The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of personal inspiration for me. After going through a time in my life when I felt cut off from God, when I wondered where He was hiding from me (and why) this has felt a little like the spring snow melt rushing down the rivers from the mountains, cleansing the rivers from the stagnant waters of the summer and winter months.
It started a few weeks ago when I started attending an institute class. The title of the class is "Receiving and Understanding Personal Revelation. I am going to admit that I didn't get much out of the first class. I felt like a zombie during the class - I hadn't slept at all the two nights before that, and had just started teaching school two days before. But the second week I was more rested, and ready to learn - and what I learned changed my life. Very quickly.
Brother Casaday, our instructor, led a fantastic discussion about the different parts of testimony. We read Doctrine and Covenants section 8 verse 2 which talks about how the Holy Ghost affects us in our minds and in our hearts and came up with three aspects of testimony - KNOW, FEEL, DO.
As I sat in class, pondering this concept, I thought about my own status in each of the aspects.
Do I know the Church is true? Absolutely. Always have, probably always will. I just know. I think it is one of my spiritual gifts. ("To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world." D&C 46:13) I definitely claim it as a gift, because I don't think that I did anything to deserve this knowledge, and I don't think I have been more pious than others who perhaps don't have this knowledge. I simply know. Like I know I exist. It's that clear to me, and no one could ever convince me that it isn't true.
Do I DO? Do I live the gospel? Yes! Not perfectly, but I consider myself someone who actively lives the gospel - I serve others, I keep my covenants, I rely on the atonement for repentance when I mess up, and to heal me when I am wounded. And when I fall short (because I do) I understand that tomorrow is a new day and I can try again. I consider that living the gospel.
Do I feel the Holy Ghost? Rather than being discouraged that the answer was "No" I actually almost jumped out of my chair. I figured it out! The reason I have been feeling so separated from God is because I don't feel it anymore! I know the gospel is true and I live it, but for some reason I couldn't feel it anymore.
But then came the hard part. How do I feel again? I shared my dilemma with a few friends who know what my personal situation has been for the past several years. Sometimes you just need outside eyes to tell you something that might be hard to see from the inside. One friend said:
When you've experienced a lot of spiritual trauma, there is a period of time needed for your spirit to heal. I liken it to the period of recovery time needed after every long run you take in preparation for a marathon.
My sense from what I know of you and what you've shown of your testimony is that what you've been dealing with the past few years has stretched and broken you down and that you're now in that "recovery" period where you are rebuilding your spiritual and emotional muscles again, stronger than they were before.As I read this friend's words I realized what she was saying was absolutely true. In the past few years of spiritual trauma I have been working so hard to shut down my emotions and feelings to protect myself form a lot of hurt I experienced. I unintentionally made myself numb not only to the pain, but also to the joy of the gospel.
And so I figured I should start on a journey to feel again.
I started praying more fervently, studying the Book of Mormon more purposefully, and trying to figure out how to un-numb myself. I figured it was going to be a long process, and I didn't expect to be fully back to feeling for months, maybe even years.
Then last week a call came from my bishop, saying the Stake President would like to meet with me. I was a little surprised, I wasn't aware he knew my situation, although thinking about it now it's obvious that the bishop would have informed him. But mostly I was excited and a little nervous. But when President Edwards and one of the counselors in our bishopric walked into my home that Wednesday evening (four days ago now) I just felt peace. After a brief visit, President Edwards said he felt prompted to ask me when the last time was that I had a priesthood blessing. I couldn't even tell him when the last time had been. I told him I would love for him to give me a blessing, and he did. There was a lot in that blessing, but the part that is relevant to this post was the feeling of warmth that washed over me and seemed to melt the block of ice I had placed around my heart. The sensation of emotion coming back to me was immediate and overwhelming, and I couldn't stop the sobs that came from my body. For the first time in years, the sobbing was not from pain or hurt or anguish, but rather from joy and peace and comfort.
Since that night my life has been different. My spirit is rejuvenated, my testimony is strong, I feel peace and joy and hope every day - feel it, not just know it!
I know not everyone who perhaps struggles with a loss of feeling will have the same experience I had - perhaps for you it will be more gradual. But it is possible to have that feeling back - I believe it. I know it. The atonement of Jesus Christ covers all pain.
If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)