In my post last week I asked, “How can you tell the difference between just a kind thought and an actual prompting from the Holy Ghost?” I answered with the small insight that a true prompting is often accompanied by an enabling power. (You’ll want to read that post first so today’s post will make more sense.)
But today I want to keep talking about my initial question and offer another insight that is the exact opposite of my first answer. I think that some promptings actually come via a Disabling Power— a power that restrains us from acting, rather than a power that helps us to act.
I learned this principle previously, but the most recent reminder involved my little brother and his current health ordeals.
Go back to the beginning of December, and my ward was having their annual Relief Society Christmas dinner. It was to be held on a Tuesday night and they wanted an RSVP to be able to get a count for the catered food. I saw the invite on Facebook and knew I should go. My schedule was open that night, my husband would be in town to take care of the kids, and I was in charge of this same dinner last year so I know all about wanting a count and wanting support. I should have been the first one to RSVP, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I thought about it again and again, but never officially committed. I was a bit disappointed in myself that I couldn’t muster more support and enthusiasm. I wondered if I was jealous or resentful. What was my problem?
This whole time I also had the kind idea to invite my neighbor across the street to the dinner. I am not sure if she is LDS or not. All I knew was that she was single and new to the area, and I thought this might be a nice way for her to meet some ladies in the neighborhood, eat some good food, and share the Christmas spirit. I even asked the event organizer some specifics about the program to make sure my neighbor would feel comfortable if she came.
But every time I thought about inviting my new neighbor, I would look out my window and her car would be gone. I put it off and put it off and never invited her.
At this point in the story, it may appear that I am a loser. That I couldn’t support my own Relief Society and that I didn’t follow a prompting to invite a neighbor to an activity. You may be right if the story stopped there. But thankfully it didn’t and my inability to act proved inspired.
The day of the dinner finally rolled around, and although I had not RSVP’d or asked my neighbor to go with me, I still planned on going to the Christmas dinner. As a general rule, people are always welcome to our church activities.
But about 11:00 that morning urgent texts started to come in. We found out that my brother was getting out of the hospital that day around 3:00 pm. It was a few days earlier than we had planned, and we weren’t sure what care he still needed. His wife was dealing with barfing kids, and my mom and dad were out of town. My family felt strongly that someone needed to stay the night with my little brother to make sure everything went ok his first night out of the hospital.
Texts flew back and forth as we tried to figure out a plan. I finally realized that I was probably the best candidate to help my brother. My other siblings worked and my husband could hold down the fort at our home. I agreed to stay with my brother.
Because I DID NOT RSVP and because I DID NOT ask my neighbor to go to the dinner, I could go down the canyon and stay the night.
Now I realize that in any crisis situation, I could have gotten out of the dinner and found someone else to take my neighbor, BUT I would have been MUCH LESS LIKELY to do so. I would have felt more hesitant, more stress, more obligation, and more torn about helping my brother. A few more phone calls would have had to have been made and a lot more thought and energy would have gone into my decision. My inability to act and commit earlier to the Relief Society activity, freed up my night for a more important service.
Turns out I’m not a jealous brat that didn’t want to go to someone else’s party; instead I’m a good sister.
This story illustrates the most recent time I felt the disabling power of the Holy Ghost. But the first time I recognized this tactic happened back in the early 2000’s. It was approaching New Year’s Eve, and my husband and I had been invited to a few different activities/parties that night. At the time I couldn’t commit to any invitation. I put everyone off. I remember being bugged with myself that I couldn’t make a decision. What’s the big deal? What was I waiting for? Just make a decision! It’s just New Year’s Eve!
Then about 4:00 pm on New Year’s Eve my husband got a phone call to deal with an emergency in our ward. He was serving as the Bishop at the time. He left the house in a hurry, and I didn’t see him for the rest of the night.
At the time I didn’t know where my husband was, how long he would be gone, or what was going on. I would have been so bugged if I had made plans, and he wasn’t around, or if I had gotten all dolled up for a party and he was late. I would have felt uncomfortable going to a party by myself that I had committed us both to. But since I had no plans, I think Elle and me just went to my mom’s.
Turns out I’m not an indecisive friend wanting to go to the ‘best’ party; instead I’m a flexible, supportive Bishop’s wife.
(Later I found out that my husband had been called to deal with a drug addiction problem, and a family was in true crisis.)
These two stories might seem insignificant, but I learned from both of them.
First, I have learned to listen to my own natural energies and trust in my normal capabilities. I’m a high-functioning, productive, on-the-ball human, so if I feel resistant to a basic task, I listen. There is likely a reason that I just am not aware of at the time.
Second, I’m going to stop beating myself up when basic tasks seem labored and difficult. If I can’t come up with an idea, check off a task item, decide on a topic, or write a blog post, there may be a reason beyond my own vision. Now I know if anything I have to do seems too forced or too difficult, be gentle with myself. The disabling power of the Holy Ghost just might be in play.
I go back to my belief that God wants to help us. He wants to make our life easier. He wants to guide us and direct us and use us for His good. And his guidance might just come in the form of a disabling power.