I’ve had a great couple weeks, full of mostly good things and a nice break from my everyday routines. But despite all the positives I’ve definitely noticed a slip in my spiritual momentum, which I attribute to being somewhat overcome by the spirit of digression.
I have a lot of thinking time built into my regular life, time I haven’t necessarily had to set aside but which just exists and is available to me without much effort on my part. I use it to think about things I like and find interesting, which, as of late, have been largely spiritual in nature. Over the last few weeks my built-in thinking time essentially disappeared and my efforts to carve out time or dedicate mental energy to anything spiritual were half-hearted and mostly unsuccessful. When I did manage to carve out time, I spent it on social media or email. A few times I planned to do some thinking before bed but after long days, I would climb in bed and start to drift off – not a state conducive to good thinking.
Generally I didn’t miss my thinking time while I was with family or friends or off enjoying beautiful scenery or doing other things I love. But in retrospect I have been missing the moments of peace and rest, that call me from a world of care.
Studying, pondering, praying….I’ve never been great at those things nor have I ever really enjoyed them so I always thought this phrase from Alma 32 was only applicable to the overly-churchy (those who talk a big game) or the next-level spirits (those who might as well just be twinkled right now because we all know where they’re going to end up), and I never expect to be a part of either group. But the surprising absence of spiritual nourishment I’ve felt over the last few weeks truly has helped me recognize the way all the studying, pondering, praying, etc. is delicious to me.
I believe in the benefits of dedicating time to spiritual pursuits and have seen how they truly enlarge my soul and enlighten my understanding.
In my first logic class at BYU I learned about a basic argument form called modus ponens (MP):
1) If A, then B
This week I’ve been thinking about lots of B’s…principles I don’t understand, decisions that are intimidating with possibilities and consequences I can’t quite see my way to. But then I keep coming back to my A: Hard things, especially hard things undertaken in faith and obedience, give me experience and will be for my good.
Why do I do the B’s? Why should I do them? Do I believe in the B’s? Well I know I believe in A. Confusion, doubt, risk, humility, obedience, pain, sacrifice – they all accrue to my benefit, even if it takes a long time to gain the perspective necessary to recognize that benefit.
Not everything about the gospel follows simply and logically from A, but A gives me confidence that just about any B will work out in the end. If I leave the B’s to the Lord and focus on my faith in Him, A is enough.
So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene – one step enough for me.
My uncle wrote a great post on his blog a few weeks ago describing a time when his terminally ill father was visited by President Monson. In speaking to this man, President Monson explained that he had just been at a meeting with the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12, and that, “as we prayed your name was read aloud and we united our faith in your behalf.”
At first I thought how awe-inspiring and comforting it would be to know that prophets and apostles were praying for you by name. But then I realized that I can’t imagine drawing any greater degree of comfort from prayers on my behalf than I have previously felt knowing that important people in my life have been praying for me.
A few years ago my aunt let me know that my cousin (her daughter, who must have been less than 6 at the time) had mentioned me in their family prayers that night. I didn’t write this down at the time so I’m not sure where I was or what I was doing exactly, but I do know that I was miserable and I probably wasn’t doing much praying. I also know that neither my aunt nor this little cousin had any idea of how I was feeling or what was going on. So I was absolutely amazed that someone was praying for me, without my asking them, without my praying for myself, and even more so that this prayer was said by a child I rarely saw and didn’t know all that well.
The prayer didn’t solve my problems or cheer me right up or even instigate a powerful spiritual experience. But it was a reminder that I was known and remembered, and it was an experience I kept going back to over the years. It was one of the milestones along my circuitous path back to faith that was solid and undeniable, and in that sense mattered a great deal.
I’ve had some great experiences wherein I’ve felt really blessed by the prayers of others recently, both after asking for prayers and maybe even more meaningfully, finding out that prayers were already being said for me without my even needing to ask.
Whether it’s a prophet or small child, I believe prayers said on my behalf mean something and matter if for no other reason than that I feel supported, comforted, and remembered knowing those prayers are happening as I’m working through hard stuff.
Lately as I have been driving to work in the morning I’ve have had unexpected and lovely surges of positivity, and these surges will recur throughout the day. I have come to describe these surges as “feelin’ the love”. Sometimes it almost seems like a drug-induced trance, “Sure, cut me off on the freeway little blond girl, I’m feelin’ the love.” Or “Hey creepy Tinder guy, you’re inherently valuable as a human being, and it won’t be me, but you’ll find someone.” But mostly I feel incredibly loved myself, I feel incredibly grateful for everything that I have, and for all the people I know – friends, family and others, I realize how much I love those people, and I want to share that love in some fashion.
In my mind I relate these “feelin’ the love” moments to charity, traditionally defined as the pure love of Christ, though the use of the word “of” leaves that definition open to three possible interpretations:
1) The pure love of Christ for us, as demonstrated throughout His life and ultimately through the Atonement. Greater love hath no man than this...
2) Our pure love of Christ. We are told that developing this love is the first great commandment, and that we should always have this love in our hearts. This love dispels contention, causes us to hate evil, motivates us to keep the commandments and walk in his ways. Untold blessings are promised to them that love Him.
3) The pure love of Christ for others, extended through and emulated by us. We are essentially delivery mechanisms for this love as we try to instil our own approximation of that pure love for those around us. We are asked to follow Christ’s example, to walk the path that He has shown and go about doing good: to love our neighbors and our enemies, to be patient and kind, to visit the afflicted and succor those in need.
I am grateful that I am feeling the soul-warming love of Christ (in each of its forms) all around me with more and more frequency.
After being out of town for a few nights, having minimal sleep, and slogging back home at 1:30am, I slept in and missed my 9am Ward. (I haven’t ever actually made it to my 9am Ward, but at least this week I had planned to make it.) The aforementioned factors, as well as some others had me feeling a little irritable and frustrated going into the 1pm Ward I attended, but I wanted to be there anyway because I was hoping for three things: to stop feeling tense and frustrated, to take the sacrament and erase the past week from my mind and heart, and to sing the patriotic hymns with a group of people rather than alone in my car.
Previously what I call the “formulaic approach” to all things gospel-related had not been one that worked for me, so I’m not sure that I really expected the tenor of my day to change dramatically as a result of going to church. And it didn’t. The things that were bothering me have continued to bother me throughout the day, I am still tired, and there was only one patriotic song on the program of the Ward I attended. (Seriously, on July 5th what Ward sings Choose the Right as the closing hymn?!)
But what I did feel was an hour-long break from the things that had been bothering me. I felt the spirit overtake other feelings as I took the sacrament. I recognized sentiments and similar experiences shared by others in their testimonies. And while it’s no Star-Spangled Banner, I did feel a sense of unity with the congregation while singing Choose the Right.
To me, the church’s current push around making the sabbath and the sacrament more meaningful seemed like an odd thing to focus on, but that’s probably because I hadn’t gleaned much meaning from either myself. Today I felt a little bit of the sweetness of the sacred day of rest in having an hour where no mortal care seized my breast. Going into the coming week I do feel like I’ve hit ‘refresh’ and had a renewal of my love and faith. I am grateful that I have a day, or at least an hour each week which is made for me to have these experiences.