Friday, July 5, 2013

How I Know that God is Real

Our first article of faith reads:
We believe in God, the Eternal Father,
and in His Son, Jesus Christ,
and in the Holy Ghost.
A statement of belief for the church does not, however, constitute knowledge for the individual. As far back as I can remember, I've always known inside that God is real but only recently has it occurred to me to ponder how it is I know that. Last night, I realized a large part of the answer.

I know that God is real because He answers my prayers. There are, I'm sure, more examples than I am presently remembering, but I will share just a few of them with you.
*   *   *
Some seven years ago I had taken a break from college due to a combination of burn-out and a need for enough work to pay bills. In my searching for a job, I happened to apply to a staffing agency on the off chance they could find something. Eventually a potential option was made known to me but it was more by way of the company setting up with the agency for possible future needs than because they needed anything right then.

But I did. I hadn't managed to find a job yet and it seemed, by far, the best option I'd come across. I'm a pray-throughout-the-day kind of girl anyway, but with this carrot dangling just out of reach, I became more specific in my prayers. I couldn't pray in good conscience that someone be fired so there would be an opening for me. Instead, I began praying that someone would find or be offered a better job than what they had so that there would be room for me.

Three to four weeks later, I got a call that I was going to be taken on as a temp-to-hire. After I started working, I asked about the lady I'd replaced. They told me she'd gotten a job at a bank with hours that worked better for her. I only worked there for five weeks (I later ended in a job I knew I needed to be in) but it was in that place where I became aware of having any actual skill in writing.
*   *   *
My second example happened about a year later on the 4th of July. One of the effects of an abusive home has been in trying to correct many seriously flawed thinking patterns I was raised to. I'd gone to a parade that morning, then went back home and fell asleep. I woke up caught in something I call a memory loop. This is not unusual even now. Something - a dream, a random reference, a surfacing memory, a stray thought - will trigger a cycle of thought and memory tied to the messed up past and it just loops over and over. It's not so easy to break out of.

That evening, I found myself in a loop remembering a seminary lesson about 'the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.' We'd been given a little, grey 'price-tag' and asked to fill in what we imagined our worth to be. All the feelings I now associate with PTSD triggers flooded through me that day in class. I wanted to put $10 down but knew the teacher wanted us to understand that we are all priceless. At the same time, I was terrified about what dad would say if I dared put that down and he saw it. In some way or other, he would make it clear that I had no right to think anyone should be expected to give anything for me. Rather as if Mahana's father demanded she pay Johnny Lingo to be her husband. Ultimately, I placed a smiley-face on the tag (though truly I just felt sick and scared) as a safe way to avoid attention about expectations I couldn't meet from either direction.

Such was the loop that afternoon and the heart-ache and tears. My prayer, that day, was wondering if I even had anyone who'd think I was worth the $10 I'd been too afraid to put down, and if it was at all possible that, if so, that someone would invite me to something that night so I wouldn't be alone while everyone else celebrated. Maybe half an hour later a friend called to invite me to a concert. When I hesitated, worried about the potential cost, she said they got last-minute discounted tickets and she was happy to pay my way as she valued my presence more than a silly ticket price. I'm not sure if I've ever told her the story that came before.
*   *   *
The final example was another year later. I'd left my home-town area in a need to get away and had been considering the issue of my personality. You see, I didn't actually know what it was. All my energy had always gone to surviving and trying to meet dad's ever-increasing demands while also trying to avoid triggering his anger and avoiding giving him extra things to use against me like hopes and wants. In many ways, I was a human trying to be an automaton in fear of being determined useless and therefore sent to be decommissioned.

Living a few hundred miles away and preparing to go back and finish my degree, I found myself safe enough to be able to wonder and want to know what I'd be like if the rigid, once-needed self-restriction disappeared. I began praying that I'd find myself in a place - a new job, or a show, or something - where I felt so safe that it wouldn't even occur to be guarded. Where I wouldn't get in my own way. That was the only way I could think of to get a clue to what my natural personality was.

Being a smaller University town, I was unable to find a job and was not brave enough to seek out the local theater options. Though I'd prayed the things above many times over about six months, I actually forgot about it. Then my return semester began and our ward had an influx of students.

I started noticing that something unnerving was happening at church and activities. Despite the same burden of fear and hurt from home, it seemed like something was stifling it at church. I'd laugh and joke and make almost silly comments to catch people off-guard. Compared to a life-time of super-seriousness, I felt almost an air-head for all the sudden playfulness (though my IQ was still apparent). I could tell it wasn't bad thing so I didn't fight it, but I didn't understand what was happening and it made me nervous. After a couple weeks, the Spirit reminded me of my previous prayers.

The sneak-peak really only lasted that first semester and as time went on, the weight of the divinely repressed burdens returned, but it gave me the destination to shoot for in overcoming those burdens. It taught me something I had never imagined - that I could have fun and like being me. As the years have passed, I've worked my way back and have even returned to my home town to finish it. For I knew that coming back would set me back a ton and if I could regain that ground in the worst place of my life then I could handle anywhere. And you know what? I have. And I will be quite happy to move on and leave it all behind.
*   *   *
In all three cases, events played out in ways I can only see as direct answers to prayers. They were not always immediate or answered the way I'd thought to ask, but they were answered in ways I could not have brought about on my own. The fact is: they were answered. And to have been answered, there has to be someone answering. And that is my evidence of how I know that God is real.

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