Feelin’ the Love

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 enemiesto 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.

Deep Waters

Continuing my hymn-oriented gospel studying….I was reading through How Firm a Foundation yesterday and about some of the history behind it. The song is structured so that the first verse sets up the foundation on which we should build (God’s word) and then the subsequent verses all come from various promises in the bible (third verse – Isaiah 41:10, seventh verse – Hebrews 13:5, etc.). But the one that I spent the most time on was verse four*:

Opposition in all things, the value of trials being greater than that of goldthe refiners fire, glorying in tribulation…I’ve heard all of these phrases over and over of course, but I’m not terribly good at remembering that all these things will give me experience and be for my good in the middle of “these things”. Most people aren’t of course.

The perspective I am gaining on the past, however, is allowing me to appreciate the value of problems that have passed. I was talking with my aunt a few days ago and we both mentioned some of the darkest periods of our lives and how, despite the utter misery we felt, neither of us would go back and change what happened. It is a little bit crazy not to want to avoid life-derailing despair, but for my part I can’t seem to be okay with losing everything I felt and learned.

It’s pretty easy to feel that way when the good experiences seem to be in the present and future and the worst experiences in the past, but I believe that  “to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth.

I wouldn’t consider my experience with Depression sacred or spiritual in any sense as my attempts to find a religious lifeline resulted in anger, frustration, and a feelings of being forgotten or unworthy or even valueless. I can’t really identify what pieces of the experience allowed me to arrive where I am now, but because of it I believe the promise of the fourth verse. I’m grateful for the sanctification I’ve received from my deepest distress.

*Verse four is added as one of those supplemental verses at the bottom of hymns that we never actually sing, despite the fact that most hymns include four verses as the “regulars”, and it’s a shame. This is one of the many changes I would like to propose for the next edition of the hymn book. 

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!

Because I Have Been Given Much

I was surprised and interested to find that Because I Have Been Given Much is listed in the Topical Guide of the hymn book under Missionary Work, but I suppose it’s the third verse, “I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word,” which relates. One of the listed scriptures was Jacob 2:17, “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance,” which caused me to think about what “substance” I can impart in a helpful way. I certainly won’t be going on a mission, but I think I can share experiences with other people that might be helpful, especially by thinking of ways others might be “like unto” me, as it says, in having similar struggles.

I have by no means arrived when it comes to the gospel or a testimony, but the fact that I’ve worked through some things somewhat, including the spiritually-destructive effects of depression, might mean there are words which Jesus would have me speak or some wandr’er whom I should seek. Even if I don’t find ways where I can be of help, reading this was a great reminder of all the people who have treated me “like unto themselves.” I’ve had so many people who have helped mentor me or shared their experiences with the gospel and life in general, and that has made all the difference. I have definitely been given much.

Songs of the Heart

I really believe and am grateful for the fact that God delights in the song of the heart and that the song of the righteous is a prayer unto Him. I don’t really have the prayer thing figured out yet, but I feel a degree of that communion when I sing or listen to hymns and other church music. I can’t express my feelings well in conversation, but I identify with the second verse of There is Sunshine in My Soul Today: There is music in my soul today, a carol to my King, and Jesus listening can hear, the songs I cannot sing.

I’m no poetry expert but I think the language in the hymns is incredibly poetic. Phrases like truth’s sublime effulgent rays or my friendship’s utmost zeal to try or the dove of peace sings in my heart – and I could go on and on and on – are just so eloquent and expressive how I think or feel.

When I read or sing the hymns I am able to express my most heartfelt beliefs and desires, my feelings about the gospel, my gratitude for friends and family, etc. and I know that God hears those expressions directly, without any of the limitations of my mental or verbal communication.

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?