Monday, May 13, 2013

Creative Writing and Hearing the Word of the Lord

"Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?" (Mark 8:18)

There have been moments in my life when I swear I've felt the gospel resonating in my soul. There have been times when I know who I am and what I owe to God and what God wants for me. There have been nights when I've cried out and been filled with the stillness of His peace and mornings when His wisdom has distilled on me like dew.

And then there's the rest of my life. When I'm just trying to get by--and the very problems the gospel could help me solve keep me too busy to really listen to the Lord.

I know Jesus loves me, but sometimes I'm sure I exasperate him. Because my ears, as Isaiah says, grow heavy and my eyes slide shut.

When God's truth is all around us, why is it so hard to take it in?

Of all the reasons for being slow to listen, I think two are most common among Latter-day Saints.

Sometimes it's difficult for us to listen to the Lord because we've already heard so much. Repetition can help us internalize gospels principles, but it can also make it easy for us to tune out. My mind wanders when I drive along a familiar route; sometimes it also wanders during sacrament meeting.
Habit can undermine hearing, and if we do OK cruising through life on moral momentum it's easy to forget that we're supposed to be active navigators.

That said, few people can cruise all the way through life on the momentum of righteous past choices. Most of us, at one time or another, discover the insufficiency of what we thought we knew. Trouble comes, and our go-to answers and actions aren't enough. Prophecies fail. Our gospel language rings hollow. Because of the distance between what-we-expected and what-we-experienced, it's easy to feel like listening is pointless. Disappointment and the accompanying dissonance make it hard to let the Lord help us rebuild.

I care so much about creative writing because at its best, it can help us cut through habit and dissonance alike. Good writing can make old truths surprising. It can show us the space between the ideal and the real and help us find fresh ways to live with both. Stories and essays and poems and plays that demand our attention and imagination often grant us greater thoughtfulness and openness to inspiration in return.

From today through May 25th , this blog will be taken over by the eleven finalists in the 2013 Mormon Lit Blitz. Some are serious and some are silly: all reach in some small way toward the sacred. I hope you join us in reading, discussing, and sharing these works and I hope that in their many perspectives, you find new ways to look at or for the word of the Lord.

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