This past year has had quite a few of those moments (at times strung together to feel like very dark hours) where I have questioned some of my beliefs and some of the Faith that I have held dear. There are people who I look at and wonder if they have ever felt the same. For some people it seems to come so easily. Maybe they are the ones referred to in the Doctrine and Covenants as those with "the gift of faith". I then wonder if I was actually cursed with "the gift of questioning". (Ok, it isn't a curse. I know that. But when faith is scarce I wish I wasn't so darn gifted at disbelieving!) But I am writing this for my millions of readers- because I think I am not the first one to struggle.
Fortunately my Faith runs deep enough that there are reserves for times like this. And I trust that I won't always have to rely on my reserves.
Today, I had a moment of absolute peace during the Sacrament. (Sorry, JT, if I had a moment of absolute peace sitting in church surrounded by three kids, that probably means you had a moment of absolute distraction taking care of everyone by yourself!) I pondered about my prayer this morning, and the lesson I would soon be teaching the youth in Sunday School, and asked again to feel peace and the love of my Savior. (Something I have not felt enough of lately)
My class went wonderfully (mostly because I have the best group of teenagers who lift me up and inspire me) but it wasn't quite enough. Thankfully I had already made a commitment to start attending Choir practice to sing with the Choir again. (something I haven't done in years) And sitting in that Choir practice is where I found it.
As we rehearsed the song we will be "testifying" in church next week (I used the term Testify because the Choir Director, Amanda, didn't like the term Perform. When we sing in church it is not a performance of our own skill and ability. It is not for praise or applaud. It is simply to testify and share our faith through music. I liked it.) Amanda wanted to help us focus on the words. She reminded us of a story she shared last week about why the song meant so much to her on her mission. I probably missed every note, every fermata, and any other musical point in the song because the words engrossed me.
I remembered my own relationship with that particular hymn. "Lead Kindly Light". I loved it on my mission as well. But for a different reason. When my older brother came home from his mission I remember him sharing it with me. That hymn and "Abide With Me" were ones that he had loved singing on his mission in Spanish with the people in The Dominican Republic. And I remember one evening as we stood around our piano (like I loved doing) and sang while my younger (and more talented) sister played the song on the piano. As we sang it, my brother became a hero to me. I felt the difficulties of a mission and heard the pleading tone of the songs. I realized how hard a mission must have been, and how amazing he was for serving one faithfully. I loved him, and I loved the songs because they reminded me of him.
Here are the lyrics if you are not familiar. I borrowed them from this site. (Hope that is OK)
1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead Thou me on. Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene one step enough for me. 2. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou Shouldst lead me on; I loved to choose and see my path; but now Lead Thou me on. I loved the garish day, and spite of fears, Pride ruled my will: Remember not past years. 3. So long Thy pow'r has blest me, sure it still Will lead me on O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till The night is gone. And with the morn those angel faces smile, Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
And then on my mission I loved the words even more. The nights in Madagascar were dark- with little or no city lights, just the beautiful starry skies, and I did feel far from home. (You really can't get much farther from Seattle, WA than Antananarivo, Madagascar) Leaving on my mission I was well aware of my disposition to "choose my path" and I was grateful that through repentance the Lord would "remember not past years."
So I have a long history of loving this hymn. But as I sang it today, as I felt Amanda's love for the song, her passion and knowledge for music, and her humility in her calling, it took on a new meaning. I had not realized how much "pride has ruled my heart" in those moments of doubt. Since I was not blatantly breaking any commandments I think I thought I was fine. But I knew something was still missing. Something has been lost. So when the choir sang the last verse (and I mumbled through distracted by my own insights, no doubt distracting the other alto trying to cover up my mistakes) I heard the last verse in a new way.
(Disclaimer: since Lyrics are poetry put to music there is a wide range of interpretation. I may be way off in my interpretation of these Lyrics. But this is what they meant to me.)
I was able to recognize how the Light has blessed me, and how "sure it still will lead me on". I felt like my plea in Sacrament meeting was being heard. I felt the promise that I am not alone. That my doubts, my questions, even my shortcomings have not left me stranded without my Faith. And I knew that this Light "which I have loved long since" (Really I have loved and felt this Light through out my whole life. With my brother, wrapped in blankets, singing around the piano. On my mission, soaking wet, confused about the language and feeling defeated. When JT and I decided to make the leap from one career to the next.) has led me through so many dark nights. My Faith has been tested, proved, and strengthened. I know this. And then we (the choir, not distracted blubbering Katie) sang those words "and lost awhile". I honestly am not sure what the composer meant there. But today I heard, no, felt the peace and reassurance that the Light I was seeking was not lost. Maybe at times it has been "lost awhile", but never for good.
I found it. Or maybe it found me. Either way, it is not lost and neither am I.