Monday, November 17, 2014

Spiritual Self Reliance

In this post: spirituality is learned, the Bible as a conversation between prophets, new possibilities

My baby is learning to walk.  He relies on me to hold his hands and he takes teeny tiny steps forward.  He wants to go forward but he doesn’t quite know how unless he’s crawling.  But none of us crawl.  We all walk.  “There has to be a way,” he thinks.  So up he goes and along the couch he inches.

Walking spiritually can be much the same.  Prayer is learned by imitating someone else and imagining God listening.  Reading the Bible can be a slow process much like inching along a couch.  Exercising faith in unseen things can feel a lot like stumbling blindly in the dark.

I remember the first time I read the Old Testament in the Bible.  I got bogged down in the seemingly endless chronologies (family lineages along tribal lines).  I wondered why there were so many proverbs.  I was unimpressed to find that First and Second Kings were “repeated” in First and Second Chronicles.  I finished the OT like I finish long-distance runs — exhausted.

A lot has changed since that first read.  Now when I read the Old Testament, the words ooze sweet honey into my heart.  I read the words and the poetic images don’t just fly over my head, I catch them.  I can remember now where I’ve seen that imagery before and how it was used.  I connect the dots between one prophet and others that came after him.  It’s like one prophet said it and another one caught it and threw it to a third.  Then I come along and see them playing with words and I join them.  It’s thrilling to be in a conversation with the prophets in the Old Testament.

The Vineyard in Isaiah 5 - from my sketchbook

For example:  In Jacob’s blessing to his sons, Judah is compared to a lion.  Then when the King of the Moabites sees the children of Israel defending upon him, he asks the prophet Balaam to bless him but the prophet says that Israel will rise up like a great lion (Num 23:24).  Then Isaiah picks up the image when he says that lions will roar at the Lord’s vineyard.  When I read these verses and others like them, I am transported into a world where lions were a ferocious predator to be feared.  The word pictures convey the intensity of the prophet’s warnings better than any string of expletives.  

So how do I go from crawling to walking to running in my spirituality?

Crawling is hearing, believing and relying on the faith and testimony of others.  It is not about knowing answers to the many questions.  There has to be a way and somehow I will find it.

Walking is like putting the steps together to gain individual truths.  Each person “has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God.” (G.B. Hinckley) This comes inch by inch.  It starts with desire.  It includes a serious study of the scriptures.  It takes deep thinking, sincere asking in prayer and maybe more.

Running is transforming spiritual understanding into perspective, motivation and a foundation for growth.  It is confidence that the principles work every time.  It is a reason for hope.  It is a protective shield against darkness and confusion.  

I have seen the excitement in my baby’s eye when the freedom to walk opens up a whole world of possibilities.  I know it takes time, but it is worth it.  It is exhilarating!

If you liked this post, you might also like My Personal Connection to the Children of Israel

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