The Soul’s Sincere Desire

Today was my last day in my calling as the gospel doctrine Sunday School teacher in the summer ward here in Buena Vista. I was surprised at the end of the lesson, after the stress of it all, to be hit with the realization that I would really miss the opportunity I had to teach and prepare for the lessons I was assigned. Despite the anxiety of stage fright and feeling wholly inadequate as a teacher, I really loved the calling to teach.

I feel like the duration of my calling flew by in a blink – today was the last day of the combined summer ward, and next week I’ll be in a new ward, with a new bishop, and a new group of peers. Classes start in two weeks, but it feels like summer is officially over.

Overall, it’s been a quiet one. Readjusting to being a ‘regular person’ (i.e. not a full-time missionary) again, working down in town, attending the temple, figuring out plans for the future, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Although I look on facebook and Instagram and am a bit more than jealous of all my RM friends hanging out and adventuring together in Utah, it’s been good to have a quiet Virginia summer, essentially living by myself in a sleepy old town. It’s given me the opportunity to focus on myself, on who I want to be and what I want to do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my mission has helped me to become, and the habits I have continued. I struggle at times with finding the time and motivation to have a good, solid scripture study that is distraction-free, but one thing that has become even more ingrained and I have relied completely on has been prayer. I thought I couldn’t pray any more in a day than when I was a missionary. For some reason, it just seemed absolutely impossible. But in the past five and a half months that I’ve been home, my testimony of prayer has increased tenfold.

I am finally achieving a greater understanding of what it means to always have a prayer in your heart and praying always that you may not be weakened (check out 2 Nephi 32:9 and Ephesians 6:18). I feel like I am in constant communication with my Father in Heaven – that my day is one long prayer, a series of questions and answers, of quiet conversation. The final ‘amen’ of the day is as I kneel by my bed before I go to sleep.

rd_imageThis pattern of prayer has been what has kept me from coming unglued amidst all of the soul-searching I’ve been having to do recently. I’ve learned that prayer truly is the soul’s sincere desire – that we instinctively yearn for divine communication, it’s just a matter of finding what works for you and harnessing that power of prayer. I love the fourth verse of James Montgomery’s hymn, “Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire“: “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, The Christian’s native air, His watchword at the gates of death; He enters heav’n with prayer.”

Since coming home from my mission, I’ve been hit with a few curveballs. I didn’t have a ton of contact with friends from school while in the field, and so was surprised to come home and find that many had gone inactive or left the Church and their faith behind them in the 18 months I was gone. I’ve had a hard time reconciling it – many of them had been incredibly strong when I left Virginia. It’s been tough to wrap my mind around it, to understand it, especially because I love them each so much and want them to be happy. It’s hard to eloquently express the thoughts and emotions I have as I think of my loved ones and the journey they are experiencing. It’s definitely caused a lot of introspection on my part.

It’s been prayer that has helped me navigate those waters of confusion, shock, and heartache, and has helped me to strengthen my own faith. I’d never condemn my friends for their choices, that’s not my place. I will support them and love them without reservation, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t caused me to step back and reevaluate my own faith and relationship with the Lord. It’s been that constant communication and fine-tuning of my own listening skills that have been crucial to the journey this summer. It’s not easy, and I’m far from perfect, but it’s helped me to understand and empathize while still moving forward with my own relationship with God. It has been prayer that has helped me to feel not only my love for them but also Father’s love for them. There’re few things as incredible as standing beside a friend or loved one, and feeling a surge of powerful love and compassion for them that has been amplified by the Holy Ghost and the love from the Lord. His love is perfect, and those moments when you have the opportunity to share that love are precious.

I know that prayer is the way that the Lord helps to strengthen us, to communicate His love for us. Prayer helps us to understand the Lord’s will for us, and what He desires of us in relation to our brothers and sisters and their individual journey of faith. Prayer is a process, one that I am still learning, but I am so grateful for it every step of the way.

There is no better feeling that that of the peace that comes with that final ‘amen’ of the day, giving it all to the Lord and trusting that He’ll help you figure it out tomorrow. Give all your troubles to Him – He’ll be up all night anyway.

{if you’re experiencing a friend or loved one leaving the Church, check out this article on The Returned Missionary’s blog, as well as this post on Millennial Mormons – both are great resources and provide a lot of insight into how to cope with the whole experience. Check out also this incredible testimony shared by an LDS blogger on MormonBuzz. All three are some of the resources I’ve found a lot of comfort in recently.}

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