I was thinking at church last week about the meagerness of my offerings—of attention, focus, and feeling—during the sacrament. Even when the children aren't doing anything terrible, they just constantly NEED something: soothing, straightening, picking up; a stern look here, a raised eyebrow there. The effort (though I know there is more I could do to be prepared) leaves almost nothing inside me for my own spiritual contemplation during those crucial moments. But I send up my short microbursts of prayers toward heaven anyway, between distractions, asking for forgiveness, and for capacity. I feel, while that ordinance is being administered, that there is sacredness nearby, and even if I can't quite touch it—I am at least drawn toward it!
What I wish is that I could maintain two channels simultaneously: the spiritual and the temporal; the elevated and the practical. I wish I could reach out and touch heaven in the very moment I am switching someone's shoes to the correct feet or whispering "Stop biting each other." But usually there's at least a moment of disconnect, a noticeable switching of gears, before I can get my mind focused on the eternal again.
I was thinking about that as I read this from Elder Bruce R. McConkie's talk:
There is nothing in this world that compares in any way in importance with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation, and if we will walk and live and be and move and breathe and think the gospel and its cause, always and everlastingly, then we can have peace and joy and happiness in this life and we can go on to eternal glory in the life to come.That's what I want to do, but it seems so hard when the demands of mortality are so constant! Some days I am barely able to keep everyone's different schedules and needs and questions in my head--let alone have any room for pondering and communion throughout the day. I do try to find time for that, when things are quiet or when I am alone. But to keep that spiritual attentiveness DURING the chaos--to live and move and breathe the gospel, as Elder McConkie says--well, I'd like to learn how.
So I thought this was a useful thought, in the talk by Elder Delbert L. Stapley:
Good habits are not acquired simply by making good resolves, though the thought must precede the action. Good habits are developed in the workshop of our daily lives. It is not in the great moments of test and trial that character is built. That is only when it is displayed. The habits that direct our lives and form our character are fashioned in the often uneventful, commonplace routine of life. They are acquired by practice.I have noticed that there are times when I have an easier time "switching on" my spiritual side. Sometimes I'm better able to see the higher purpose in what I'm doing, and to feel a spiritual gratitude for it. At those times, I don't know that I'd say I'm actually simultaneously keeping practicality and eternity in my mind—but maybe, like two cords twisted tightly together to make a rope, the two parts of me are at least cohesive, working together. Or at least I'm toggling back and forth quickly and with less effort. And some of this, I think, has indeed come through practice with "the commonplace routine of life." As I practice laundry or speaking softly or making dinner with five different people talking to me, it takes less of my mental effort, and I have a bit more to spare for gratitude and love.
Maybe the inverse is true as well: as I practice responding with patience or seeing the good in my situation, I won't feel like it takes the whole of my focus and energy to do so! And I guess I also just have to have faith that with persistent daily effort, even more cohesion will come, and at some point that constant engagement with the gospel—the being, moving, breathing, and thinking that Elder McConkie talks about—will be within reach.
Other posts in this series: