Saturday, 9 March 2013

Spiritual stories

(I want to start a series of posts of some very personal spiritual experiences.  I have been holding off writing these for the past years because this felt like too public of a place to record such sacred events.  However, I have never been diligent in keeping a handwritten journal, and often lose such books, or start more than I ever finish.  So I have decided to write them here, for my own record.  Feel free to skip over reading these entries, if you wish.  I would simply ask any readers to refrain from commenting on these entries, in order to preserve the personal nature of these experiences.  Thanks!)

Sheri Dew once said that God speaks to every human being in different ways, that we should all know how God speaks to us personally, and if we don't know yet then to ask him.  I have learned over the last 5 years or so that God very clearly speaks to me through scripture.

The first such example I can recall was about five years ago.  Caleb was just a baby, and if you know Caleb, he cried almost every waking moment for the first year of his life, and he was awake way more than he ever slept.  It was physically and emotionally exhausting and draining.  As (too often) is the case, when things get desperate I was relying on my own smarts to try and solve my problems.  I read every baby sleep book I could find, I asked everyone I knew, and still he cried and still he didn't sleep.

I have discovered what my wits end looks like: 3am, me sitting on the floor, a screaming baby in my arms, tears rolling down both of our faces.  "GO TO SLEEP" I was yelling through my sobs.  James found me there, took Caleb from my arms and lovingly (probably more than a little alarmed!) sent me to bed.

The next morning, in the pit of despair and desperation, I finally turned to God.  I opened my scriptures and let them fall where they might.  These words were the first my eyes fell on:

And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God... And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.  And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.  And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand asbwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.  And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord didastrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.  (Mosiah 24:10, 12-15)

That verse (highlighted) was so clearly an answer to me: no, my "burden" baby who didn't sleep would not be lifted.  My prayer would not be answered with a miracle of Caleb beginning to sleep.  Instead, God would lift me up and give me the strength to function as a mother to both Caleb and Colin with little to no sleep.  He would preserve my mind, give me patience, see me through it.

I was awash in the "peace that passes all understanding."  I was okay with the answer, even though it wasn't the "miracle of deliverance" I wanted.  And I understood the promise with the associated blessing: that this experience would help me to "stand as a witness" to others that God hears and answers prayers and "visits us in our afflictions."

It wasn't until a few days later that I realized I never read how this scripture story ended.  The story itself is about an  oppressed people in physical bondage to another kingdom.  Out of pure curiosity, now that the fog had cleared, I opened the pages again to read on.  What I read made me laugh out loud, and sealed to me the revelation that God will not only speak to me through scripture, but that he will manage to find such literal lines that there will be no mistaking on my part the answer:

And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage. And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage. Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering their flocks together. And in the morning the Lord caused a adeep sleep to come upon the Lamanites, yea, and all their task-masters were in a profound sleep. And Alma and his people departed into the wilderness; and when they had traveled all day they pitched their tents in a valley, and they called the valley Alma, because he led their way in the wilderness. And they gave athanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God. Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their athanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased theirbburdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God. (Mosiah 24: 16-22)
Yes, God does have a bit of a sense of humour.  After I endured with patience the trial, my deliverance would indeed come: the Lord would cause a "deep sleep to come" upon Caleb.  Anyone who knows Caleb knows that this boy can sleep!  I used to take a little one-man tent everywhere I went because he would literally crawl inside it in the middle of a busy park and sleep for hours.  At night, we can go into his room and tend to the other children with lights on, changing sheets or pyjamas or administering medicine and he doesn't move a muscle.
From these verses, I also noted that after the answered prayer, they gave thanks to God, lifting their voices in praise.  I love the gentle teachings of God, how he will answer ours prayers but also give us a little more.  I learned then the joys of simply praising the Lord, and some of my very favourite hymns now are ones in which we simply acknowledge the greatness and goodness of God.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord
Who o'er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings
Yea, so gladly sustaineth
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e'er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth

Praise to the Lord
Who doth prosper they work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the 'amen' sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

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