A friend agreed to take on a new project, and told me that, just after her acceptance of the commitment, she felt God say to her “Did you think to ask Me?” A few days later, she realized this responsibility was really too much at the time, and she had to back out. That little story has stayed with me, for two reasons. The obvious one, perhaps, is that I should be in conscious contact with God throughout the day and confer with Him often about decisions. I should seek to know and do His will.
But the second reason is perhaps more powerful: He cares. He wants me to talk things over with Him. He desires to be involved in the details of my life. He is willing to save me from unnecessary trouble or suffering. He wants to be my life-coach.
Brigham Young taught “There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God’s people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him his will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 32). That is both frightening and sad. What am I missing out on, because I don’t receive all that God is willing to give? What unnecessary mistakes do I make? What glorious experiences do I miss? I’m grateful that President Nelson is urging us to “stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation. …Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know!”[i]
The Principle in Practice
What does this look like? As with many gospel principles, it is through small means that great things are brought to pass. We can take small steps to increase our awareness of spiritual sensitivity. Like Joseph Smith, we can simply begin with a question. What is puzzling right now? Where do we feel uncertainty or confusion? What feels uncomfortable? Rather that setting these feelings aside, we can take them to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help us and teach us. His answers often take us in unexpected directions, so it’s critical that we come to Him with real intent, in good faith, willing to act on His answers.
When one of my daughters was a teenager, we were going through a rough time. She was consistently rude to her sisters and to me. After one argument that escalated, I was furious at her treatment of me. She was in her room behind a closed door, and I went to my computer to calm down and focus on something else. My email included an invitation to a summer program for high school students at BYU. The thought flashed into my mind that I should offer this opportunity to my daughter. I immediately dismissed that generous impulse, running through my mind all the reasons that she did not deserve it—there would be the cost of the flight from Michigan to Utah, in addition to the program itself, and it felt like rewarding her for terrible behavior! But the thought persisted, in the way those thoughts do that come from the Spirit, and I asked Heavenly Father if that was what I was supposed to do. I felt a little spiritual nudge that was slight but unmistakable, so I went to her closed door. The conversation went something like this:
“Do you want to go to the Summer Scholars program at BYU this summer? It has an intensive writing course.”
Angrily: “I guess so.”
“Fine. I’ll register you.”
We both felt sulky about it. I certainly did. I’m sure the other children in our family wondered what was going on and why she was getting a trip to Utah. But that summer was a turning point. It gave her a taste of something she wanted, and she began to talk about applying to BYU. She met her future best friend and roommate. She spent time with her cousins, and she seemed to come home more grounded in herself. We still had a rocky final year of high school. But that experience did something important, and it came from God in an unexpected moment, in an unexpected way, in answer to many previous pleadings. By the way, this daughter and I have a splendid relationship today.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help!
Recently I had a powerful learning experience during the Sacrament. I came to church feeling deep shame from an event that occurred a few days before. I had been trying to shake it by processing the event logically, but emotion overrides logic, and I was still mired in shameful feelings. While the Sacrament was being passed, I begged Heavenly Father to help me. I asked what I should be doing to change the way I was feeling. The answer was immediate. He told me I needed to listen to His voice, not to others. He told me to learn what He thinks of me, first thing in the morning. And then, even more specifically (and showing that He knows me) He said to do that before I get onto Facebook or email or anything else.
Of course, that message didn’t come in the words I just fumbled to use. But the intent was clear. The next morning, I listened to a conference talk and read the Book of Mormon before I got out of bed. For a few days I read talks from the Women’s Session of Conference and studied the chapters for Come Follow Me. Then I started to search for specific topics in conference talks: The Holy Ghost, grace, testimony and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I prayed that I would have my understanding increase of how God sees me. I did all of this each morning before I got out of bed, before I talked to anyone, before I did anything—including that quick glance at email or Facebook. The shame slipped away and during one sacred moment of communication, I realized God doesn’t just love me, He trusts me. I began to see evidence of that more and more.
Conscious, Constant Contact
The Lord invited me to spend time with Him when I woke up in the morning, but He wants more of me than just 20 minutes before the day starts. He is willing to communicate with me throughout the day, when I’m driving, teaching, or folding laundry. As I listen to a friend pour out her heart, He will respond to my quick prayer for guidance and give me words beyond my limited wisdom. If I ask for the opportunity to serve Him, He will prompt me to know the person who needs a call, text, or visit. I can check in through the day, and even if I’m not given instruction, I can bask in the joy of His company.
As I check in, I become more grounded in myself, as well as my
relationship with God. In a world that only gives me distortions, He reflects
back to me my true self. Of all the things my Father in Heaven wants me to
know, seeing myself as I really am is one of the most precious.
[i] Nelson, R. M. (2018, April). Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives. Retrieved from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/revelation-for-the-church-revelation-for-our-lives?lang=eng.