“Well, you know, the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight [insert other arbitrary time your parents/leaders want you home by]…”
This phrase always seemed rather silly and frankly illogical to me (one if the Holy Ghost is meant to be constant companion to people all over the world, then he never sleeps, not to mention the weirdness of a divine, disembodied personage requiring sleep and two, what if someone needed help and the only way to know would be a prompting at 2am? We’re just out of luck because oh snap, the Spirit’s getting some shut-eye? *shaking my head*). Anyway, the phrase highlights something that I’m puzzled by and don’t really have solid answers for (surprise, surprise), but will maybe work out some productive thoughts and provoke some more useful questions by writing through some of my concerns.
Some of my confusion stems from what it means to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, which is promised to us in the sacrament prayers, if we do certain things, as stated here:
“that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them.” Moroni 4:3
My sense is that always having the Spirit with me means that I have a sense of confidence and peace about my life choices, not necessarily that I am receiving a constant flow of inspiration. Perhaps I’m just not righteous enough or holy enough for that level and one day may reach it. I’m reminded of Christ’s words to His apostles concerning the coming of the Holy Ghost and the feeling he describes I think matches what I’ve experienced:
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:26-27
The peace that Christ gives, but not as the world giveth. That feels right to me. But, this doesn’t seem to jive with a version of the Spirit that is so sensitive the instant the clock strikes 12, like Cinderella’s coach turning into a pumpkin, the Spirit peaces out or transforms back into an overlarge eggplant or something. And this brings me to my next portion.
I’ve been taught that any number of things will drive the Spirit from my life—the time of day, the amount of facial hair on my face, listening to Metallica (or Eminem or any number of heavy/explicit artists), hanging out with certain people, the jokes I hear (but especially the ones I laugh at), watching R-rated (or other “inappropriate”) movies, going to a rock concert (where there’ll be drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll—played at loud volumes!), going to bars or pubs, etc. Now, I think it is important to be sensitive to the things that feel good and bad, the things that bring light to you and the ones that bring darkness. Yet, it strikes me that such blanket statements often miss the point.
For individuals in those circumstances may be the very people most in need of feeling the Spirit, the ones desperately seeking divine guidance. And it strikes me that God looks out for those people, just like everyone else. If I’m to learn anything from life, wouldn’t I need the Spirit to be with me as these things happened—good or bad—to feel God’s approval or disapproval? If the Spirit can’t chill with me while I hang out with some friends at the pub, then what good is he? How can I expect to change and be pushed to improve when I’ve actually done something wrong, if the Spirit’s too weak to be by my side while some people have a drink or two?
A song by Nichole Nordeman entitled “Hold On” highlights how ever-present I think the Spirit can be:
“It will find you at the bottom of a bottle
It will find you at the needle’s end
It will find you when you beg and steal and borrow
It will follow you into a stranger’s bed
It will find you when they serve you with the papers
It will find you when the locks have changed again
It will find you when you’ve called in all your favors
It will meet you at the bridge’s highest ledge
So baby, don’t look down, it’s a long way
The sun will come around to a new day
So hold on, love will find you
Hold on, He’s right behind you now
Just turn around and love will find you”
Grace, Love, the Light of Christ, and the Spirit
Now, perhaps, I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be. See, there’s a lot of things that we talk about and seem to have similar roles, but I’m not quite sure where the distinctions are. God’s Love exists independent of the Spirit, but some teach that the Spirit is the messenger of God’s Love, suggesting that without the Spirit we cannot feel of that love, again, making it extremely problematic for me to believe that any tiny thing I do can determine whether I’m worthy of the Spirit’s companionship.
The same goes for Grace, though this becomes even more potentially damaging, since I understand grace to be the enabling power from God to change and repent and all that jazz and if the Spirit leaves you when you fall short of perfection, well, how can we access grace to change? Perhaps grace can be accessed independently. I’m not sure. I do believe that nothing can cut us off from God’s love, which I think of being linked inextricably with grace (because what more enabling power is there than love?).
The Light of Christ is particularly messy. I’m not really sure what it does that is surpassed by the Spirit, since my understanding is that the Light of Christ is given to everyone, yet may be rendered obsolete by receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost? If so, what does the Spirit do that the Light of Christ cannot? I dunno.
I believe that the Spirit can provide comfort and guidance and often feel something that I have come to understand as the Spirit. I try to do things that keep it around. I spent loads of time in pubs last summer throughout my time in England and didn’t feel the Spirit leave me. I watch loads of movies (more than a handful are rated-R) and on occasion have felt chastisement (that’s probably the best word, but feels a bit archaic and harsh—the sort of “this is trash, Conor, you know it and you can do better” vibe—watching Election and Deadpool, if you were curious). I read my scriptures daily and try to pray always (whatever that really means). I strive to follow Christ and love those around me and seek after all that is virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. I’m not perfect, but I think my efforts are good enough to keep the Spirit around and if he left, how would I know what God wanted me to do better?
I believe as long as I strive to do good the Spirit will be with me, in some form or another. Even if I’ve done something wrong, as long as there’s a shred of desire to do good, I’ll feel God’s divine love for me, whether that’s from the Spirit or through something else, I don’t know. But I believe that the Spirit’ll find me, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, and whatever I’ve done, as long as I want to be found, in some part of me.