I know I’ve promised to post about my testimony on Fast Sundays, but this post has been rattling around in my head and my heart for the past couple weeks and I needed to write it first. So while this post will still share a portion of my testimony and explain a little bit of “Why I Believe”, it’s more of a theological pondering than a testimony. If you’re really itching for a testimony post you can read Part 1 and Part 2 of that series at those links. I’ll try to resume those posts with next Fast Sunday… unless I have something else I’m itching to write about 😉
Whenever I watch General Conference the stories that touch me most are always those about the small spiritual promptings that someone received and followed that shows in a small and personal way that Heavenly Father is aware of each of us. One of my favorite recent stories of such a prompting came from President Monson’s talk during the Relief Society General Broadcast this past October. He told the story of a sister who had lost a lot of hope. She had expressed to a friend that the only thing that sounded good to her was homemade bread. The next day, an acquaintance – that barely knew this woman and was completely unaware of her struggles – drove across town with such a loaf of bread and quietly dropped it off without any idea why she was doing so. To me these small personal experiences are the greatest testament of Heavenly Father’s love for each of us individually.
Recently I had just such an experience which I wanted to share. A little over two months ago I was outside on a Sunday evening with my little boy Danny. We were getting ready to go inside and I was trying to gather up all of his bikes and scooters which he had left scattered around the neighborhood. As we were looking around we found that his prized possession – a bike that looks like a dirt bike – had been commandeered by one of his friends.
I knew Danny would be upset about not having his bike. While it didn’t really bother me that this kid was riding Danny’s bike I also didn’t feel bad at all going to ask for it back. As we reached the end of the driveway though I had a distinct impression to just leave it be. At the time I interpreted the impression as, “They’re only young for so long, see how happy it’s making him? Just let it go and distract Danny with something else.” I decided to go with that feeling and Danny was somehow easily distracted despite his adamance a moment before that we go retrieve this bike. Danny is not usually easily swayed so this was a little bit odd but we went on with our evening. At some point the bike was returned and all was well.
I probably wouldn’t have thought of that experience ever again except for what happened next. The little boy who was riding Danny’s bike, was Kayson Shelton. That evening on Danny’s bike was the last time I saw that sweet kid in this life. The last thing I can remember doing for him personally was an act of kindness. An insignifiant and small one, but in a moment where I was planning to do otherwise. I can only imagine how I would feel now if I had instead gone over and said, “Hey bud, that’s Danny’s bike, would you mind letting him have it back?” rather than just letting him enjoy it for a bit longer. It wouldn’t have been wrong of me, and it wasn’t like I would have been at all mean to him. However, I’m so grateful that the last thing I can remember doing for him was something that made him happy.
In retrospect I don’t think the impression was really that “they’re only young for so long”, but really it was a warning to me that Kayson only had so much time left on this earth. It’s hard to explain how I can reinterpret that impression, but it’s not like it came in printed memo format. It was more than just a feeling but less than a complete coherent thought. Impressions like that require some interpretation by me so I can make sense of them in my conscious stream of thought. At the time, the idea that this little rambunctious, bright two and a half year old would be gone less than a week later was completely unthinkable – it still is. So even though that was the thought I had, I wouldn’t let myself think something so outlandish and interpreted it in terms that made more sense to me at the time.
I can think of another time in my life when I had a similar experience with a spiritual impression. In August 2006 I had just flown into Utah from a trip with my family in Australia. I’d been travelling for over 24 hours, and was tired but decided to go visit some friends. While I was there my friends’ roommate went out of his way to talk to me and really showed an interest in being nice to me, despite my friends being preoccupied with other things. I’d been told in the course of meeting him that he had a girlfriend, but while we were talking I had the distinct impression, “I am going to marry this man.” At the time, that impression made no sense – I barely knew him, he had a girlfriend, I had someone else I was interested in pursuing… it just didn’t compute. So I brushed the feeling off. I reinterpreted that impression and said to myself, “What you mean is you want to marry someone like him. Someone who will go out of their way to make others around them feel comfortable. Seriously Brittny, you need to go home and get some sleep.” Four months later, we were engaged, and six months after that I did in fact marry Eric. Seven years and three kids later – that crazy impression doesn’t seem so crazy after all.
As I’ve thought about these experiences I’ve wondered what would have happened in my life if I were to have listened more closely to the Spirit? When I was in college I found that I would frequently have the impression before leaving for class to grab a couple extra pens. Every single time I had that impression, whether I followed it or not, I would find someone during the day who for one reason or another needed those extra pens. I started to try to be more quick to follow those impressions so I could be prepared to be (a very very small) blessing to someone else during the day.
I think now, what if I had been more true to these larger, more dramatic impressions like I tried to be with those small pen impressions? What if instead of downplaying my thought about Kayson I had taken it at face value. Could I have given his mom a warning? Or maybe just told her to take a lot of pictures or to hug him a little bit closer? I’m not saying that I necessarily should have given such warnings, but if I had been more receptive to the Spirit, could I have done more? In a similar vein, what if I had taken my impression about Eric seriously? What if, I had decided right then to stop wasting any energy on the young man I thought I was interested in and focused that energy on Eric instead?
Obviously, playing the “what if” game for things that happened in the past is useful for no one and things seem to have worked out anyways. I don’t think I did things wrong in the past, but I’m playing the “what if” game with my future. What if I try to live closer to the spirit today, could I be a greater instrument in the hands of the Lord? What if I trust the promptings I receive instead of reinterpreting them, could I gain more insight to help in the lives of my children? I want to strive to be the kind of person who listens to and acts upon the impressions I’m given, rather than letting them pass me by.