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.
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 gold, the 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.
Continuing my reading/studying of hymns….I discovered that more hymns start with the word ‘Come’ than any other word. There are 23 hymns which begin with ‘Come’, and hymns starting with the word ‘God’ are next at 15. I don’t necessarily believe there’s a lot of significance to the first word of a hymn, the people on the church music committee who made the hymn selections had lots of factors they were considering, and I’m sure there were more important spiritual influences at work, or maybe all these ‘Come’ hymns just sounded nice. Who knows. But I do think it’s interesting
The second verse of Come, Follow Me specifically talks about the word ‘Come’ – Come follow me, a simple phrase, yet truth’s sublime, effulgent rays, are in these simple words combined. To urge inspire the human mind.
First of all you’ve got to love any hymn that uses the word ‘effulgent’. Second, to think that sublime rays of truth are contained in a phrase that we hear all the time is interesting. But that’s really what it’s all about. We are constantly coming to Christ, there is never an arrival point, we can’t come far enough…more coming is always required.
References to knocking at doors are used in the scriptures, wherein Christ is the knocker, I stand and knock, and He is seemingly coming to us, as well as references where we are the knockers, knock and it shall be opened unto you. But in either case, a degree of coming to Christ is required of us, whether it’s knocking or coming to open the door.
For my own part, I think I’ve been willing to follow and come to a point, but there are lines I hadn’t crossed. If there’s anything I’ve come to believe over the last few months it is that faith isn’t faith if it’s easy, and if it doesn’t include a little bit of stretching. Continuing to come, despite not knowing or feeling or wholly believing, is what faith looks like for me, and it’s been unbelievably rewarding.
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!