It Is Wonderful

In the wake of my announcing my decision to go on a mission I have received an overwhelming outpouring of love, support and general good wishes. It’s been really lovely to feel such a sense of caring from surprising and unexpected sources.

And as I’ve been feeling all this love I’ve been thinking about how it’s all really just an approximation of the love of the Savior. Unfortunately it is all too easy to forget the mercy, love and devotion of the Savior. But I’m trying to remember the greater love which no man hath than this – that He should care for me enough to die for me! 

I stand all amazed and confused and I marvel and tremble that He died for me, such as I am. Not just an earnest though imperfect soul, but one so rebellious and proud as mine. He has extended his great love unto me…sufficient to redeem, to justify, and to own my salvation, and as such He owns my loyalty, my will and my heart in the best possible way.

Power of Prayer

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.

The Goal is in Sight

I was listening to church music today when I caught the phrase the goal is in sight which is in the third verse of Do What is Right. And suddenly I was thinking of all the moments over the last few months, weeks even, that brought me to where I am. Something I have always struggled with is seeing how the Lord has guided me. I believe He has, but it’s been difficult to point to specific instances.

I can look back at a conversation with my uncle that started because of a random blog post I came across on Facebook. Then there was an important conversation with my aunt, an unheard of opportunity/excuse to be alone and away from regular life for a day at Lake Powell, conversations with a friend, a conversation with another aunt and uncle, a testimony meeting, and pretty unmistakable moments of feeling the spirit throughout all of that. Those conversations could have gone lots of ways, going to Lake Powell alone that first time actually didn’t make a lot of sense with everything else I was doing, going to my uncle’s cabin late after a long Saturday just to spend time with him and his wife didn’t make a lot of sense and was definitely outside the norm, going to my parents’ Ward out of the blue on a fast Sunday had never happened before, and then talking with a friend about these deeply personal things, despite not having been all that close to this friend previously.

So… I can see the hand of the Lord in all of that. It wouldn’t have all happened that way just as a matter of coincidence, and I certainly didn’t plan it. So wow! What a great feeling to realize it’s finally happening, after eight years of being a wandr’er in the paths of sin, with a wounded heart, anger and malice, having drawn myself apart and having searched my soul to no avail…I want to jump up and down but also wait and see. Nothing is ever done. A friend asked me if I have the spirit in my life, and the more I thought about that question, the more I realized I do. I have experienced a change of heart, and in response to Alma’s question, yes I can feel so now!

Fast-Sunday Shocker

Today I did not wake up in time to attend my Ward at 9am (said as if this is the exception rather than the rule, which, of course, it isn’t). So, I went to my parents’ Ward at 1pm, not feeling anything other than pleased with myself for going to church. About 10 minutes into the testimony portion of the meeting, and hearing several people touch on things I had been thinking about, my heart started pounding – as is often described by testimony bearers – and it was pounding so hard it was physically uncomfortable.

I really wouldn’t have wanted to get up with my parents sitting there, they don’t really know my situation and I don’t like talking about it around them, but I got up anyway. And here is a completely ridiculous, unnecessarily long play-by-play:

I started by apologizing for taking up time since I’m not technically a member of that Ward, and saying that no one could be as surprised as I was, except maybe my parents. After the conversation the night before at the cabin with my aunt and uncle, and lots of mulling previously, I talked about three major impediments to faith that seem to affect people my age, and maybe others, but especially me.
  1. First is the instant access to information, which makes faith really hard as we are so used to getting answers immediately.
  2. Second is the focus on authenticity – not faking it till you feel it, but living in a completely authentic way based solely on how you feel. But of course faith requires stepping outside what might feel “authentic”.
  3. Third is a resistance to authority and being told what is right. Along with authenticity, not being receptive to hearing what we should feel or think from others and never being obedient for obedience’ sake.
Then I mentioned three things that I’ve found have formed my foundation of faith, such as it is at this point.
  1. Hymns – I’ve always been able to feel the spirit with church music and that has been a faith builder for me. So I believe in the spirit and the power of music to bring it and confirm the truth of the words being sung.
  2. Funerals – One man who bore his testimony before me talked about how people in the church have a sense of peace at funerals because they know it’s only a temporary separation. (A woman in the Ward died yesterday and I feel a little bit bad about not saying anything about it, especially since a lot of the meeting had people talking about her.) I said how after going to funerals I realized that I absolutely believe I will see people who have passed away again, and that I believe in the plan of salvation.
  3. The thing that kept me connected through rough years, and the most motivating of the three, is the fact that all the people I love and respect most in the world believe in the gospel and participate in the church. So, I realized I can’t help but believe because of how much I respect them.

I wrapped up by talking about how my faith is building, very slowly, line upon line from those basic things, and that I’m grateful for the way that works. I’m also grateful that it CAN work that way, and that I don’t have to jump in to everything at once.

At one point I looked back at my dad, and I’m not sure when this was – if it was when I half turned while I made the remark about my parents being surprised, or if it was when I looked back while referring to a funeral comment the second counselor had made, but my dad was definitely very teary. And when I sat back down I could tell that he had been crying, or maybe he still was. I would like to take credit and say that I was just really bringing the spiritual heat, but I’m guessing it was mostly a result of his relief that I am not an atheist or agnostic after all.

Lots of people made nice comments – my mom said, “That was very nice – very intellectual.” She definitely meant it as a compliment, but I think I’m generally thought of as being too intellectual. It is a source of frustration for me that I go into brain mode and get cutoff from my feelings. My dad said it was really great and said,”I learned.” I responded by saying that was the whole reason I did it – because I was trying to teach him something and it was the only way I could get him to listen, which made him laugh.

A coworker/important friend/previous YW leader with me said she was very proud of me, and hugged me, and was looking at me in this different way, which made me uncomfortable. I sort of edged away and told her to stop looking at me like that – handling compliments with grace as usual. One of my more endearing qualities. Another woman also said she had never “thought through things that in-depth” before – another intellectual type comment, but very nice. It seems I always get that when I speak. I remember in my first talk in that Ward, maybe age 15, I said that the very first verse of the Book of Mormon contained a “plethora of principles,” trying to make the point that there is no shortage of learning to be had from the scriptures. (I thought it was a good idea to use the thesaurus to amp up my talks). Boy did I get comments about that – people talking about needing a dictionary, etc. I think I used the term “cornucopia” in a talk once too, with similar reactions for years after. My former YW President also made a comment about how surprised she was, “Where did that come from?!” Not in a very negative way, she just knows my history, sort of, and I’m not generally thought of as the testimony bearing type.

Afterwards my friend asked me if I was coming to Sunday School and I of course said no, that I hadn’t even been in a church building for a month and that I had way exceeded my spiritual quota for the day. So after the meeting I went back to my parents’ house to start my laundry where they were all getting ready to leave for Lake Powell. I hung out with them until they left but when I didn’t have anything to do I ended up going BACK to church for Relief Society. A seriously strange day.

It’s kind of a relief and I’m mostly pleased with it – but seriously, where did that come from?