Sunday, June 05, 2011

saul, paul, and me

one of the most notable characteristics of the lds church is that of personal revelation: of receiving divine guidance in response to questions and choices in my own life.

i really started to learn about this as a missionary.  my branch president in the mtc gave us a lesson on the different ways that we receive revelation with more clarity and reality than i have ever heard before or since.  it drastically altered the way i tried to live each day, and as we would learn more about following those spiritual promptings and impressions during training meetings in japan, i tried to apply that into my life.

like most determined returned missionary byu freshman, i worked to live my life in accordance with the Spirit.  i prayed about things.  i studied them out in my mind.  i went to God in humble prayer for guidance on all manner of decisions, choices, and paths.  i waited.  i listened for what i should do, looked for answers and signs.

and i think i did alright at it.  i remember my mission president telling me something during my final interview with him.  he asked what i'd learned most during my time as a missionary and i replied that i learned about the guidance that comes from the gift of the Holy Ghost.  he compared it to a fiber optic cable, saying that people could look at it and think, "oh, there's light," not realizing that in that light is information.  likewise, he said, the feeling of the Spirit isn't just to give us a warm fuzzy feeling, it's to teach us something.
then he told me something that has echoed with me in all the years since.  "there are some decisions in our lives that the Lord feels very strongly about," he said.  "and there are other things that He says, 'you decide.'  and those decisions," he wisely noted, "can be maddening."

sincerely wanting to following Heavenly Father in all things, it can be very easy to sit, at your bedside or simply in your life, and wait for the correct answer.  we want to do what is right and we don't want to make a choice that is displeasing to God, and so we don't move until we see it (to borrow a line from searching for bobby fischer.)

i've thought about saul.  he persecuted the heck out of the members of the church of Jesus Christ of former-day saints.  he was an absolute terror to them.  and, if i'm not mistaken, he believed he was doing God's work.  then, on his way to damascus one day, he had a vision from God.  his heart was changed, he was baptized, and he became one of the greatest special witnesses of the Savior to ever walk the earth.

he wasn't sitting around his home when the vision came to him.  he was out there, going in a direction and moving with all his might.  yes, he was certainly going in the wrong direction, but he had a goal and was at it with inertia.  when a moving ball bounces up against a wall, it will go in a new direction with (about) as much force as it carried in its initial direction.  a ball that is hardly moving at all won't show much of a change if it bumps against the same wall.

as i've sat in spots in my life, totally willing to do whatever God wanted me to do, just straining hear what He would tell me, i started to think about this.
"for behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.  verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;" (d&c 58:26-27)

i don't remember praying a lot about coming to a&m.  i knew i needed to find a career that would allow me to support and family and still creating amazing art for all the world to behold and this computer animation thing sounded like a good choice.  i don't think God has decreed that unless i am a computer lighting artist that i will be damned and go to hell.  i do think He knows me pretty well and would agree that i'd probably enjoy this more than i would selling insurance policies, and He will direct me to those things which will bring greatest happiness.  but for so many choices, there are plenty of great options and it's our choice.

becoming like God requires we learn to follow Him in all things, but using our gift of agency also means taking the scary risk of making choices for ourselves.  even if we make the wrong choice, He'll nudge us to the right one.  i've seen this in my own life.  but we won't see that until after we make the choice.

personally, i sometimes wonder if i've gone too far in that direction and i'm trying to counsel with the Lord a little more these days.
i'll get it right, someday.


Em said...

Pretty sure that once you "get it right" you're done and you die. So no rush, but do move in the right direction if you can.

The Former 786 said...

I really like that fiber optic cable simile. I may use that in an upcoming lesson. Cool?