Last week I posted about feeling the absence of the Spirit in our lives, and followed up asking your opinions on the subject. (Original posts here and here)
A lovely reader asked:
"But when I really am trying to feel the Spirit and I feel like I've done everything to turn the switch on and it just isn't happening, then what? I'm not sure . . ."
It was great to see how many responses came in from all of you. While some addressed the worth of this overly-simplistic metaphor, (understandable) many of you provided insightful ideas as to how make adjustments to bring the Spirit back into your lives. Here are a few of the topics that were addressed:
Scriptures - particularly the Book of Mormon
Being outside in nature
Right thing/wrong reason
Keeping a Spiritual Journal
Find quiet moments - ponder
Do you notice anything missing?
There were 33 responses, all sincere. Music was mentioned more than anything else. But I did notice that there was a specific word that was only used once - and I know that in my life, it is the one word that makes the biggest difference.
Before I explain, let me tell you a little about me, my personality, and my behaviors. I have been blessed/cursed with acute self-awareness. (Which is much better than an ugly self-awareness.) I have a pretty good idea of the things I do, the things I think, and the things I feel. One thing I am painfully aware of is when I do something wrong. I am a grown man, with a lifetime of gospel learning and living. I can honestly say that when I commit a sin, I know it. I usually know that I am sinning as I am in the process of committing the sin. Occasionally I realize it right after the fact. But there is rarely a surprise.
I can tell that I have hurt my wife's feelings as soon as the words leave my mouth.
I am aware of my anger, as my blood pressure elevates, yet know that contention is of the devil.
I know when I have lingered a bit too long on an inappropriate website, or TV channel.
I know when I am being too judgmental of others as I am doing it.
The point that I am trying to make is that I know when I am in sin. It does not come as a shock to me. The Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ are quite effective. My sins come about because I used my agency to choose a wrong word, thought, or action. I am left with little excuse.
And so, returning to the loss of the Spirit, I can say that I usually know, in my heart, exactly why the Spirit has left me. Yeah, it does sound kind of harsh - towards myself - but it is true. Granted, there are occasional exceptions, but most of the time the Spirit left because I did something that chased him off.
That is where repentance comes in. I am wired in such a way that if I find myself feeling a void - that the Spirit is not with me - my FIRST assumption is that I need to repent. And usually that assumption is correct. I go through the proper process of repentance, including taking the sacrament - because one of the great promises of the sacrament is that "we may always have His Spirit to be with them." And that's a pretty important goal - right?
So, "repentance" is the word I would add to the discussion, with emphasis. Repent. When we repent, we are cleansed by the Holy Spirit - that is part of his job. And then he will stay with us until we chase him away again.
I find it interesting to note that all of the items listed above also help strengthen us so that we won't sin, and won't have to search out the Spirit again - because he didn't leave. Thankfully, when we do sin, we can do what is necessary to welcome him back into our lives and hearts.
--Of course, I am writing this as an accomplished sinner, and an accomplished repenter - I would not presume that it applies to all of you.