How Can I Become Closer to the Lord?
by Truman G. Madsen
Let Him magnify you in all the rounds and corners of your days and nights.
One of my most exciting possessions as a child was a magnifying glass. Things thus “enlarged,” like the pores of my skin, seemed novel. I learned eventually something almost magical. By holding the glass in a perfect relation to the Sun, the rays were concentrated and became light-heat. A rock or a piece of steel turned hot under its power. The focused light would burn a hole in, or leave its mark on, everything, with a penetration “sharper than a two-edged sword.”
Jesus the Christ is not to be compared to anything inanimate. Yet He is a living magnifier. He is Light and Love personified. He became that through experiences that exactly parallel our own, in this world, on these rugged continents, between these raging oceans. He now enables us to unlock, yes, and receive, yes, and focus the light within and without until we burn under Divine fire.
Note that His power, instead of being “limited” by His embodiment (a view of God held by thinkers as varied as Billy Graham and Reinhold Niebuhr), was vastly enhanced by it. He came in to the world not, as the creeds have it, simply to establish kinship with us. That was profoundly achieved long before mortality. But to achieve kinship–for Himself and us-with the Father who is Himself an embodied “Father of lights.” Through the mortal process every organ and attribute of His were filled with light until capable of the most magnified life. Today no mortal can endure that presence except quickened by the Spirit of God.
That, as a starting point, leads to several wondrous inversions of our notion of spirituality.
It means communion with Christ comes not through withdrawal from the world, but through entering all of it with Him.
It means fellowship with Christ is not a straightjacket that snuffs out life. It is just the opposite. It is finding, or infusing, His light into all dimensions.
It means that “inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.” To be in Him is to put eternal bloom in every satisfaction. Without Him things turn to ashes.
When we cannot comprehend, we cannot endure Him, and when we cannot endure His presence, we cannot enjoy. To be fully alive to Christ is to be fully alive to the light in every form of life-and that is abundance. Less than that is a kind of dying.
We are, in a word, magnified as we cease to think of “the Spirit” as unrelated to Christ, and as we cease to think of Christ as separate from life.
Now in your official roles, when teaching, praying, blessing, administering, counseling, baptizing, studying, fasting, the sense of the Master’s nearness is obvious.
But my suggestion, what I yearn to stress here, is that when you permit Him into other aspects of life in all contrasts, you will the more increase in your power.
Here are some illustrations. We find Him and receive Him:
In whole laughter. We have sat at the dinner table and recounted our adventures and minor missionary disasters with mirth. Eyes glisten with glad humor. Do I err when I saw I believe with all of me that Christ is gifted (as how else could we of His family be?) with a most luxurious sense of humor? Being willing to laugh at oneself, especially at what is fake and foolish, is often the beginning of growth in spiritual sensitivity. Sometimes things only stop hurting when you laugh whole-souled laughter.
In practical drudgery. From pin-point planning, to shirt-washing, to getting the car lubed. What work isn’t the Lord’s work? Anyone who draws the false line (false because there isn’t one) between sacred and secular, between spiritual and temporal, misses many of the meeting points with Christ. Wilford Woodruff, hoe in hand, felt just as much consecrated as with the Book of Mormon. Sweat is as real a token of love as is the sound of a choir. He put His own sandals to the dust, didn’t He? Draw Him in to the heat of the day.
Strangely, I have learned that, contrary to every expectation, the more involved I am in the work of the kingdom, the lighter the load. Exhaustion does not come from involvement, but from the ceaseless throb of nervous shirking, the emotional strains of the slacker. Conscience-which is the light of Christ-knows what is good for me: Work. And work with Him is energizing instead of enervating.
In dark problems of misunderstanding and friction. Viewing all personal relations as His, I find, relieves me of a hundred kinds of anxiety: of tenderized toes, and a lot of defensive ego-armor. He, as peacemaker, is mighty in the long run, loses no battles that matter, and wins the prizes the war would have destroyed. Thus, when I am with you, I see you as His. I recognize that you have been under His care over a time-span that is beyond me. He breaks down the communication barriers. His handiwork in us is visible.
In pain. There are many kinds. Not all yield to drugs. Draw Him in. You will suppose I mean that when the torments pass you then utter released gratitude. I mean more. Unless He is at the beginning and the end, light neither enters or results. The suffering of the saints, it is clear from modern events, is a baptismal font filled with His promises of refinement “if thou endure it well.” What is the way to endure it well? With Him.
I once lay on a floor, battered and writhing, with what the doctors called a bone-nerve impingement. The condition worsened after two years during which 30 aspirins a day hadn’t helped much. They tried codeine, and I writhed, protesting and demanding, “Why?” and feeling all the things; you ask when it is dark. “Am I unworthy?” What is the cause of this?” I learned, amidst much else, that there is no salvation in assigning causes, or pigeon-holing. There is salvation in taking Him as the only answer to “where now?’ In the world ye shall have tribulation (even if you are healed of this or that). But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” What difference did that make to me? None. Until I began to endure with light.
In analytical and creative thought. Mind is lazier than body. Yet across the papers on my desk, or through the computer behind me, or out of the planning session that now envelops me, there may fall a light that makes all else shadow. It happens. “The light which shineth,” Joseph wrote while surrounded by it, “is through Him that enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.”
“Quickeneth” has at least a trio of meanings-He hastens, He permeates, He enlivens understanding.
Such moments, or blessedly, hours, when the mind flies through relationships, concepts, images, presentiments, memories in a bundle that is not a jumble, but a meaningful spread of truth, are joyous.
His intelligence, “more than they all,” is so phenomenal, I witness, that no combination of Aristotles, Euclids and Einsteins could get more than a dummy-score by comparison. All their vaunted genius would only equal babes playing with blocks. Under Him, one can think about and think through all things. And “their understanding shall reach to heaven” and they shall know the “secrets of His will.”
In rest and sleep, and the casual letting go. “Do you pray,” Brigham asks, “that your sleep may be invigorating?” I know some choice spirits who seem to sleep in heaven. Such a condition has been hard for me. I am a man of recurrent nightmares, a sleep-walker who has more than once fallen down the stairs, who believed in goblins in my childhood. But the fear of night has faded into nothingness along with a whole bag of delusions. There is a spirit-to-Spirit communion in sleep that is more nourishing than a testimony meeting. And it distills as the dew. Someone knew when he wrote, “Oh Savior, stay this night with me.”
We could go on with examples.
Let me draw it all together in what, for me, is the lodestone.
The imaginative return to the Temples of Christ
“God will fill them with power” said the Prophet of modern Temples. Then he prayed that all who entered would be “constrained to acknowledge that is thy house, a place of thy holiness.”
It is a short mental journey to those precincts, however little has entered the soul. Therein are ordained and presented the keys of the most sublime communion with Him, as President McKay once said, “the step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence.”
I am certain that anyone who stands straight in the House of the Lord and sees through, not just to, the symbols of its glorious Master, will be tuned to sounds both in his interior self and in the Christ who thus draws near. I am certain that thus one reaches for “the fulness of the Holy Ghost” and tastes what it means to “grow up” in Christ.
You will say that I am again advocating withdrawal from the world.
No. Just the contrary. I wish you could recover a day (recorded in many journals) in the Nauvoo Temple. They painted and scrubbed the walls. They gathered with their wives for a prayer circle. They partook together of the sacrament. Spiritual gifts followed. Dreams and tongues were interpreted, prophecies were given in power, visions were witnessed by many, lame and sick ones healed. The full ordinances of the Temple were administered, ordinances which touch on all aspects of the whole man. Instruction was given on the principles of resurrection.
Children were blessed. Then, in the upper room, there was a feast of cakes, raisins, pies. Then all together joined in music and dancing until near Midnight. And by this, one writes, “our joy was increased.”
What? Even feasting and dancing in the House of the Lord? That is just the point. We go through the Temple of Christ, that His power may go through us, and thus accompany us in every role of life.
Would you magnify His priesthood? Then let Him magnify you in all the rounds and corners of your days and nights. That is the consciousness of Christ.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.