Running on Empty

Stephen MarshMormon 7 Comments

Relying on, seeking, finding and responding to the Spirit is much like weightlifting.  Not only is it a process that takes a great deal of effort and practice to learn and strengthen in, it also appears to exhaust people, much like hard physical labor exhausts the physical body, or hard mental work exhausts the mind.

Most people have limits to the Spiritual strength and energy they can bring to bear and the amount of time they can bring that energy to bear.  This process and a lack of appreciation for it leads to issues and habits:

First, people running on empty who often have the spirit, learn to rely on "the iron rod" when they are running on empty.  Nephi’s vision showed that everyone on the path will have times when they lose sight and vision from time to time and need to rely on the recorded word of God, the scriptures, to give them something to keep from being lost. That does lead to it being easy not to question what is "translated correctly" and what is not.

Second, people running on empty rely on others.  Much like any member of a team, they can take turns letting others take the load.

Third, people often rely on their emotional reaction, logic, training and other skills to carry them when they run out of Spiritual strengths.  in fact, many turn to emotion, logic, habit or guidelines first as they are often more readily available at hand and easier ot reach.

Fourth, some people guess.  Often God makes us guess, study it out, and then find a confirmation or a negation.  Sometimes people only get as far as guessing.

I first started thinking about this on my mission when we switched mission presidents.  The new president came in and began to apply the skills that had made him phenomenally successful in business.  He had, of course (maybe I shouldn’t say "of course" but he had) been taught differently in Salt Lake, but he could not restrain himself because he "knew" he was right and had better tools than the people training him.  the mission went from first in the region to last.  I felt for him because he tried so hard and thereby tried the faith of many so hard.

Latter, I was an observer when Ezra Taft Benson wanted to talk to someone I’ll call “Molly” who looked just like one more thirty-something bland overweight barely active member.  A member of the 70 intercepted her on the way to the appointment to save President Benson from wasting his time (thinking that she had gotten an appointment rather than been requested to come in).  She mildly asked him if he had inquired of the Spirit and he told her that he didn’t need to in a matter so obvious.  President Benson made him drive to Provo to pick her up and drive her door to door for the rescheduled interview.

My own state  has waxed and waned.  I’m afraid that just as much of the last fifteen years has really drained me physically and emotionally, those years have also drained my Spiritually.  That has helped me appreciate not only my own weaknesses, but the weaknesses of others.

Too often we expect a complete lack of weakness, and we expect 24/7 peak performance — a standard past what we expect or find in athletes, the mind (e.g. chess or other mental sports) or in business (what futures trader could last on a 7 days a week, 12 hour a day schedule?).

It is good to recognize when we or others are running on empty and to think of what we can do to make things regurn to being full.  [As an aside, I would suggest that strife, emotional drains or entanglements, or other like approaches are unlike to generate light.  Rather, where love is, God is also.]

Comments 7

  1. By your symptoms, I have to wonder if most of us are running on empty almost all of the time. As far as recognizing when others are running on empty, I must admit that I always judge and then get to know them and then rethink my original judgment–but I do try to avoid strife first, anyway. I’m just wired jealously.

  2. I’m sure that most of us are running on empty more than we know. I’ll get to seeing through a glass darkly next (just finished the rough draft on it), and probably some more on this series of how we interact with the Spirit.

    You’ve hit it though, patience with others, self awareness of our own limits first.

  3. My own state has waxed and waned. I’m afraid that just as much of the last fifteen years has really drained me physically and emotionally, those years have also drained my Spiritually.

    Stephen, given what you have been through it is a miracle that you are able to function at all. You have been severely tested and survived which speaks to the strength of the spiritual reserve you must have begun this journey with. I think of you often and my prayers are with you and yours.

    Relying on, seeking, finding and responding to the Spirit…

    Yes, it requires work but he is always there available for us. The Spirit respects agency. That is why he speaks in such a still small voice; the small voice preserves agency by creating a form of plausible deniability. Was that a prompting…or not? Did I actually feel/hear something…or not?

    Release the Spirit from his obligation to respect your agency and his voice will grow louder, much louder. We can do this by following Christ’s example; not my will but thine be done. We can turn our agency over to the Lord by laying our will down in prayer and dedicating ourselves to acting as his servant. Fasten your seat belt if you haven’t tried this, it’s quite a ride.

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  5. To echo what Howard said so well, I have found myself being refilled in an amazing way as I have focused almost single-mindedly this year simply on becoming more Christlike. As I have tackled one characteristic at a time, for only one month at a time, I actually have been shocked at how “filling” the process has been.

    Wonderful post, Stephen – simply wonderful. I also agree with Howard that you are an inspiration to many of us who only have a slight understanding of what you’ve been through.

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