07 December 2016

An Answered Cri de Coeur

The anguished cries of my three-year-old grandson, combined with a statement by Dostoyevsky and hymn lyrics by Isaac Watts, prompted me to ponder how we can discover and attain our deepest desires. 

While visiting the family of our youngest son some years ago, the adults in our group were startled one evening by the sudden, impassioned crying of our three-and-a-half-year-old grandson, David. He was apparently having a nightmare. Our daughter-in-law attempted to calm him with soft words and rocking, but he continued to cry out and talk nonsense which related to what he was dreaming.

She carried him downstairs to join the rest of us, and mentioned that this sort of thing had happened before. Once David was fully awake, she assured us, he would calm down. For a couple of minutes he continued to wail and display deep distress, despite his mother’s efforts to awaken and reassure him.

Finally, his sorrowful voice rose to a crescendo, “I want to go HOME!"

His mother assured him several times that he really was home, and that everything was all right. She then asked if he wanted to go back to bed, and he assented. He awoke fully from his bad dream while they ascended the stairs, became his normal, cheerful self, and was soon peacefully asleep in his bed again.

As I pondered what had just happened, I thought of Alma's assurance to truth-seekers, which involves both desire and awakening:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. Alma 32:27

How reassuring to know that if we lack faith, the desire to believe can be sufficient to effectively start us on our journey toward spiritual awakening and learning the truth about God. But it has to be a sincere desire, or like Hamlet, we will soon realize that, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go” Hamlet (III, iii, 100-103).

A startling statement by Dostoyevsky about Christ, which I had recently heard on a radio panel discussion, also came to mind:

I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly and more perfect than the Savior;...If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not the truth. (Link to quote)

Now, I fully recognize that there are other serious issues raised by that quote; but what struck me when I heard it was that for that Russian author, all his doubting and debate about the reality of God and His attributes eventually came down to a choice related to the desires of his heart. All the supposed rational arguments against Christianity, against the very existence of God, didn’t really matter to him--Christ was what his heart longed for.

Sometimes, a challenge to our beliefs may cause us to question them in profound ways, even to the point of doubting what our hearts long for. This malaise has afflicted many members of the LDS church as they have become aware of information that seems to conflict with what they believed to be true regarding some doctrines or events in church history. What is our response when some of the most basic assumptions in our world view are under fire?

Do we accept all the interpretations of historical documents given by skeptics as proven truths? Or are we willing to listen to the reasoning and conclusions of scholars who are believers, as well as those who are not? Can we call to mind all the evidences, including personal experiences, that previously led us to believe that Christ lives, and that He restored His Gospel and church to earth through the prophet Joseph Smith?

Can we entertain the notion that when we feel disillusionment or betrayal, we may be having the spiritual equivalent of a nightmare? Can we then shake ourselves awake enough to remember that we know and love the Savior in a way that enables us to remain firm in our loyalty to Him, and to his imperfect servants?   Can we look forward with an eye of faith? (Alma 5:15)

In my personal struggle to gain a testimony of God, Jesus Christ, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was painfully difficult for me to overcome my pride (which had led to my focus on worldly philosophies), so that I could begin to sense what my deepest desires really were. Only then did my cri de coeur, my passionate outcry to regain the Spirit in my life and return home to my Heavenly Father, eventually fully awaken me from an atheistic nightmare to spiritual peace of mind, and allow me to continue on the path towards heaven once again.

When my grandson called out, "I want to go HOME!" he was only half awake; but he instinctively knew where his happiness lay. Hearing his mother’s voice repeatedly assure him that he indeed was home, he finally came fully awake, and realized he was safe.

Heavily influenced by the culture of our time, are we not often spiritually only half awake? We are troubled alternately by pride and fear, confronted and confused by temptations of the intellect, as well as those of the physical body. But, if we are willing to arouse our faculties, and give place for the word, the Spirit can fully awaken us to our identity and potential as children of heavenly parents.

When our cry to go home is truly heartfelt, we will eventually receive an answer. It may require considerable effort, anguish, and patience, but that kind of cri de coeur will not go unheeded by our Father in Heaven.

I find it supremely comforting to know that if we strive to follow the example of our Savior and rely on the power of His Atonement, if we put our trust in Him (even when we do not understand all things), we can receive strength and reassurance in our times of doubt, turmoil and trials. We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to be blessed with peace and joy. As we echo the words of Isaac Watts’ hymn, we can truly come to feel safe at home while still in this mortal life.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may thy house be mine abode
And all my works be praise!
There would I find a settled rest
While others go and come,
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
                          Isaac Watts, “My Shepherd Will supply My Need” 3rd stanza
This post was inspired by one I published in 2006 on the now defunct blog A Prayer of Faith.

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