Editor’s Note: New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre join forces with their daughter Saydi (an “in the trenches” mother of four young children) to produce this series on the why-tos and the how-tos of receiving the Direct-Stewardship inspiration, guidance, and revelation we need to create strong and righteous families in this difficult world. This is article 7 in a multi-part weekly series which will run here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1, here to read article 2, here to read article 3, here to read article 4, here to read article 5, and here to read article 6).
In today’s turbulent world, and with the challenge of home centered Gospel teaching, parents and grandparents need personal family revelation more than ever before. And since every home situation is unique, this is not a series on what to do generally—it is on how to get divine answers for your family specifically. The series continues today in the midst of the current Pandemic, with the thought that we may all have more need for Family Revelation now than ever before. You will find Sayid’s comments here in blue.
Adopting Practices that Drive out Fear and Guilt and Draw in Confidence and Faith as We Tune our Spirits to God’s Frequency
If, as the first six articles of this series indicate, family revelation is as accessible to us and available in so many ways, and if, as Elder McConkie taught, God is broadcasting revelation all the time for us to tune in to, then why don’t more of us receive it more regularly and more consistently?
The answer, in a word, is Adversity. Adversity means essentially “things that work against us.” And when it comes to receiving revelation, there are a lot of things working against us—from the distractions and interruptions and little crises that pop up every day to the guilt and fear and feelings of inadequacy that creep into our lives and suck away the energy we need to seek guidance and inspiration.
What kind of habits and practices can we develop that will get us past these obstacles, rid us of our guilt, and give us confidence in our ability to overcome the forces that work against Family Revelation?
Adversity and the Adversary
And there is a twin word, with just two letters changed: Adversary. It’s not just the world and its cares and distractions that passively pull us away from revelation, it’s also satan himself who actively tries to block us from God and from divine guidance.
One way to think about it is by considering and juxtapositioning these two very similar looking words. They are the same except for the “IT” in one and the “AR” in the other. The IT in adversity could symbolize the obstacles that come from being fallen people living in a fallen world. We learn from King Benjamin that the “natural man is an enemy to God and has been from the beginning.” AdversITy in this mortal life, both in the world around us and the natural man within us is part of God’s plan. IT provides us with the messy, agency-laden playing field on which we can learn and grow and progress toward being more like God.
IT is this carnal and fallen world where we are distracted by so many things, burdened by our own and others’ agency; and prone to compare ourselves with others, to feel guilty about things we have done or things we haven’t done, and often to feel inadequate and fearful. In other words, part of the problem or the obstacles to receiving revelation is in and around us. As the saying goes “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” Pogo in the comic strip by Walt Kelly
But there is another enemy when we change the IT to an AR and get Adversary. And this enemy is far more subversive and sinister than the first one—darker and more dangerous than our own natures. Satan is proactive and hostile to our receiving of revelation and does all he can to prevent it.
Since our clear communication with God concerning our families is so essential, it is one of the Adversary’s prime targets. He wants us to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. He’s happy when we feel guilty for things we have or haven’t done in the past, or like we don’t measure up. He relishes it every time we compare ourselves with others and feel deflated about our well thought out and executed, but seemingly inconsequential efforts. He wants to trick us into thinking that we have to get it all right all of the time. He rejoices when we give up.
Peter warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
(Saydi) As much as I try to avoid it, I’ve found that adversity is just part of God’s plan and when we cling to Jesus and seek to understand and use the enabling power of His atonement, adversity becomes an advantage in our lives. In Isaiah we are promised that Christ will give us “beauty for ashes”, and the “oil of joy for mourning.” Christ can miraculously take the ugliest, most burnt up, mournful and useless parts of our lives, the hardest of our adversities and transform them into something beautiful and joyful. Through the enabling power of the Atonement all adversity can be used for our betterment and joy and ultimately our beauty and wholeness.
However, on the flip side, when we succumb to the powers and deceivings of the Adversary, that same adversity can be the source of our ruin.
If we’re not careful, these two obstacles of Adversity and Adversary can make it seem virtually impossible to become clear enough to seek and receive the Family Revelation we need to raise our children and keep our marriages and families strong.
It seems impossible until we realize that we have both the power and the resources to overcome these obstacles, and until we understand that “they who are with us are more than they who are against us.” (2 Kings, 6:17)
The good news is that we have power over both Adversity and the Adversary. God did not send us here to fail. King Benjamin teaches us that if we “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” we can conquer the natural man and become saints. We have holy and divine DNA in our souls and God has embedded within us the power to turn to Christ and use His healing power to overcome adversity.
And we are told over and over again that we are more powerful than Satan. Elder Faust says “We need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm, he will retreat.” The Apostle James counseled: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7).
Elder Faust goes on to teach that it is through revelation that we can have power over Satan: “There is an ample shield against the power of Lucifer and his hosts. This protection lies in the spirit of discernment through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift comes undeviatingly by personal revelation to those who strive to obey the commandments of the Lord and to follow the counsel of the living prophets.”
Elder Holland teaches us that we have more power than the adversary when it comes to seeking the power of revelation in our lives: “Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and that you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary does not have power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dodge our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. ‘Exerting all our powers to call upon God,’ the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will again be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea, your Red Seas, by the spirit of revelation.” Jeffrey R. Holland – Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence, BYUDA 3/99
As we examine these obstacles that can block revelation, we find that many of them are a combination of adversity and the adversary. They are things that happen to us or enter into us partly because of the natural man and the natural world and partly because satan uses them as his tools.
One of the crucial keys to overcoming the obstacles to all the family revelation is that God is ready and eager to give it, not to ignore them or deny them, but to be aware of what they are, what triggers them, where they come from and how we can recognize and get around them. Some of the main obstacles are:
- Failure to Ask
- Misunderstood Agency
- Guilt and Fear
- Comparing and Inadequacy
- Discouragement or Giving Up
- “Business” and trying to do too much
- Mistaking the urgent for the important
- “Static” and Distraction
In this article, we will begin to explore these obstacles, what they are, where they come from and how and why they make it hard for us to connect to Heavenly help. We’ll then explore the practices, personal qualities and regular spiritual rituals that we can adopt to help us to have souls that can more easily tune into God and open the door wide to Family Revelation.
Since we are all so unique with such singular situations we all will identify with different obstacles and different solutions. And of course, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list.
What we will find is that we overcome these obstacles not so much by removing them, but by building our own immunity to them by clearing our hearts and minds and tuning our spirits so that they can receive Family Revelation despite the static and opposition—despite the adversity and the adversary.
Today’s article is about the obstacles that block revelation and next Tuesday’s article will be about how to either clear them aside or immunize ourselves against them.
Obstacle One: Misusing Agency, and Not Asking
With all those ominous and glaring obstacles, like guilt and fear and discouragement you may be surprised to realize that the biggest obstacle to receiving Family Revelation is the most basic and subtle one: Simply failing to ask. When we fail to make positive use of our agency by asking, our chance for Family Revelation is doomed. even before we get to the adversity and the adversary.
We live in a world that holds independence up as a virtue and a goal—which conditions us into thinking of needing help as a weakness. And we get so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t take the time. And so we don’t ask. And so we don’t receive.
Trying to “go it alone” is generally a mistake in most matters, but nowhere more-so than in the matter of raising of our children and the strengthening of our marriages. A positive can-do attitude doesn’t get us very far in something as complex and complicated as raising unique and strong-willed children in a world that seems to work against their becoming what we wish them to be. What we need is a “positive can’t-do attitude” where we recognize our need for help and grasp the power of asking for it.
We need to understand the power of our applied agency and the promise Christ gives “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” James 4:8 But we also need to understand that without the asking, there is no power. Without our unlocking the door, in respect of our agency, He cannot come in. Once we unlock our door by faith and hope, He can not only knock, but press gently on the door as a further invitation for us to open it by seeking and asking.
Agency and Joy
When God says “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you,” He is not playing some demanding game where we are forced to take the initiative, He is pleading with us to open the door, to unlock the access to His Spirit, to permit Him to give us all that He wants to give without violating our agency or superseding the very power of choice and responsibility that makes mortality work and allows us to “work out our own Salvation.”
In this universe where God owns all, and we are mere stewards, there is only one thing that we actually own, and that is our agency which He has given us and which He will never take away—and which no one else can take away. This is the core point of Victor Frankel’s classic book Man’s Search for Meaning where he relates that even as a Jew being subjected to medical experiments in Hitler’s concentration camps, he still had the agency or the power to choose how he would react, how he would respond—whether he would hate or love, whether he would condemn or forgive.
We know that agency began in the pre-mortal world where we chose it even though we were fully aware of its risks. We know few specifics about that phase of eternity, but scripture does tell us that we “shouted for joy” at the prospect of earth and mortality.
We have wondered if, after the initial elation of hearing about this adventuresome mortality, there may have been a letdown or discouragement as we understood that it was an adventure from which none of us could return, because we would all sin and fall short, and “no unclean thing can enter into the presence of God.”
But then our Eldest Brother, by the incomprehensible power of His perfection, offered to ransom Himself for our sins, and perhaps it was at that moment, realizing that we could experience mortality and return, that we shouted for joy. It was at that moment that we understood that we could have this learning, empowering, earth life, have the god-like mortal roles of parents, make the mistakes that all mortals would make, and yet, miraculously, because of Christ’s offered atonement, still return to our Heavenly Parents after it was over.
So now, here we are, right in the middle of this muddled, messy, maddening mortality, facing opposition and family challenges that none of us are equal to, but with faith that there is help that is divine, and that we can actually give our agency to God through the promises and commitments of His Covenant Path. We remind ourselves that He has not only paid for our sins, but for our mistakes—as parents, as siblings, as uncles and aunts—and that if we can ask the right questions, we will get the right answers, and receive the help we need not only to return, but to return with those we love most.
President Marion G. Romney explained,
“I believe that, notwithstanding the fact the spirits of men, as an incident to mortality, are deprived of memory and cast out of the presence of God, there still persists in the spirit of every human soul a residuum from his pre-existent spiritual life which instinctively responds to the voice of the Spirit until and unless it is inhibited by the free agency of the individual.” [Marion G. Romney, “Revelation,” address to seminary and institute faculty, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 8 July 1960, pp. 6–7]
When we learn to use our agency, the one thing that we own, to unlock rather than block the channel, we can receive the personal revelation that can save us and our families.
As Elder Boyd K Packer said,
“You have your agency, and inspiration does not—perhaps cannot—flow unless you ask for it, or someone asks for you.” Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” Ensign, November 1994, 59
Not asking is the biggest block or obstacle to opening the door, and to windows of heaven and bringing joy to our families.
Obstacle Two: Guilt, Shame, and Fear
(Saydi) In the midst of juggling family life, Church callings and professional, personal and spiritual pursuits, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and to feel a hefty amount of guilt or shame for the things we have done, the things we have not done, the things we should have done better, the things we didn’t realize in the moment, the limited vision we had. We live in a fallen world, it is part of the plan for us to make mistakes. These very mistakes are what make it so critical to tune into God, to be close to Him, to access Family Revelation and make use of the Power of Christ’s atonement.
The Adversary’s purposes thrive on us feeling shame and guilt. He wants us to feel like we just don’t measure up, like we’re unworthy of God’s guidance. He wants us to feel out of step with God, to take us out of God’s frequency to a place where we feel alone with our own meager efforts that don’t match up to the tasks of raising God’s children.
Of course, there is a place for guilt, for properly placed guilt that pushes us towards repentance and progression. But misplaced guilt and feelings of inadequacy and shame distance us from God.
Guilt is one of Satan’s favorite tools, because it becomes progressive. Once we say things like, I shouldn’t have done this, or I should have done that, or why can’t my family be like that family or my marriage like that marriage, or I’ve already blown it—Satan has an easier time telling us Yep, you’re already a failure, so why even try. And when we find ourselves in that cycle, flailing and feeling inadequate, the channels of revelation are muddled. We lose faith in our own ability to open the door, or in God’s willingness to walk in.
Whenever we feel guilt (and also whenever we feel pride) concerning our children or our parenting, we have a mistaken notion of control. We miss the fact that we do not have control of who our children are. We try to influence them for good and teach them truth, but ultimately they are not within our control, and never have been.
The lesson is that, with our knowledge of the premortal life and the eternal nature of the soul,, we should never judge ourselves or another parent by how well a child is doing. If they are doing well we should not be proud of our efforts, if they are doing poorly we should not feel guilt.
Instead, we have to remind ourselves (over and over again) that we are not perfect. We usually do the best we can with what we know at the time and with the unique and particular challenges and opportunities we have been given through the families we have and the children that have been sent to us.
These souls come to us as who they are. It is our to job seek God’s help as we do our best to help them become who He knows them to be.
We need to face that challenge with confidence and faith, not guilt and fear. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God hath not given the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
We need to trust God, trust where He has placed us and what He has given us, both in terms of our blessings and our challenges, and our children which are a combination of the two. And we need to trust that, because of the stewardships He has given us, He will also give us the personal, stewardship revelation that will help us do the best we can with what we have.
So, again, make your reading and your pondering a guilt free zone. Consider ideas without the burden or the guilt of thinking you have to bring them all to life in your families. Read with the perspective that we are all different, that some things may apply and be within your bandwidth, some may fit nicely into your unique situation, but many may not and that’s OK. In fact, that is exactly as it should be.
As you cast out guilt, you will find that you are also getting rid of a lot of fear; and fear, like guild and doubt, are tools of the adversary and need to be recognized as coming from his dark purposes, and then thrown out.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: “In the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. . . . Dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet.” Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,’” Ensign, March 2000, 10
Obstacle Three: Comparing, Inadequacy, and “Perfection”
(Saydi) While raising a family, it is easier today than it ever has been to get caught up in comparison, a major barrier to seeking and receiving revelation. I’ve found that when I compare I am working under the premise that we are all on a level playing field. That we are all handed children and situations and abilities that are equal and comparable. This perspective is contrary to what we learn about the individual and unique nature of our spirits.When we compare our efforts and outcomes to other’s efforts and outcomes we are working under the paradigm that there is one universal answer, removing from the equation God and His ability to reveal unique truths tailored to our family.
On the other hand, when we are in a space where we are recognizing the uniqueness of each families’ experience— then we are more likely to seek individual, tailored revelation.
It is a natural tendency to compare the success of our efforts to those around us, especially given the tight knit community the Church provides. Why don’t our efforts at teaching in the home yield children who have all the Articles of Faith memorized like the Smiths? Why does my son resist coming to church with us while the Walker boys always seem so eager and engaged? Why isn’t our daughter thinking about going on a mission like her best friend is? We’ve tried to do everything right, even better than some of our friends, but our children haven’t embraced the gospel like we hoped they would. Why is my teenager so distant and struggling when I seem to be working harder than some of the other parents I see around me? Why does my marriage seem so much harder to navigate than my sisters’? Why are all my nieces and nephews thriving on their missions while my son is coming home due to anxiety?
In today’s world of social media we are constantly invaded by images of perfection. Photographs (bless them!) block out all the noise and imperfection of a moment and capture a shutter second of beauty. You can’t see in the photo the heartache that people are carrying, you don’t see the few minutes of chaos right before or the tantrums right after. You can’t smell the dirty diaper or hear the crying baby. You can’t feel the stress that might be raging behind that smile, or the tension that might have built up and exploded right after. This is why we should love photographs. They strip life down to the raw beauty of a 1/100th of a second shutter snap. But pictures can become problematic when we take someone else’s perfect second and compare it to the complexity of our entire life.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of Joy.”
And Elder Uchtdorf has said, “We spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.”
(Saydi) Perhaps the biggest danger with getting caught in the “compare snare” is that it can rob us of the drive to seek revelation from God. When we are discouraged and feeling down about our efforts we tend to turn inward instead of upward. There’s a part of us that loses the confidence that fuels our efforts to connect with God for guidance. When we feel deflated in our efforts it’s easy to want to give up the fight since our failures will never match up to people’s best successes, so why even try? In this emotional state, this small inwardly focused and insecure mode, it’s hard for us to attune our souls to God. Our vibration is off and not compatible with the frequency God is broadcasting. In this space it’s hard to hear God, seek His will and see His bigger picture.
When we compare ourselves to others we lose faith that God has a plan for us, that our children were sent to us for reasons, for our specific abilities and talents. We forget that really what our children need and want more than anything is for us to be the full expression of who we are, not who we want to be based on the pictures we’ve seen on Pinterest. Our children don’t care nearly as much about perfection as they do about connection to real, vulnerable, loving parents.
Comparing leads to feelings of inadequacy. I can’t handle this child. Why did I get this one? Why does my family seem so much harder than other families? How am I going to do this? Why isn’t what I do ever enough? Why do I feel that everyone is watching me and judging me?
Comparing also plants ideas in our souls that the goal of this life is to be perfect. The perfect mother, the perfect church member, the perfect friend, a perfect person with the perfect life.
The quest for perfection puts us out of tune with God and his desire for wholeness
As I have said before, we live in a fallen world, yet somehow we still have this paradigm (particularly in the Church) that we should be able to do things perfectly. After all, didn’t Christ tell us to be perfect? The Greek translation of the “perfect” Christ used in this admonition is “whole” or “complete” or “the act of reaching a distant object.” This eternal wholeness is what God wants for us, but not right now, not in this moment, not during mortality. We are here to experience imperfection, opposition, failure, grief. This messiness is part of God’s plan, in fact, it is His plan. We know that a plan void of failure and full of perfection is what Lucifer fought for. We know that God sent us to earth to fail, to fall short, to be mortal, to feel the pains and joys of a fallen world. This is where we learn, this is how we become whole and eventually like our Heavenly Parents.
Aiming for perfection can do the same thing to our progress and ability to receive revelation as does Guilt and Comparison. Since perfection is out of our reach, a quest for it leaves us feeling like we don’t make the cut. Since it’s so unattainable, it can make us feel like giving up. In this space it is hard for us to feel motivated to ask God the right questions or worthy to receive the answers.
The way to access God is to be real, to fail, to fall short. Teddy Roosevelt said: in the battle of life…”.the credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, whose faces are marred with dust and sweat and blood, who try and fall short again and again, who are daring greatly so that their place will never be among the cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
It is in the arena where we get to really know God. It is only through our striving and correcting and repenting and putting our efforts out there that we put our lives in God’s hands and feel the thrill of him working through us.
This whole-hearted way of living is not just good for us, it’s good for our children. When they see us being real, vulnerable, raw and imperfect it gives them courage to dare greatly and put themselves in the arena. It is real life modeling of how to grow and progress that matters to our children.
If we try to approach parenting and marrying with a perfection perspective then we will fail. We will either desperately try in vain to fit our family to meet our own unattainable expectations and ideas about perfection or we will give up entirely.
Revelation comes when we let go of our expectations of perfection and embrace the messy reality of our fallen world. It is only in this place that we are reliant on God enough to see the beauty only He can unfold. This is the magic place where God can turn the ashes of our lives into something beautiful.
Obstacle Four: The “Static” of Distraction, Technology and Consumption
(Saydi) As a mother with young demanding kids clinging to my heals at every turn I spend much of my time hassled and harried. With everything on my plate, I feel like I’m constantly saying “I don’t know (even when I do know) don’t ask me right now, can’t you see my hands are busy, when you see me stop, then it’s time to talk to me!” Somedays I wonder how my children are supposed to get a word in? Often, they physically grab my face and turn it towards them. Other times they throw a little tantrum to get my attention. On those days it must feel very difficult for them to get through to me. When our lives are crammed I think God may feel the same way.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to hearing God in our lives is not giving him any space to speak to us. Family life these days is so easily overstuffed. There are demands on our time, our energy, our minds from the minute we wake up until we drop into bed. These demands usually feel like worthy, good things to be doing, and often they feel essential to making our families function. We can have so many plates spinning at times that we feel like stopping for a pause will make everything come crashing down. However, in reality just the opposite may be true. If we don’t pause to breath and connect with God we don’t have the capacity to keep the critical plates spinning. When we do connect with our Heavenly Parents they help us to see which plates can stop, which can go slower, which can crash, and which we need to keep spinning.
I should probably leave this analogy to my husband Jeff since I am not a very scientific person and most of technology feels like magic to me. But what I do know is that when I’m driving our awesome old 1985 Toyota truck and trying to listen to the radio it’s tricky to tune into the right radio station. Everyone around me is dialing into their favorite tunes, I know they’re being broadcast, but the antenna is broken on the truck and it has an old radio that has to be carefully tuned to the right number on the dial. If I go slow eventually I can tune into a clear broadcast.
In his General Conference address in April 1971 Bruce R. McConkie used this same radio analogy:
“And so, it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting. The Comforter knoweth all things; he is commissioned to bear witness of the Father and the Son, to reveal, to teach, and to testify—and he is broadcasting all the truths of salvation, and all the knowledge and wisdom of God, out into all immensity all of the time.
How this is done we do not know. We cannot comprehend God or the laws by which he governs the universe. But that it does happen we know because here in the valley below, when we attune our souls to the Infinite, we hear and see and experience the things of God.”
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ has a deeply rooted doctrine of revelation. Not only modern day revelation to the church as a whole, but personal revelation. I deeply believe that God can speak to us on an individual level daily. My mom has always reminded me that He wants to be in the details of our lives. He is always broadcasting the big Truths of salvation, but he is also broadcasting to us truth with a lowercase t. He wants to communicate to us our truth. He wants to tell us how to respond to a toddler who is biting, a teenager who is riding an emotional roller coaster, a spouse who is depressed, a sibling who is struggling with their faith. He wants to help us know what tweaks we can make in our own behavior to help those around us feel more loved and supported, to help us feel more valued and strong, to help us find more joy in our familial roles.
I love this analogy of tuning in because it is concerned more with who we are than what we do. Of course, there are practices and habits (that we’ll discuss at the end of this section) we can adopt that help us to tune our spirits into God’s frequency, but the goal isn’t the habits. The goal is the state of our Souls, the ability to find God’s frequency and tune ourselves in. When we are tuned in all that we do is a revelation. When we are tuned in, the door is open wide and the flow between us and the Divine is strong and drives our actions.
I have found that in this mortal world it’s nearly impossible to operate in this holy space all the time, but when we taste it and know what it feels like we crave it and search for it, and getting in tune becomes easier and easier.
The trouble is, there’s so much static in our world that it’s getting harder and harder to find just the right spot on the dial to hear what God has to say to us. One of Satan’s greatest strategies today is to fill up our lives with static, things that aren’t God. Some are good things, but not God things. Some are just static: the constant buzzing of text messages, the pull of Instagram or Facebook just so we can sit and veg out for a bit, the pull of business and consuming and getting things to look or be just perfect.
Satan knows that if he throws so many signals down there then there is so much static that we can’t tune into God and the revelations he has for us. And without these revelations we are lost.
It’s hard to tune into much besides static if we are too busy, and it’s so easy to fall into a place where we are impossibly busy. It feels unavoidable, but it’s a trap that we all are constantly falling into. Satan gets us to a place where we feel we have no choice and we slide into the vortex of busy parent life that seems impossibly hard to climb out of. Now, of course there are times that really are unavoidably busy, and we can learn to find God in those busy times. But if we let them make up the bulk of our lives we forget how the whisperings of the spirit sound.
Inability to say “no”
One of the reasons our lives are filled with static is our inability to say no to things. Maybe you are good at this, but many of us find it takes MAJOR discipline to not let your life fill up. Part of what God can reveal to us is what we fill our lives with and how we keep some margins. I have gone to him with this question before and slowly it has become clear what I need to focus on and what I can let slide.
Sometimes it’s not so much about saying no as it is about saying no to doing everything perfectly and full tilt. I grew up with my mom flipping the old adage and reminding me often: “If a thing is barely worth doing, then barely do it.” When we are intune with the spirit He can help us know what is really worth doing well, and what is barely worth doing. A good friend once reminded me that saying Yes to something always means saying No to something else and visa versa. We have to be intentional about what we say yes and no to or our lives can be overcome by every need, demand and good intention that comes our way.
Technology and Media
Technology is both a gift and a curse. There have been times when it has been a source of revelation, where God has answered a prayer through a post or an article, where we feel closer to the divine through something beautiful posted or receive an answer to prayer through someone else’s writings and experiences. But more often these things distract us from being plugged into God.
We’ve all been there, we’re running and running to make it through a day and then we finally fall to our knees, say a quick prayer, or maybe even a long one, and then fall into bed, tucked in with our phone checking to make sure we’ve managed all the logistics for the next day, sending off the last few emails, ordering the last item for the birthday party the next day, then a quick catch up on Instagram until our eyes get too heavy with sleep and we drift off. Then the alarm rings at 6am and we’re off running, with our phone right there waiting with a few unlistened-to messages, a few unanswered texts, a list of to do’s flooding in with our first waking thoughts. In this scenario, where is the space for God to communicate to us? How can he elbow his way into this crowded brain space.
When we’re not managing technology and social media well we feel a constant tug towards it in a way that fills our souls with static. In that space we are pulled by constant tug to check email, Instagram, messages etc. When we step away from it seems so absurd that a little device could keep us from seeing the beauty that’s happening in the moment.
But those powerful little devices and platforms also have the strength to pull us out of painful moments when life isn’t especially beautiful. They create for us a very handy alternate reality, free from our current worries and challenges. Our phones and computers and TV’s give our brains a way to veg out and disengage. To not feel what is happening in the moment. Of course there is a place and time to disengage. But when we habitually turn to them we are turning away from mortality, away from what is real, away from God and the help and growth he has for us. The only way through pain and hardship is through the messiness of it all. And in that messines God can help us better than a virtual escape. In order to tap into God’s whisperings we need to constantly check in to make sure that our devices aren’t filling us with static. To make sure we can still find a clear signal.
Elder Bednar said, “[one of the adversary’s] most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.”
Another subtler source of static in our lives is consumption. We live in a consumerist society, one where, in an effort to drive sales and promote products, the commercial world is constantly telling us that we’re not good enough, we don’t have enough, we don’t look right, we need more. It looks as if there is abundance all around us, but somehow this same message leaves us feeling like we’re on the raw end of the deal, stuck with scarcity.
(Saydi) I’ve found that the consumer heavy world that we live in is also constantly cramming our lives with an overload of choices. On the internet we have endless options at our fingertips. When my dishwasher dies I could spend days (and I have!) researching different options, reading reviews, searching for deals and coupon codes. When you go to the grocery store there are 17 different kinds of milk, 34 different types of mustard, 16 different types of olive oil, all with their labels screaming at you that they are the healthiest, full of good fat and flavor. And then there are more substantial choices that we have to make for our families. Which activities should our kids be involved in? What school should they attend, what instrument should they play. How will they keep up?
It is easy to be sucked into this trap of constant consumerism. When I’m not careful about how I use our resources and time I can inadvertently close the door to God as we get more and more sucked into the things of the world.
We’re not saying here that we should swear off all consumerism and live as monks, but we should be aware that an imbalance of these pursuits can fill our lives with static and slowly and subtly take us away from the glorious things God has in store for us.
Obstacle Five: Neglect of Spirit or Body
In order to tune into God’s frequency, it’s important that we take care of our bodies and our spirits. If either of these two parts of our soul is neglected it is hard to be attuned to God’s grace and guidance.
There are endless books and articles written on how to take care of the physical body, how to keep it fit and strong and in shape. We learn about it in middle school health class, there are reality shows about it, we see people all around obsessing about it or rebelling against it. Diets and Fitness are multi-billion dollar industries.
More importantly, the Church has always placed strong emphasis on the importance of caring for our physical bodies, or the temples of our spirits.
As President Nelson said in April 2019: I stand in awe of the human body…we cannot progress without it…Your body is your personal temple, created to house your eternal spirit. Your care of that temple is important.
And just as our physical bodies need to eat good food, exercise, drink water and sleep in order to thrive and be healthy, our spirits need daily things to keep them healthy, strong, fed and most importantly, in tune.
While the push to keep our physical bodies in shape is all around us, we live in a world where we don’t talk much about the care of the soul. In our obsession to look perfect and consume and compete we are forgetting about the soul and neglecting the things of the spirit.
In October, 1997 Elder Holland addressed this modern phenomenon: “Some time ago I read an essay referring to ‘metaphysical hunger’ in the world. The author was suggesting that the souls of men and women were dying, so to speak, from lack of spiritual nourishment in our time. That phrase, ‘metaphysical hunger,’ came back to me last month when I read the many richly deserved tributes paid to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One correspondent recalled her saying that as severe and wrenching as physical hunger was in our day—something she spent virtually her entire life trying to alleviate—nevertheless, she believed that the absence of spiritual strength, the paucity of spiritual nutrition, was an even more terrible hunger in the modern world. – Elder Holland, october, 1997, He hath filled the hungry with good things.
This care of the soul is what Jesus is talking about when He asks us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. When he tells us that he is the living water and the bread of life.
Flat or Vibrant
Our spiritual life ebbs and flows, it is the nature of a fallen world, of the natural man. God has planted deep inside of us a desire for Home, a yearning to be fully awake spiritually. If we give life to this desire we are more easily propelled towards things that help us feel closer to God and open the doors to revelation. We’ve all gone through those times when our spirit feels a little flat, a bit one dimensional. We’ve also had times when it feels vibrant and in tune and connected.
(Saydi) During those times when my spiritual life feels flat it seems impossible to regain the full color version of myself. And my soul can fall flat so quickly. When our spirits are flat it’s so easy for us to become “careful and troubled about many things” to let the natural man take over, to stop listening to the still small enticings of the holy spirit, to stop hearing the knock, the hum, to be blinded to the bigger picture: To be unhappy. We forget what it felt like to have that full, vibrant, connected, tuned in spirit. In fact, sometimes there is such a stark contrast that the other one seems like it never was truly ever real.
It’s easy to feel discouraged, like we’ll never regain that connection with God, so why try. It’s also easy to forget how wonderful that full spectrum spirit was.
There is a parallel in our physical bodies. When we’re not taking great care of our bodies physically it seems impossible to get to a place where we will ever feel healthy and strong again. It is all too big to grasp from the place we are in the moment.
Many of the practices suggested later in this section are the means by which we can care for our spirits. Just being aware that our spirits need as much nourishment and muscle-building and training as our bodies do, can help us form habits and practices that will strengthen our souls.
(Saydi) I’ve found if I just pick one little thing and commit to it, really commit, then other things follow. Same with habits—research shows that it’s easier to build new habits if we connect them to other habits that we’re already doing naturally. In the big picture this is just a tiny step, but like Elder Ukdorf reminds us that these small steps are what it’s all about. The magic happens in these small, seemingly insignificant “trajectory corrections.” We are promised that good things will follow.
So if your soul feels flat, and you feel unplugged from God and your life is crowded with things you are careful and troubled about, just pick one little course correction. Resolve to stay on your knees for 30 more seconds when you’re done praying, or to set aside 30 min to read and write in a spiritual space. When we commit to doing one of these things, then others follow and our souls round out, wake up and feel connected.
Obstacle Six: Giving Up
It’s a freeing thought to remember that the only way we fail as parents is to give up. When we give up we close the door to revelation.
We had just given a presentation on parenting to a large audience and were standing at the front of the hall greeting individuals who had come up to say hello. Several places back in the line was a woman who was sobbing and I was wondering if I had said something that offended her or hurt her. When she got up to us she was almost hysterical. “I’ve lost my son” she sobbed, “He’s gone. I don’t even know where he is.”
“What happened” I stammered, at a loss for how to console her.
“He ran away—he’s of legal age so the police won’t help—all I know is that we found drugs in his bedroom and now he’s been gone for three months….I had been fighting with him for so long about his choices, and the last thing he had said to me was ‘I hate you.’”
Almost overcome by her intense grief and wanting to commiserate somehow, I blurted out “So you have given up?”
Then something amazing happened. This small woman, who a moment before was a puddle of tears and fears and utter discouragement, suddenly stopped crying and drew herself up straight, “Given up? What did you say” Given up? I will NEVER give up. He is my SON.”
It was a total transformation. The woman was now powerful. She was suddenly resolved and completely committed and determined. She didn’t know where her boy was and she didn’t know what to do, but she knew one thing, and that was that she would never give up.
Inspired by her strength, I knew in my soul to make her a promise. I put my hand on her shoulder and looked deep into her still moist but now lighted eyes and said. “You will find your son, and you will resolve and repair your relationship. I don’t know if it will be in a month or in a year or in ten years or in 100 years, but you will find him.”
Then I thanked her for teaching me a powerful lesson—that the only way to fail in parenting is to give up. And as long as we do not give up, we will succeed.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Paolo Coelho
Life is long, eternity is long. Parenting is hard, but it’s also eternal. When we feel like we’ve come to the end of our ropes, we must tie a knot and hold on! We must stay the course, keep loving and praying and wait on the Lord. In the gospel we are promised that the covenants we make and keep with God are binding. They not only bind us to God, but also our children. We need to have faith in these covenants, and seek to see the bigger, more eternal picture.
It seems that all of the tactics of the adversary aim at getting us to give up. If we lose our motivation and faith in who we are and who God is, then Satan has won. If he can get us to that place where we don’t feel up to the challenge anymore, when we throw in the towel, he rejoices.
Sometimes giving up is a gradual process, we slowly give into guilt or comparison or fear or shame. We slowly stop doing the things that help us to be in tune with God. We let the Adversary’s flaxen cord slowly and carefully bind up our efforts and energies. Other times giving up is a sudden choice. We close the door.
(Saydi) Sometimes I feel as though I’ve given up when everything inside of me is just screaming for a breath. Looking back, I’ve found that it may have looked or felt like I was giving up when really I was just taking a much needed little break. A pause to get my bearings straight and gather new strength. If I don’t listen to this call for air then I can run myself out of breath, to a place where we really might give up.
Let’s be clear though, this doesn’t mean that we all won’t have moments where we feel like giving up, even many moments where we do momentarily give up. Sometimes it looks or feels as though we’re giving up when we’re really just shifting our energies to another battle. We may be experiencing inner turmoil through other big challenges that take our whole souls, maybe a bout of depression, maybe some anxiety, maybe a tangled problem that’s calling on everything we have. That’s OK, that is part of living in this messy, fallen world. If we do what we can to stay close to God through the down times, the confusion, the frustrations, the mess—He has the power to hold things together until we can again.
This article has reviewed some of the main obstacles that Block Family Revelation. In next Tuesday’s article we will turn to some key habits and practices that we can adopt to drown out the static, care for our spirits and most of all to become clearer and more receptive and tuned-in—thus becoming at least partially immunized to the effects of the obstacles.