...and lately as I've pondered how to increase my capacity to do so, I've also pondered on how I learned to do so at all. So I'd like to share a little bit of that journey.
I've had multiple turning points in my life, moments in time when something I experienced, read, heard, or decided changed me and/or the direction in my life. One of those moments was when I read Sheri Dew's BYU-Idaho Devotional, Will You Engage in the Wrestle? It was these paragraphs in particular:
Seekers have certain habits that are key to learning to communicate with God. For starters, they engage in the wrestle, meaning they work at it. They immerse themselves regularly in the scriptures, because the scriptures are the textbook for the Lord's language. They also work to be increasingly pure-pure in their heart and thoughts, pure in what they say, watch, read, and listen to. Purity invites the Spirit. And then, pure seekers listen...
As you cultivate these spiritual habits, there are two questions that will help open the heavens. First, ask the Lord to teach you what it feels and sounds like for you when He is speaking to you via the Holy Ghost, and then watch how He tutors you. And, second, if you've never asked the Lord how He feels about you, that is a great question to ask. In time, He will tell you, and as He does, you'll learn more about speaking His language.
When the Lord sees that you want to communicate with Him, He will teach you how.
The words seemed to come alive, reach out, and literally grab my attention. I think the impact was more profound because it wasn't the first time I had received this message and felt prompted to act on it. President Nelson (then the acting President of the quorum of the twelve apostles) had just a few months before said something similar at a BYU-Hawaii devotional:
Learn for yourselves who you really are. Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness.
I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!
I started with purifying the things I would think, say, watch, read, or listen to. This. Was. Work (ongoing work, especially in regard to what I think and say). This was sacrifice. I gave up many things. I miss NONE of them, but at the time, it was a true sacrifice. I insisted on purity in my music, shows, books, everything/everyone I followed on social media... My life got a full overhaul. I stopped making excuses for things... 'it's actually a really good show, except for...' I'm sure I failed to see impurities in many things, but I absolutely refined what I allowed into my life. It wasn't judging myself or others. Oddly, I made these decisions from a very neutral position, from a higher vantage point. I stepped away to just look and notice... is this pure, yes or no, if no, it is no longer going to be in my life. Period.
I don't remember everything about my experience or wrestle following this advice from Sheri Dew. But I do remember the answers that came. The answers are written on my heart. As she said, the answers came 'in time.' Not the moment I asked, but over time, building on one another until I had profound lessons from the divine in moments of true need.
In a moment of tremendous insecurity, nervous before I was going play the piano for something at church. I was particularly vulnerable and open for help. A wave of love enveloped me and consumed the perceptions I had of myself that were not true. An awareness of my divine nature and heritage filtered through the noise - the endless mind chatter in my brain replaying reasons I had to feel less-than, worthless, insignificant, unimportant, irrelevant, incompetent. That programming was overridden. Erased. Destroyed. And the truth encircled what remained with the infinite realities of eternity. I was embraced and changed. I will never, ever be the same. No lower notion could take the truths that were implanted on my soul that day. I still struggle with insecurity. I still wrestle with worldly comparisons. But I can now filter through those things and recall the truth, restoring the understanding of my identity to its eternal state.
I've tried to express this experience to as many people as I can, while maintaining reverence for the sacred experience. I NEED to share this. It pours from my soul.
PLEASE know you are loved. Please let divine, eternal love destroy the untruths that consume your mind. Please let the reality of your identity compel you to live in alignment with the truth of who you are, what it means when you sing, "I Am a Child of God." You will never be the same.
That experience led to a safety, a confidence in my desire to communicate with the Lord and believe or at least hope that the Man of Counsel would counsel me. My feet found the rock to stand on, rather than faltering on shaky ground. With my feet firmly planted in those truths, my perceptions shifted. It was like I had been living looking at a funhouse mirror, without realizing it, then the distortion was removed and I had this clarity. I could discern for the first time the illusions of the world. The funhouse mirror was replaced with a celestial lens, where what reflected onto my senses was circumstances and people in the light of eternity.
Looking through this eternal lens, I took different questions to the Lord. And I started getting answers. Guidance. Instruction. Knowledge. It poured in sometimes while I was on my knees, sometimes when I was driving, sometimes as I slept, sometimes while doing the dishes, sometimes in the temple. Usually unexpected, but in such a way that I could KNOW it was from God. I started making different decisions and doing so promptly. The most challenging part about this was that the light led me through hard things. Wasn't this whole receiving revelation thing supposed to make the journey a smooth one? In my experience, that is not necessarily the case. It will often be a step in the direction that will help you learn to rely on Jesus Christ the most.
Taking the recommended course of action from Sheri Dew and President Nelson opened the heavens for me. Not immediately, but over time. And I'm still learning, that is for sure. These things have helped me discern my Heavenly Parent's love, God's voice, Christ's invitations, and promptings of the Holy Ghost.
The experiences I have had feeling divine love have been the most important and foundation to any spiritual experience or progress since then. And I've been pondering lately the importance of that. And I've wondered if, perhaps, when the scriptures urge us to pray for the gift of charity, such as in Moroni 7:48:
Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love [charity], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.
...I've been wondering if perhaps we've thought of the charity described here a little wrong, or at least missed a big part of what this means. We usually think of this (or at least I used to) as changing us, making us better able to love and serve others. And certainly charity does that! But maybe receiving God's love for us helps not change us but understand who we really are, and that understanding changes the way we are able to love others. This has absolutely been the case for me. When we FEEL God's love, Christ's love, when we are filled to overflowing with this profound LOVE, that type of pure love flows naturally from us, without expectation or fear.
The work of Zion commences in the heart of each person. -Brigham Young
Zion is built in and by hearts that have been healed by learning that they are LOVED. The pure love Christ received into a heart makes it pure and then that pure love flows freely from that heart and can change the world. Revelation is rooted in this experiential love. When we are united it will be in the truth that we are LOVED. By Him and by one another. He knows how to communicate that love to each individual, and He is always communicating it. We simply have to be in the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical state of being where we can receive the messages being sent. It is up to us, it is within our power and it is absolutely our choice, to create a life, holy habits, purity embedded in the framework of our existence so we can learn to hear the voice that is always communicating LOVE and other messages rooted in that divine love. I recommend it.