I used to be a teacher at the MTC.
That stands for Missionary Training Center.
I often asked the new missionaries,
“What do you need to feel in order to experience conversion?”
I wasn’t looking for any one answer in particular, just trying to get them thinking.
I often heard things like:
“Feel that God loves you.”
“Feel a desire to believe”
“Feel that He is listening.”
Once, from a brand new sister missionary in the back corner, I heard this:
“You need to feel uncomfortable.”
She explained that conversion requires a change of heart.
Some sort of self-renovation.
You cannot change or progress without leaving your comfort zone.
And so, she concluded, you need to feel uncomfortable.
I believe she was right.
Let’s talk about this.
Maybe the word conversion is strange and foreign to you.
You could call it inspiration or enlightenment or something more ambiguous if you like.
For me, that move can sometimes be deceiving.
God >> Divine Being >> Higher Power >> Vibrations of Light >> Force of the Universe.
With each move, your subject becomes more broad.
You are covering a larger scope of ideas with just one word. This type of language is good if you’re speaking to a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds. It helps us unite and relate to a large spectrum of ideas. Yoga teachers are masters at this. But here’s the deal: in embracing that ambiguity, in trying to include every possible belief that others have, you may pass over the opportunity to clearly define what your belief is.
And so, I believe the safety of ambiguity also comes with a loss of clarity, relevance, and intimacy.
Who is God to you?
I think it can be simpler than a vast, vague sphere of ideas.
I think God is a man we can know, rather than a force that comes and goes in mysterious waves but is never quite as personal as a friend. I can be uncomfortable to try and communicate with someone you don’t know. But that is not the type of uncomfortable I’m talking about here. What I’m saying is that while the conversion experience must at some point feel uncomfortable, our relationship with God as a being, as a Father, does not have to be. It can be simple. And clear. And awesome.
Kind of like this:
There was a time when I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. My good friend Jared offered to help. He was kind. He didn’t mind that my musical background consisted solely of jammin to the radio, he was just pumped to teach me–so I decided to try it. Still, it was uncomfortable for me. Holding the guitar, finding the chords, staying in rhythm–all of that was weird. It was a position I’d never been in before and most of the time I felt pretty embarrassed. Jared was patient. Sometimes he would explain things in a way that didn’t make sense to me, but I trusted him. I knew he was listening and that he cared about me, but learning to play like him was hard. It required much more. Same thing with God.
If you want to know Him,
You must be ready to go where you have never gone,
Learn new things. Embrace awkward positions.
Leave your comforts behind.
This means you will feel uncomfortable at times.
Not so much in your relationship with God,
but in the experience of becoming like Him.
I could leave you with a beautiful ending about how I stuck with guitar until I mastered it and was no longer uncomfortable. But that wouldn’t be true. I gave up on the guitar pretty fast. I just didn’t know if I was capable of the results I wanted. And if I was, would it be worth all the time I spent feeling uncomfortable? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped trying, and went back to the way I was. Now I listen to music like I always have, appreciating it from a distance without being involved. I think this is how I am with God sometimes too. Distant. Complacent. But not happy. Not anywhere close to the potential he created me for. I keep having to remind myself to seek that potential–leave the zone of comfort.
So here’s the ending: I think that process is normal.
That is how you find out the details of who He is and how He works with you.
That is how God goes from someone you hear about, to someone you know.
That is how you move from an ambiguous notion, toward a firsthand, personal clarity.
It is also, I believe, the point of life.
We can do this.