Sunday, November 05, 2006

Testimony Sunday

Was that it? The odd sensation I had just experienced somewhere deep in my chest seemed like it could be characterized as a “burning in the bosom” but it could just as easily have been some odd physiologic sensation I had only noticed because of my intense personal awareness at the moment I was looking for a sign from God.

Really, that’s been the problem with personal revelation from the beginning—the vagueness. It’s described in a way that seems to require certitude as the defining characteristic. But when I try to wrestle with life’s problems, I often find very little that is so distinct.

I’m in the habit of attributing such spiritual communication failings to myself. After all, if one is unworthy of the spirit, one should not be surprised that He fails to imprint God’s truth with searing absoluteness in the heart at a moment’s notice. And I have never been wholly satisfied with my worthiness. That’s not to say that I haven’t been a good person. But I’ve never felt myself to be “godly” and part of me feels, however wrongly, that that’s a prerequisite for really being on chatty terms with God.

God is in the habit of talking with sinners, though, and I’m sure he recognizes far better than I do the paradox of withholding His help from those who are unworthy of it when it is His help that they need to increase their worthiness.

So I pray and I try to listen even when the answers are uncertain. I act on the answers I think I’ve received, and I think I may well have been mistaken at times. I chose my career based on such an answer. I married my wife based on such an answer. In retrospect it’s hard to imagine the borderline insanity necessary to make such huge decisions based on something so nebulous. But it wasn’t really based only on the answers I believe I received to my prayers, it was also based on a lot of critical thought and carefully measured introspection—logic trumping gut instinct as it so often does when I appraise my life’s situation.

The problem with logic over the certainty that the Spirit can and does offer at times is exactly that—logical conclusions are always provisional, never certain, subject to perpetual review and can never really be certain as long as the data they are based on is never fully collected. As new information becomes available, the equations change, the suppositions morph, and the whole system of assumptions and conclusions is adjusted by levers and gears that are inseparably connected.

Such gears and levers have disturbed my peace many times over the years. When I’ve been confronted with some surprising fact or historical bit about the church or a church leader, I’ve been so sadly resigned to be an over-worked maintenance man on the whole mechanical system that my faith and world view have been.

But I’ve realized over the years that such maintenance is only appropriate if it does not seek to replace faith. There is a balance between faith and evidence both spiritual and intellectual. The evidence presents itself, but the faith is a choice. And I do choose to have faith in the things of which knowledge is unattainable through empiric means but that extend from everything desirable and wholesome I’ve encountered in my life.

The good that I find in my concept of God and the promises made to those of many faiths who seek to follow Him, all speak to a transcendent reality—a state of purposefulness and significance of the universe that has as its origin something other-worldy. I’ve watched for those people who have the most significant scent of wholesome other-worldliness on them, and I find they are my parents, my prophets, and good men of every faith who strive to do what God has variously revealed. God’s plan, his devices, his manner of interacting with mankind, has been curious over the history of the world. Odd, regardless of the religious tradition.

I was delighted to learn that he speaks with prophets and that these men and women with first-hand knowledge of God share the light and truth they know. They often demonstrate what kind of lives we can have when we partake completely of that other-worldliness. And that I see and appreciate with a clarity that is undeniable. In this I have achieved my certitude, my absolute confidence beyond logic. When I see the good and beautiful lives and deeds of those who know God intimately, I’m uplifted and inspired. And while there are faults and errors on occasion, the overall quiet peculiarity is pervasive and sound.

That realization, over the years, has “converted” me. It’s why I believe the church to be true and why I know there is truth outside the church. It’s why I try every day to change myself into the divine creature God intends me to be. Because only I can create my will to be like God’s will. Only I can work within myself to bring about an acceptance of God’s love and help. Then I can fully accept a changed heart and spirit as God’s willing gift to his imperfect child. I’ve seen the successes of those who accept God, and the truth of that is undeniable. Like a Gift of the Spirit, to believe on the testimonies of those that know, I have a transcendent certainty that can’t be shaken. And I’m grateful for it.


Master Fob said...

I like this post. That's all I have to say.

John Galt said...

Thoughts: 1. I agree the "feeling" can be nebulous and questionable. I find though that while I'm actually in the moment of feeling it, it's unquestionable. I think to myself "how could I ever deny this?" But only later, when the brightness has faded, do I allow myself to wonder and wander. For me, the Spirit almost always feels the same, so it has been easier to identify, almost like a science project. When I do A, I feel B. There is an exactitude there that cannot be forged. That is a witness. I actually wrote a post on this last night so I won't waste your space here but to me the action-reaction relationship between my actions & this warm fuzzy feeling is almost exact to a science. When I'm in the temple (it has been a long time), when I read the scriptures, after I go hometeaching, when I meet a General Authority. None of those situations are seeking for a sign... they are simply a natural beautiful physical reaction to the presence of the Spirit. I think it is more obvious for me now because I've been to the darkside and back, therefore the light feels brighter now... like walking into the glaring daylight after too long in a dark room. 2. One of the gifts of the Spirit is the "discerning of Spirits," the ability to KNOW when what you're feeling IS the Spirit. Another gift is to KNOW that Jesus is Christ, through the Holy Ghost. Some are only given the gift to "believe on their words" without knowing themselves. "For all have not every gift. To some is given one and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby." That's why it's so nebulous. Because we're not all playing with a full set of cards. Each hand is different. And for some reason our deck is stacked for our own reasons, to ultimately shape us into the Gods that we are foreordained to become. Having said that, I do believe that we can pray for certain gifts of the Spirit, specifically. We're entitled to them through the Gift of the Holy Ghost which we have. For myself, believing has not been a question. I've never had to ask. It has always been there. For me, DOING it is where the test has become bitterly rough. I know others who once they found and accepted the gospel, doing it was almost natural and easy for them. They only needed to find it... believing it was their struggle. 3. I feel the same about the general authorities. When I was lost, Elder Holland came to the city and I met him and it was the most powerful remembrence of my own soul, my duty and my sin. I think it truly shocked me into working my way back. These men are marvelous works of God.

Thanks for making me think today. This week is important for me. I'm determined to change things. I love you.

Samantha said...

I'm with MF on this--that's all I have to say.

Except, I agree with JG, on that last thing--I love you, too.

-L- said...

MF, I kind of hate this post. I mean, I like the ideas, but it is really poorly written. Oh well, I go with my typical M.O., which is to publish often, if not well. ;-)

JG, I love you too. I wanted to write more about some of the things you discussed, but decided to keep it for another post. I have had experiences of undeniable clarity in which I know the church is true, the BOM is true, the plan of salvation is true. The most powerful ones were on my mission, not surprisingly (as that was the time in my life I was most in tune with the spirit and the most worthy).

Sam, thanks for your support. This almost makes up for calling me -L-azy.