Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Prayers, Phones, and Self-limitations

My Dear Reader,

As a lifelong Mormon, I have often been encouraged to seek for spiritual guidance on a daily basis, in even the most trivial matters. These spiritual experiences are the foundation of our faith, and we build it scripture by scripture, prayer by prayer.

Even for the little stuff.

Stuff that isn't necessarily in the spiritual category. Stuff, for example, like when things go missing. Even then, I have always been encouraged to get on my knees and pray about it. God knows everything, right? So He knows where I left my keys, or my wallet, or that thing I was supposed to bring to the party. And as Mormons, this is something that we regularly do. And I know so many people who have asked this seemingly trivial question in prayer and have received genuine spiritual guidance that led them to find what they were looking for.

But it never happened to me.

And you might think that it's not really a big deal. And it isn't until it's the end of the school year and you have to either return your graphing calculator to your calculus teacher or forfeit one hundred dollars of your hard-earned college fund.

And when you're running out of time, and you've turned everything in your house upside down trying to find it, and you're crying tears of frustration and failure because one hundred dollars is so much money when you earned it working minimum wage and you were so careful to save it, this becomes a pretty big deal to you.

And, yet, I didn't get my answer. Or any answer, really. Let me tell you, I was not happy to write that check.

But, you know, I told myself to get over it. It didn't break the bank or anything, and once high school was over and I moved on to greater things, I realized that it didn't matter much. Losing one graphing calculator, in the grand scheme of things, was such a small thing, right? Talk about your teenage drama.

And it's not like I didn't have more than my fair share of spiritual experiences. I received answers on all kinds of other things. Big, important things that shaped my life. Experiences so powerful that I could never doubt that they were real, even today. So it didn't effect my faith in God or my dedication to my church, or anything like that.

But it planted a seed in my brain that started to change my opinion about myself.

And I started to think that I was incapable of receiving answers to certain kinds of prayers.

And if that sounds silly to you, you do not understand how many times I prayed for help finding something, full of faith, and got nothing.

Not to mention the doctrine found in D&C 46:11-12 that offered a reasonable explanation to what was happening to me. God gives people certain gifts, and that was just one that I didn't have. No worries, right? I mean, I don't sit around worrying that I don't have the skills to be an Olympic gymnast. Why should I care if I can't do this?

But I probably should have cared, because I stopped trying. I assumed that I was limited, and that there were some things that I just couldn't talk to God about.

And maybe there was a part of me that thought that I was limited because I just wasn't good enough.

I have so many opportunities to feel inadequate, and you know, I tend to take advantage of them.

But one day, after I graduated college and was in desperate need of a job, I lost my phone. Which, at the time, would not have been a great concern to me except I was waiting to hear back from possible employers. This time, I was in a situation where if I didn't find it, I would break the bank.

I looked everywhere for that phone. Everywhere. I had other people pitch in to help me, and I even asked for them to pray to find it. Because that seemed a lot more productive than praying myself.

After two weeks, things were looking pretty bad. Imagine if you were expecting an important phone call and you had to go without your phone for two whole weeks. I almost tore my hair out.

I got desperate enough, in fact, to pray about it. And man, did I pray with feeling on this one. I'm pretty sure I prayed myself to sleep.

One thing I remember very clearly is that I woke up with this unshakeable compulsion to look under things. I just had to do it, just like I would have to take a drink of water if I was dying of thirst in the desert. I could not stop until I had looked under everything in the house. Could. Not. Stop.

I don't have OCD, so I'm not used to compulsions of that magnitude. There was nothing in the world to me except what I needed to do at that moment. And I kind of felt a little crazy, but I also felt this really amazing spiritual connection that told me where this urge was coming from.

And in just a few minutes, that phone was good and found.

Is that one of the lamest spiritual experiences of all time? Possibly. I won't rule it out.

But it's probably one of the most poignant moments of my whole life, because I had found something a lot more important than my phone. I found a piece of myself that I feared could never exist.

And I think that we are all aware, to some point at least, how much other people try to limit us. There's the bully who said that we were stupid. The coach who cut us off the team. The well-meaning friend who told us to move on long before it was time.

But how often do we become aware of the ways in which we limit ourselves?

Do the names we have been called on the playground or in the office really matter as much as the names we call ourselves?

And how many times do we let a small seed get planted in our brain, like a mold spore that multiplies and grows until it causes the decay of our own self worth?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that I think I can't do, that I have no hope of ever being good at. Is it really a fair judgement of myself? Or am I letting myself be limited by the pain of the past and the fear of the future?

Because God can do all things. All things. And I am His daughter.

Doesn't it follow that if I continue to endeavor to be like God, at some point, I will be able to do all things?

And I'm starting to think that prayer is about more than just building our faith. I'm starting to think that through prayer, we are building ourselves. With every spiritual experience, we are not just learning what we need to do; we are getting a glimpse into who we really are.

And this is something I really wonder about: when God makes the acorn, He knows that it will grow into the great oak. So when God made me, what did He intend me to become? How great can I grow?

And, yes, in the great scheme of things, maybe finding my phone really isn't such a big deal. But that part of myself I found? Well, I never intend to let that go.

Regards, best wishes, and shattered boundaries,

-Cecily Jane

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