Friday, August 4, 2017

The importance of one inspired word: residual

In 2002 I was graduating from BYU. It was a great day and for the most part a very happy one. There was only one thing troubling me, a task I had not been able to accomplish. I had worked on it and done my dead-level best to fulfill it, but had not been able to. I worried about it (just a little) that day. Had I done right? Had I really done everything I could? Had I missed something important?

Our graduation speaker was Pres. Henry B. Eyring, an apostle of Jesus Christ. Most of his speech was about the school motto: Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve. He emphasized the second part, going forth to serve. It was a nice little graduation speech.

Then in the middle-end of his speech, he used a word that was very significant to me: residual. He told us to do the best we can, and leave the residual in God's hands. In econometrics - the statistics that economists use, and a class I had not only taken but TAd 3 times - the residual is an error term tacked onto the end of an equation for all the things we don't know and can't control.

I suddenly felt the beginnings of understanding a very important principle. Yes, we cannot know all that God has planned or control others' choices. We can only control what we can control. But we can trust God for all that we cannot control, that the end will bring us out alright, that even the greatest trials of our life can be for our experience and benefit. Trust Him for the rest.

That one word and that phrase stuck with me for the last 15 years. How important and what a relief it was to feel that I had done all I could and it was okay to leave the residual in God's hands! I went away comforted and at peace.

I was thinking of that experience again last week for some reason and looked up Pres. Eyring's speech. It turns out he only used the word residual once - enough for me to latch onto it - and otherwise used the term "residue." Maybe my hearing wasn't 20/20 even then and I heard residual because I'd spent so much time thinking about it. Here is what he said after quoting D&C 103:35-40:
Your key and mine to rising to our potential as servants is to know our Master, to do for Him what we can, and be content to leave the residue in His hands. Let me give you an example that will face you in the days ahead. You will be torn between the demands to put bread on the table and a roof over your head, to take care of a family need, to respond to the cries of the widows or the orphans around you, and at the same time to meet the requirements of the calling you have accepted in the Church. When that happens, you will be sorely tempted to murmur, perhaps even to complain. 
But remember that you serve a Master who loves you, who knows you, and who is all-powerful. He has created not demands for your service but opportunities for your growth. You can pray to Him with confidence and ask, “What would you have me do next?” If you listen humbly and with faith, you will feel an answer. And you will, if you are wise and good, set about to do that which your Master has commanded. And you will leave the residue in His hands. As His servant I promise you that you will find that some of those residual tasks you left will be done when you return to them. Others will have been prepared for you. And you will be the stronger for the task you already tackled. 
Then, when you pray again, an answer will come again. And you will move on to the next task, at peace and not complaining. Sometimes you may not feel an answer to your prayer because your Master may not care which task you start next. But He will care that you asked. And whatever you choose to do next, you will know that the residue is in His hands.