Sudden Spiritual Bursts

For the past couple of months, I’ve struggled to write for my monthly blog slot. I think I skipped last month. I’ve been in a bit of spiritual drought not unlike that of Lynette’s post on Zelophehad’s Daughters. Twice in July, I broke through that barrier, but neither time was due to anything I had done. In fact, as I sat down and thought about how I’ve felt the Spirit in my life, not a lot of it has much to do with anything I had been doing. I think I feel the Spirit when:

I have an idea that bothers my mind to the point that I have to follow through to make it go away. In the past, that’s been in the form of a blog post (must write it!) or other form of writing/art. That’s why I made the Mutual Approbation blog almost 6(!) years ago now. It has since fallen to the wayside because I feel so many other people are covering the topic of Heavenly Mother better than me, but its existence was due to a nagging thought for about 3 days that I finally acted upon.

When I have to say something because I know no one else will. This is similar to the one above. I had this early in July at my ward’s fast and testimony meeting, which is a little funny because the day before I had been thinking about how I’m not sure what I’d say if I was forced to go up and give a talk right now. The next day, someone gave a testimony with some pretty harmful ideas in it re: gay people. I was knitting and my hands were shaking, but I knew I couldn’t let that go without some sort of response and I wasn’t sure if anyone else would. This impulse of the spirit is also why I have an Ordain Women profile. I wrote it because I knew other people couldn’t due to ward or family relationships. It’s hard and I don’t like to, but I will disrupt the norm if it means others will be safer. That “having to do this even though I’d not” feels like a prompting of the Spirit to me.

When I’m planning a lesson or talk and it’s coming together well. When I give myself enough time to think about the topic for a lesson (back when I taught YW or write lesson plans here) or write a talk, I find myself coming up with ideas throughout the day/week/month. When I finally put them together and I am excited to share the final work, I feel, “Yes, this is the message I need to share,” like it’s the Spirit confirming that.

When I’m in a safe place. In July I went to a day-long retreat for women in patriarchal religions on a spur of a moment and was pretty hesitant to because I wouldn’t know anyone there (almost everyone else was/had been Catholic) and I wasn’t sure if I would fit the tone of the retreat. But about 20 minutes into it, while the organizer was outlining the schedule for the day and the basic rules, I got that Mormon-y teariness in my eyes. Crying was very much considered a weakness when I was younger, so I tried to hide it, especially when there was no reason to cry- they were just laying down ground rules for the day! I haven’t been particularly stressed. I don’t know where the waterworks came from, but I would say I felt the Spirit in that place that day.

When I get ‘prophetic’ thoughts. This is probably the weirdest and hardest to explain. And it’s only in hindsight that I notice it, so it’s not particularly ‘prophetic’ and I suppose you could say it was just my subconscious. One example was when I was going to Salt Lake for one of the Ordain Women actions. Earlier that week the random thought came to me, “What if you run into family there?” I immediately thought this was ridiculous and had no idea where it came from. It was unlikely I’d run into my brother or in-laws in the day or so I was there. However once there, I did happen to run into some extended family in an elevator on the way to a parking garage under the mall as I was leaving after the Temple Square action, none of which lived in Utah. And of course, they asked me what I was doing in Utah and I wasn’t totally open yet about my involvement with OW, so I answered cautiously. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when I converse with them. Afterwards, I thought, “Hey, thanks for warning me. There would have been no way to predict that encounter.” I know this is on par with suddenly finding your car keys, but it felt a bit like someone out there was looking out for me.



None of these come from me praying regularly or reading the scriptures. I don’t feel like I have any control over when these happen. I can pray and hope for the Spirit, but it won’t come except almost randomly. The one most likely to come as a result of anything I’m doing is the planning-a-lesson/talk one, and even then I’d say I’m 50/50 for good lessons and talks compared to bad lessons and talks. I flail and fail a lot there. All the rest are just things that happen on their own and then I get a little burst of “Hey, you’re not alone in the universe.” It’ll be months or years between these sometimes. And then little bursts like these, here and there.

So how is it with you? Are you similar? Different? Can you “will” spirituality to yourself?


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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2 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    Thanks for sharing. This helped me consider the ways I experience little bursts in my own life that I might not have noticed.

  2. Cynthia L Van Dam says:

    Thanks. I am not sure I had actively thought about this. The spirit comes to me in the same kinds of ways when: I need to say something to help someone or to correct someone when no one else will; follow up on spiritual nagging in my brain; I am serving/teaching and need conformation/prompting; when I am in a safe place.

    I have found a few other things. There have been few times that I have felt extremely strong clear undeniable promptings. It has turned out that the decision I was making would be pivotal to my life and so difficult that I would need to KNOW it was the right decision. After most of my children were in school, I went back to school to become a teacher. I was close to graduation and felt strongly prompted to apply for Teach for America. I was accepted. Their training and my teaching jobs were very demanding. I would go home exhausted and overwhelmed. Always there would come that day or the next some little reminder/comfort/assurance that I was doing the right thing. I quit when I no longer felt those quiet promptings. I would have quit much sooner if I hadn’t had such a strong prompting in the beginning.

    I have also received promptings I didn’t know I had. Several times after I assigned visiting teaching routes, one of the sisters would tell me something special about that assignment. Once it turned out that she was the only person in the ward who knew the person I gave her to visit. They had met in a different ward. I didn’t know the sister I had assigned to her. I thought it was a random pairing. Clearly the Lord knew.

    When I am angry or depressed, I usually can’t find the spirit. Interesting. I meant to write feel as the verb in that sentence, but my fingers had a different idea. I don’t find that I can will the spirit, but if I am not seeking it, I definitely won’t put myself in safe places where I can hear it. If my mind is busy swirling negative thoughts through my head and heart, they are so loud that unless the Lord hits me up the side of the head, I won’t hear him. Sometimes, I can successfully reorient myself and turn to the Lord, so that I can feel confirmation of what I am hearing or reading.

    I also like what David Bednar said in a talk. He said we feel the spirit in different way. Sometimes it is like the light coming on in a dark room, clear and unmistakable. Sometimes it is like the dawn. slowly increasing, but still obvious over time. Other times it is like the light on a cloudy day. It is less obvious, but still there.

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