After doing Change It Up Challenges in every other area: intellectual, physical, social, beautiful (ha ha), I knew it was high time to work on the spiritual when I was sitting in church this last Sunday and heard a talk in sacrament meeting that seemed to just clip me up-side the head and say: “This is for you, you stiff-necked dummy.” (Just kidding. The Spirit is much kinder than that, although the clip up-side the head did sting a little…). But in all seriousness, I came to a lot of sudden realizations during that meeting–first of all, I knew I had been slacking in the spirituality department for quite awhile. It’s tough to serve a mission where you have 24 hours a day to devote to developing your spirituality and then come home to find that you have to juggle that along with all your other personal goals, just like everyone else. Luckily, some habits have stuck with me hardcore since the mission, including personal and companion prayer. Unluckily, since getting married, I’ve often found that my scripture study has been less than ideal.
You see, while I was engaged, I knew I couldn’t possibly afford to miss a single day of scripture study. So even though that sometimes meant that I was fighting to keep my eyes open while reading, I still did it every day, without fail. Since getting married and taking on a job where I work more than 40 hours a week, I’ve discovered that not only has the frequency and length of my scripture study sessions diminished, but the enjoyment of them as well.
And that’s when I realized something: there is nothing in the nature of scripture study itself that has changed—the words still lie there, exactly as before, waiting to inspire and teach and humble me–but rather, what’s changed is ME. As an old teacher of mine back in Young Women used to tell us, “If today you’re farther from God than you were yesterday, who moved?” (I’m sure that’s a real quote from some General Authority, but I have no idea where the original is). In that church meeting last Sunday, I felt the old familiar feeling of, “Okay, I need to repent. I’d best get on with it already.” So I went right home and shut myself up in the spare bedroom for about an hour, pondering and reading and making goals. When I left the room an hour later, I felt much better (and not just because I was leaving the room of our house where the lingering smell of old cats is the strongest)–I felt like I was, once again, moving in the right direction.
My first goal was to start waking up earlier to read my scriptures before work. Now, if you know me really well, you’ll know that I usually always have chosen to study my scriptures at night, before bed. Even on my mission, due to an odd schedule, I usually studied in the evenings (because we couldn’t be out past dark in one of my more dangerous areas). But the problem with reading scriptures right before bed is that sleepiness frequently interferes with spiritual promptings and the will to sleep often greater than the will to learn. So, although I knew it would require a bit of a sacrifice on my part to start waking up at 6:25 a.m. instead of 7, I was willing to do it.
On Monday, I started to do something that I haven’t done since my mission: I started to look up every single one of the footnotes to every single one of the verses as I went along. This process takes quite a bit longer, but it has made a WORLD of difference in my understanding of the scriptures from the moment I started doing it a few years ago, and I find that it actually makes it much easier for me to ponder and reflect on what I’m reading, as well as make connections between verses that I hadn’t before. Also, when I first started doing this, I realized how much I definitely did NOT know about the Gospel—sometimes I think that when we go to church every Sunday and hear a lot of the same messages, we think that somehow we “know all this already.” But we don’t. We don’t at all. If we REALLY knew, we would be hearing different messages in church and in General Conference, because we’d be ready for them. It’s like a quote that I love from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “To know and not to do, is really not to know.” Therefore, if we really “knew” all there was to know about the gospel, we would have much more revealed to us.
But that’s another tangent. I want to say how this particular Change It Up really helped me…you see, I’ve actually struggled quite a bit at my job these first couple months. I know I haven’t posted much about it here, but I have. I found that there are certain aspects of working in a rough, industrial workplace that provided a bit of a negative environment for me. I found myself more anxious, more negative, and more complain-y. I sometimes felt like I was the only one who was trying to do what was right. (Has anyone else ever felt like that? It’s a lonely place to be in.) But when I started to study in the mornings and really pray for help at work, I found that things started to get better…a lot better, in fact. And I don’t know if it was so much that the environment changed at all—it was that I had changed. It’s been a really good week.
If you’re not familiar with LDS beliefs, you can go here. But I do want to share my testimony of this principle: I know for myself that daily scripture study truly does make a huge difference in our lives–I know that when I study the scriptures, I have the Spirit. And when I have the Spirit, everything else in my life goes much better and that I myself am a better person. I know for myself that God is real, and that He is speaking to us, His children, even today through a living prophet and apostles. I know that it’s the small things we do–praying daily, reading the scriptures, going to church–that make the biggest difference in our lives in the end. And the greatest part about all of this is that every human being is free to know for himself (or herself) of the truthfulness of these principles. Like Christ himself said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). Therefore, if we want to really KNOW, we must first DO.
Change It Up Successful? Of course. Whenever we devote more of our time to our relationship with God, we will always experience success, even if it’s not the kind the world tells us to seek after.