After the Trial....
I dreamt of old friends and times past last night and it lead me to reflect on where I am, how I got here and why I am here.
It is difficult for old friends to understand the seemly drastic changes in my heart and in my life over the past four years and there is no real way to help them understand that does not seem odd. At times, I myself wake up in the morning with a life so different from the ones I have known before, I too need a moment to remember what I have experienced that has lead me to the Salt Lake City and invoked so many drastic changes in my life.
After my baptism and as changes started to come in my daily routine and I started to spend more time in the Church, with missionaries, and in my church callings, I had less time available to do the things I had done previously. I had less time for "fun" and friends. Less time for the recovery meetings I had attended for so long and less desire for the activities that once gave me 'pleasure'. To outsiders these changes seemed abrupt and drastic, but the larger truth is that what was happening in my life was the result of many many years of spiritual practices and a leap, but not as drastic as it appeared to be. I had been prepared for a leap of faith that would allow me to reach a new level of spirituality. What was happening in my life (and continues today) was the result of past efforts.
In my experience our relationship with God is reciprocal. We take an action of faith and He responds. For example, we make an effort to ask a question in prayer in earnestness with real intent and we receive an answer. The key is intent. Real intent is the willingness to take action on the answer received - regardless of the perceived personal cost associated with an unexpected answer.
So much of my prayer history includes praying for an answer, getting an answer I did not like, assuming that answer could not be right, and then praying again subconsciously hoping to get the answer I wanted. This is not how spiritual growth works. I have come to understand that answers come often, but they are meaningless when I am not willing to receive them as they come. I must drop expectations and limitations on the answers received.
When I receive answers and act on them, regardless of my fears or present lack of understanding, I am almost always pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Almost always, if not always, the outcome is far better than I could have imagined and I get what I had really wanted even if at first it seemed that I was heading in the opposite direction by the answer revived.
To grow spiritually, I must have a true desire (intent) to do whatever is asked, have the faith to take whatever action is asked and then take that action.
The interplay between desire, faith and action are important to understand and I feel I am just now starting to grasp the foundational and progressive role these play in spiritual growth. This is not an easy path. Many fail along this path, I know I have often, but as long as we live we always have a second (third, fourth...) chance.
The key to successful spiritual growth for me has been found in the first steps I took years ago. There is a scripture that speaks of this perfectly.
"...I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until the trial of your faith." Either 12:6
We take a leap of faith, He responds and we receive our witness.
What does it mean to receive a witness? Well, for me, at least early, on it meant that I received an answer to a prayer and my faith in prayer grew as a result. I started to develop a witness that prayer works. As time has passed and I have been challenged to take on larger 'trials' of faith, I have received a greater witness.
Desire, faith, evidence, spiritual growth... all these things and more, grow and are progressive. They start small and as we take small leaps of faith - we take on small trials of our faith - and we receive small witnesses - confirmations that our faith has not been tried in vain. As we receive these witnesses our fear diminishes and we are ready for larger 'trials' of faith.
And where can this lead, this relationship and interplay between desire, faith, action, and receiving a witness? Consecration, which is our goal. To become holy (whole).
The word consecration commonly defined means; 'association with the sacred'. To those of us in the LDS church it is a law. The law of consecration is to 'dedicate, to make holy, or to become righteous. The law of consecration is a divine principle whereby men and women voluntarily dedicate their time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God's kingdom."
Consecration can be the result of a lifetime of effort that starts with one step. That first small step is a trial of faith that receives that first small witness that with practice grows faith into knowledge.
I wish I could help my friends from that past understand, I wish I could show them and everyone the witnesses I have received. I wish I could display my experiences like a drive in movie - but I cannot. I could tell of my experiences, and I do some, but I have learned that many of my experiences, especially as of late, have been intended for me and are truly too sacred to share. They are the result of the 'trials' of my faith, they are for me.
Each of us must try and test our own faith to receive our own witness. I cannot give my witness to anyone. But I can say that my relationship with God has been one that has been progressive. The more I act in faith, the stronger the witness I receive. The more of me I give, the more of Him I receive.
There is nothing I have given up that has not been returned 100 fold. There is more to give and I pray for the desire to give it as I know that my spiritual growth is dependent on it.