that I strived to do; I had lovely children, my living treasures, who needed and loved me too. And to sustain and cheer us all, we had a common belief in a God whom we gratefully called Father. I was rich in the things that really mattered. For now, I would take no thought for the morrow. I owed my loved ones a smile at the end of the day, a cheerful greeting, a hug and a kiss. They deserved a reassuring attitude, one that said we could and would make it. The knowledge I had of the Savior’s reality made anything possible.

[illustration] Illustrated by J. Thompson

Paul Sutorius, father of six children, now teaches in Nephi, Utah.