Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Surprising First

Prayer has always been a sore spot for me. The thirteen or fourteen years from middle school through college were often agonizing; without going into detail, I'll just say that the number of desperate prayers I've offered in my life, accompanied by hysterical sobbing and pleading and delivered while curled up in a ball on my bed or wandering the streets of Provo in the middle of the night, is not a small one. I never got the comfort I was begging for, never felt like I was being guided in any direction, never felt like anyone was listening much less trying to say anything back. My prayers were as sincere as they could be, and yet I always felt that if I wasn't getting answers, it was because I wasn't faithful enough; because deep down I knew I could never pray on my knees all night long like Enos, and that must mean my heart wasn't really in it. I didn't know how I could be better, but it was obvious that I needed to be.

Anyway, I finally got tired of trying. I don't remember when I stopped, but I can say for sure that it's been at least three years since I made any kind of concerted effort.

I don't know why it occurred to me last night, but I got in bed and just had the thought that I sort of wanted to say something to whoever was up there. I started the way I always have, by addressing Heavenly Father. Then I stopped, because it occurred to me to try addressing Heavenly Mother. I've thought about her recently, and I've talked about her plenty with my fMh and Exponent friends. But I've never thought of including her in a prayer before. (I think I may have been influenced by reading Sonia Johnson last week.)

So I started over. I said both of their names that time—Heavenly Mother first.

"Heavenly Mother. Heavenly Father. I'm going to try this out."

That was all I said. It was all I could think of to say, and the thought just kept repeating in my head for a few minutes afterward—I'm going to try this out—over and over. I realized I was smiling, and my eyes had filled with tears. And I just lay there for several minutes, smiling in the dark, feeling kind of silly but mostly just feeling happy.

Having just read what I've written here, I'm hating that it sounds like one of those stories in the New Era that always made me roll my eyes as a teenager. It sounds so cheesy, and it also sounds a lot more dramatic than it was when it happened. But you know what? There's a lot about my life that just really sucks right now, and it's been a long time since I had a pleasant experience with something religious. I need this. I need to not care that it's cheesy. I just had a good experience with prayer, for the first time in I literally do not even know how long. That's kind of a big thing for me, and I'm going to take it.


  1. This is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I echo Natalie. Thanks.
    It's okay if it sounds cheesy. Words so often fail to express whatever it is that makes our souls feel infinite. I'm happy (and maybe even a little jealous) that you had such a sweet experience.

  3. This really moved me. Thank you for sharing it.

    My mission was a really difficult experience for me. I felt strongly compelled to go - I felt almost literally called, and I had never been particularly interested in serving a mission. I put a grad program on hold to follow the prompting, and then, from the moment I arrived in the MTC, I felt entirely cut off from the Spirit. My whole mission I struggled more than I ever had in my life to feel even the smallest bit of spiritual guidance or peace. The irony was not lost on me, and I spoke about it multiple times with my Mission President, trying to figure out what was wrong.

    Spiritual pain and spiritual alienation are not often talked about in Mormondom, but I think they are endured a lot. I'm glad that you had a good experience to counterbalance the bad.

  4. Thank you, ladies. Galdralag, I can definitely empathize, and I'm so sorry you had that experience at a time when you probably really needed spiritual support. I think you're right, too, that we don't talk about it much. Probably part of that thing in which we don't like to acknowledge weaknesses, and we don't respond well when others do confess their weaknesses, so in the end no one has very much social incentive to be honest about their struggles and it creates an atmosphere that feels pretty unwelcoming to those who are different or struggling. What a mess.