Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hey Stranger, Welcome Back

Meeting someone for the first time can be a unique experience. There are people I am introduced to that I may not expect to see again. Then there are those that have a higher probability of maintaining an acquaintance. I think all of us make judgment calls of how much we need to remember when we meet someone, which makes some introductions more memorable. Some of those come as a surprise. More than the judgments, it’s the surprises that make the introduction unique.

The first time I remember meeting my wife was on a Saturday night. It wasn’t love at first sight, but she was so pretty that I asked a friend to introduce us. Her smile really attracted me. That was the bait. As would be my luck, she made the judgment call that we probably wouldn’t meet again, and by the following Monday, she had already forgotten my name. Well, I can’t fault her for that. We’ve become much more acquainted since then.

Oddly enough, we had already met in some manner two years previous to that time. While neither of us recalls being introduced, we both remember attending the same party and playing the same game with a group of friends. I suppose that makes the subsequent introduction more unique.

As I became acquainted with Liz, there was a very familiar feeling about her. It wasn’t a, “Hey, haven’t we met before?” kind of experience. It was different than that, something that I’m not quite sure how to explain. All I can say is that the way I felt reminded me of something much longer and deeper.

A few years after Liz and I were married, we bought a home and moved into a new ward. I remember going to church one particular Sunday when I walked into the chapel at roughly the same time another guy walked in. That was another unique experience. I looked at him and he looked at me and we both seemed to be wearing the same expression on our faces. I couldn’t place where, but he seemed very familiar to me. We introduced ourselves and then began listing off every possibility of where we could have met. To this day we have had no success in figuring that out, but we have been friends ever since.

Another familiar introduction I have had was with a close friend who is something like a fraternal twin. She and I often share opinions, interests, and temperament, so much so that you might think that we were siblings. Having grown up in two different homes and circumstances, however, has caused us to puzzle over the uniqueness of our friendship. Still we wonder.

With each of these examples there has been a feeling of familiarity that is hard to explain. Each is different, but they have some commonality, too. I don’t know what to attribute these feelings to, but I do know that the veil is often thin enough that there may be several reasons why we sometimes feel this way. Now that I have told you what I don’t know, let me share a few things that I do know that seem both similar and familiar.

Throughout my life I have met people who have had a profound affect on me and have shaped who I am. I have also had experiences that seemed just as significant. In both cases, I am often left with impressions that I don’t know how to place. I feel greater meaning yet I find it difficult to dress the impressions with the correct words to describe them. Still, my inability to articulate the feeling doesn’t negate the validity of the meaning. These relationships and experiences are similar in that they both have familiarity to them. They are also commonly accompanied by a familiar ingredient.

Familiar is a funny term. It can refer to something that I am very well acquainted with, at an expert level as it were, or it can refer to something that makes me feel comfortable and welcome, just as though I were family. When I feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, it is not uncommon for me to feel one or the other, and sometimes both.

One of the divine roles of the Holy Ghost is to be a Comforter to anyone who is exercising their faith. When I feel His influence, I feel the fruits of the spirit, or specific feelings that help me to recognize His influence for what it is. I often feel an increase of love, happiness, and peace. Because of that calming and comforting influence, it becomes easier for me to endure and exercise greater faith when things may seem difficult or impossible.

Another way the Holy Ghost blesses my life is by helping me to remember sacred and important things. He can help me to recall how I felt when I made a covenant with God. He can help me to remember why it was important at the time I made the commitment. The Holy Ghost can also help me remember how my preparations in the past have positioned me to face and overcome temptation. In those most difficult moments when things that should seem clear, but do not, He can help. I believe the Holy Ghost can bring to our remembrance the things that we felt and knew in the premortal world before coming to this earth.

As we feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, he can help us remember the familiar feeling of being in the presence of God. When we are worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and we feel His influence, it is no different than if he were there in person. That feeling can reward our faith by validating that the things we are doing are right.

There are times when I feel closer to the Holy Spirit than others. When His influence is strongest in my life, I feel connected to God. The feeling is familiar in that it reminds me of what I felt like in his presence. It also becomes more and more familiar as I work to stay worthy and keep His influence with me. The more I do, the more I become experienced at learning to recognize what God wants me to do. Someday, I hope to be an expert. I hope to live closely to the Holy Spirit so that He can lead me to follow the example and teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ and live with God again.

The Lord taught Joseph Smith, “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good – yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy; And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.” (Doctrine & Covenants 11:12-14)

In my life, evaluating why relationships and experiences seem familiar has been very helpful. While I certainly have my own opinions about their familiarity, I may not fully recognize why they are important to me at the time. Perhaps it is less important that I know, and more important that my mind is comforted and enlightened at the appropriate times so that I can exercise greater faith. When I recognize that part of the familiarity comes from the Holy Ghost, I can worry less about why, and just know that he is leading me to do good.

There are times in my life when I have felt like a stranger to the will of God. In some instances it was because I chose to act against His will, or I was unwilling to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. At other times, it has been because I was caught in a moment of ambiguity where God’s will wasn’t clear to me. I was being tested. In either case, as I have exercised my faith, the feeling of peace and comfort returned and it felt as though I was reintroduced to the Holy Ghost. Those moments can feel very familiar in a variety of ways, sometimes all at the same time. It is as though I was familiar all the time, but had only forgotten.

As I become more and more acquainted with the promptings of the Holy Ghost, I should fully expect to become more familiar with that beautiful feeling. I hope to become less of a stranger to the will of God and instead become more comfortable and more experienced in staying close. Then I will feel like both family and friend to Him.

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