05 November 2009

Reaching: A Temple Experience

I wander through the stilly night,
When solitude is everywhere.
Alone, beneath the starry light
And yet I know that God is there.
I kneel upon the grass and pray,
An answer comes without a voice.
It takes my burden all away
And makes my aching heart rejoice...

I found an old hymn book at DI last night when I went there with a friend, and because I wanted a closer look at it, I ended up buying it. It's the 1948 edition, and there have been enough changes to the hymn book since that edition that I wanted to spend some time looking at it.

I came across this hymn as I was thumbing through it, and it really resonated with me because walking alone at night is something I do often. Living in Provo, it doesn't worry me much--and not because it's a Mormon college town where there are scores of people wandering around at all hours of the night anyway. The way the campus is set up, it's easy to make it to my favorite haunts through wide open areas, well-lit places, and places with lots of people that are always awake (i.e. the freshmen housing.) The rudest thing that has ever happened to me here at night was the time some jerk stuck his head out of the passenger widow of a car and screamed really loud when he went past me because he wanted to scare me. Not exactly anything to write home about.

But the past few days have been long ones for me, full of unanswered questions about what I'm supposed to be doing about many situations I cannot actually change, so in the spirit of both this new hymn and old habit, I made the 45 minute walk up to the temple to find some peace of mind--if not resolution, which in all honesty I wasn't expecting.

As I made my way to the temple, carefully scanning my surroundings constantly for any unexpected changes that might be a threat to me, I was listening to my iPod. Several of Elder Holland's talks came on, and with each step I took into the right direction, with every word of his that met, matched, and answered the concerns of my heart, I found the uphill way to be more of a comfort than a burden. The uphill path was one I recognized and had come to know intimately. I was on familiar ground where I knew the way and knew what to expect. It restored me to the even, sure-footed rhythm I had somehow lost in stumbling. But once the temple was in sight, the rest of the world fell away.




Once I arrived, I didn't actually go inside the gates at first. I sat next to a tree on the quad just outside the temple gates and stared up into the glowing pillar of light that pierces heaven from the Provo temple, and I found the architecture less bizarre the longer I stared at it. The Provo temple has a rather curious beauty, but you can't fully appreciate it until the night you need to see it desperately. In that moment, you won't be able to imagine anything more beautiful....

When I am filled with strong desire,
And ask a boon of Him, I see
No miracle of living fire
But what I ask flows into me.
And when the tempest rages high
I feel no arm around me thrust,
But every storm goes rolling by
When I repose in him my trust...

The words of Sister Holland were a comfort to me as I sat there, when she reminded that God uses broken things to bring about His miracles. The broken wheat is the way to bread, and the broken bread is the only way to eternal life. I certainly felt broken in that moment, but less afraid because I know the broken way. Once the disorientation of my fear had left, I realized that I not only knew this story, I knew the ending. All I had to do was choose it.

The Inconvenient Messiah follows her remarks, and I had just started listening to it when I turned off my iPod and entered the gates. It was nearing midnight, and I wasn't sure how much longer they would be open to me. I needed to see the world from the safety of the mount. I'd seen it dozens of times from that apex of white light, and I needed to see it again. I made my way softly past the still fountains and bright lights until I came to the highest point right before the temple doors...

... where I turned around, and saw my Father's kingdom.

Nestled into the valley before me were the pinprick lights on the ground that looked so beautiful against the night sky. From where I was standing, it looked as if heaven was below me as well as above me, and I felt surrounded by His eternity, the pavilion of His hiding place.

I thought about those lights and realized that my faith, as much as it taxes me to keep the light burning brightly, that pinprick in the night is how much of a difference each one of us will make to others when we are prepared, and the darkness comes. Being that light is the hardest thing I've ever tried to be, since the only way to glow is to be surrounded by darkness, but that kindled flame is everything--everything that will ever matter to me.

I sat there for some time, praying. I'll admit, the peace that came to me wasn't overpowering. I wasn't completely back to the wholeness of heart I craved. But I now had enough oil in my lamp to get me home, and to try again in the morning. When I saw a man shutting the gates to the parking lot, I knew it was time to go. I stood up, put my headphones on, and began my journey home.

I finished The Inconvenient Messiah, where Elder Holland told me a story about Spencer W. Kimball, how utterly overwhelmed by despair he felt when he was called as the Prophet. He then said something that I hope will sink deep into my soul.
"If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived."
So true! And while I would love it if I didn't have to lengthen out this lesson any longer than it has to be by opposing the hand that teaches me, that isn't my call to make anyway. My struggles may go on regardless of how good I'm being, but like the hymn says...

It matters not what may befall,
What threatening hand hangs over me,
He is my rampart through it all,
My refuge from mine enemy.
Come unto him all ye deprest;
Ye erring souls whose eyes are dim,
Ye weary ones who long for rest,
Come unto him! come unto him!

It shouldn't take an old hymn book from DI to get me to see that at this point, but I'm so glad what I needed was there just the same. An answered prayer is an answered prayer, and whatever form it comes in is good enough for me.

I testify that our Heavenly Father sees our struggles, and that the hands of His Son touch our lives gently--through storms, silence, fair weather, and everything in between. He always cares, and He always answers. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ that frees us where we stand.
AMEN

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post. It brought me back to the many times that I had the very same experience of walking up to the temple to find solace my first few years at BYU. I made the weekly walk an important part of my Sunday. I grew up in Illinois in a place where it took a 2 hour drive to get to the temple, so having a temple within walking distance was a real rush.

    That's awesome that you listened to talks on your iPod while walking up there.

    Hang in there!

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