People talk about experiences that make them realize “how fragile” life is, like a car accident or another physically dangerous situation. Sometimes those experiences make people afraid to drive (etc.) because they recognize that mistakes happen, and they might make a mistake that will have serious consequences.
Sometimes we do this socially, too. We become selfish and mistreat a friend and offend someone. Then we realize how often we’ve likely been insensitive, and we’re worried about being around that person because we’re likely, perhaps, to do that again without realizing it.
And then, sometimes we do this spiritually. I think I’m humming along, doing good things, enjoying prayer and studies and even teaching and parenting. And then, at some point, I step over a boundary and try to do “something good” but in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons. When I realize this (and sometimes it’s because I’ve hurt someone rather than helped them) it’s hard for me to get over this. It isn’t just that I’m worried about this or that activity (driving) or this or that friendship, but about my relationship to God.
How selfish am I? How fallen am I? Am I really weak all the time but I don’t always see it? I think I know I’m weak all the time. I think I’m willing to listen to the Spirit and am happy whenever I feel like God is near. So why then did I do something today that left me feeling guilty, even though I thought I was doing something good? If I can do bad when I think I’m doing good, then I’m tempted to feel insecure constantly! I am tempted to constantly worry about sinning and so hide in a corner and maybe get out a good cry. I am so weak!
Which is something like Ether 12:27. We’re all weak – God knows that. He gave us that weakness. We are born that way on purpose, with the end that we’ll need to go to God and become one with Him. He loves us so much that he gave us weakness – ironic present. 🙂
So how do I think of that now, in the downward part of the cycle? Right now I’m simply seeing my weakness. What is it that Alma and Moroni do, exactly? They trust God’s grace to be sufficient. Sufficient for what? For their own salvation? Or to do the “good work” that they want to do? Why step away from the Spirit, even slightly, to attempt to God’s work?
That is what I repent of today (and will again many times over I’m sure!). Simply that I tried to take on too much, to think I was smart and superior in some way. The Spirit is what is superior, not me.
Two things often come to mind when I feel this way. One is John Tanner’s working-up of Nephi’s 2 Nephi 4 Psalm into a hymn. Here are the lyrics:
I love the Lord. In him my soul delights.
Upon his word, I ponder day and night.
He’s heard my cry, brought visions to my sleep,
And kept me safe o’er deserts and the deep.
He’s filled my heart with his consuming love,
And borne me high on wings of his great dove.
Yet oft I groan,”O wretched man am I!”
My flesh is weak and I’m encompassed by
A world of sin, which holds me in its thrall,
If I give in and to temptations fall.
Then strength grows slack, I waste in sorrow’s vale.
My peace destroyed, my enemies prevail.
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.
Rejoice, my heart! And let me praise again
The Lord my God, who is my rock and stay
To keep me strict upon his straight, plain way.
O let me shake at the first sight of sin
And thus escape my foes without and in.
The other thing that I remember is Brigham Young’s quotation on listening to the Spirit. Well, yielding to the Spirit, which is what I’m trying to think about today:
Admit that the Spirit of the Lord should give us understanding, what would it prove to us? It would prove to me, at least, and what I may safely say to this congregation, that Zion is here. Whenever we are disposed to give ourselves perfectly to righteousness, to yield all the powers and faculties of the soul (which is the spirit and the body, and it is there where righteousness dwells); when we are swallowed up in the will of Him who has called us; when we enjoy the peace and the smiles of our Father in Heaven, the things of His Spirit, and all the blessings we are capacitated to receive and improve upon, then are we in Zion, that is Zion. (Italics original – from Journal of Discourses, vol 1, page 3.)
So while I’ve done nothing horrible or egregious, I have in some small degree left off grace to take the burden of the work of God on myself. And that’s impossible. God’s work is His work, not mine. His work is to have saved souls who are faithful, not to have interesting Sunday School discussions. In private or on blog posts, I can explore those ideas. And even then, I want to yield to the Spirit. But in group settings, why do I worry? Their souls are God’s, not mine. God is mighty to save.
And so I repent, and in that I admit that God’s grace and love means that even my soul is still His.