I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of my boyfriend’s apartment complex in Orem, Utah. I was crying. I felt so alone and confused and didn’t know what was happening to my life. I can’t recall what happened that led me to that moment, but I do remember that it wasn’t the only time I had found myself crying alone in my car. I had made a mess of things. And I felt hopeless.
Then my boyfriend got into the car. He said he didn’t know what my problem was, but that maybe if the temple was really as important to me as I always said it was then I should try praying about it. He wasn’t even looking at me. Then he got out of the car and left me alone again. There was snark and condescension in his voice, but I couldn’t tell how much of what he said was meant to be hurtful and how much was meant to just be a rude wakeup call. I wasn’t even in a place to try to decipher his intentions yet again. But it did make me think. Why didn’t I pray?
Why didn’t I turn to my Savior when I felt lost and alone? Why didn’t I ask for guidance, or comfort, or anything at all? I immediately thought I knew the answer. I wasn’t worthy to be talking to God. I had offended him with my mistakes. He couldn’t be present in the rut I had created for myself. How dare I even think that I could get an audience with the King? I didn’t even have the desire to pray or a pleading to be heard, I just wanted to sink into the seat and fall asleep, thinking maybe once I woke up the nightmare would be over.
Somehow in the midst of these condemning voices, I heard the words of 2 Nephi 32:8.
The evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
God broke through the thoughts that told me I wasn’t good enough and very clearly told my heart exactly where those thoughts were coming from. I prayed for the first time in a long time, but it didn’t even matter anymore because I knew that God had heard the prayer I didn’t say. God heard the prayer I wouldn’t have even believed my heart was broadcasting. And I did sink. I sank deeply in the arms of a loving God. I knew everything was okay. Not that it would be okay, but that it was okay. Then it was simply time to live into it.
Fast forward to the birth of my first child. I had married a man who spoke a new truth to me. Not the rude boy who criticized me for feeling the darkness keenly, but a young man who told me that God’s love, and his love, were unconditional. This was not the message I got from the priesthood holders I went to Sunday School with. This was something beautiful and wondrous, and I believed it. This was a new Priesthood. I married that man in the temple, just as I had always dreamed. And just over a year later we had our daughter. I knew she would be safe with her father.
Within just a few hours, though, I sensed there was a problem. I was having a really hard time nursing my baby. She would cry and cry, and it didn’t take long for her to become dangerously dehydrated. I was so convinced that “breast is best”, that I had no bottles or formula on hand for emergencies. My mom came to visit and help. She noticed that I would cry whenever my baby would wake up because I was afraid of the pain, the blood, and the weak squeaky cries of my dehydrated baby. I didn’t want to be with my baby. I was a complete mess.
My mom told my husband to go to the store and pick up supplies. Then she told me, “Loving your baby is the most important thing, and if anything is getting in the way of that, you need to let it go.” I wept as my ideas of what good mothering looks like shifted from what I did for my child to who I was for my child. I had been attached to my stories of my own rightness, and they had gotten in the way of truly showing up as love for my child. I grieved the loss of my old narratives, and I also felt freed by this new way of being, this new love. My sanity was restored, my body and mind healed, and my heart grew beyond any boundaries I thought it had.
There are countless more stories I could tell. Stories of when the cherubim who protect the way to the tree of life with a fiery sword abruptly and mercifully cut away the thoughts and damaging narratives that were keeping me from my true self, and cauterized the wounds with the pure love of God. Quiet reflection reveals these stories in all of our lives. Because God is always with us, always shining light through the cracks of our lives and revealing our divine natures. Revealing love in and through all things.
So, now I help the cherubim the best I can. Whatever keeps me from feeling the love of God or keeps me from showing up as God’s love in the world has to go. I’m open to the change. To the letting go of the ties that bind. To the setting down of old wine bottles in favor of new ones. Sometimes I can be rather dense, and it takes me a while to see how the things I’m grasping onto are hurting me or others. But no matter, repentance is fast and simple, though not always painless, and there’s room to take time in a boundless universe. Grief is transformed into gratitude, and mourning is transformed into movement. Eventually. I can be patient with myself and the marvelous creation that is my life.
Whatever is keeping you from knowing you are loved, or from showing up as that love for others, can go. We don’t have to believe every thought that arises in our minds or is placed there by others. Follow your heart. It knows the way. It is friends with the cherubim. It is not afraid of the mists of darkness. It needs no map. Your heart, filled with the love God created it with, can be trusted.