Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bearing Witness

I've been gone a while... For those of you who noticed, it is because the last half of the summer I was concentrating on finishing a book manuscript I've been working on since April. I finished a first draft in June, and then put it through a round of major revisions. I finally got it "finished enough" to feel I could put it aside for a bit while trusted friends read and give feedback. Unfortunately, that last, more intense round of revision and writing meant I had little energy left over for blogging (or much anything else). A lot of stuff went on hold during the final sprint. Blogging, especially, went on hold, since after an afternoon or evening of revising my book manuscript, I was more or less "written out." But I'm finished "for now."

(Göran will tell anyone who dares ask, from having gone through this once before, that it actually never ever is really finished until the publisher whacks my hand with a big ruler and says, "We're going to publish this now!" When I was working on Take the Young Stranger by the Hand, there was a conversation in our household that was repeated ad nauseam: GÖRAN: "What are you doing?" JOHN: "Working on my book." GÖRAN: "I thought you were DONE!" JOHN: "I'm never done." GÖRAN: "ARRGH!" JOHN: "Go to the Mall.")

After I "finished" (this time around), I came down with the usual head-splitting, post-partum cold, right on schedule. The same afternoon I finished it. I think that was my body's way of telling me to give it a rest. So after finishing last Friday, I've been forcing myself to do nothing. (It's really hard!) But it's been a good thing.

A couple of days ago, my post manuscript hiatus was interrupted by an email from an individual who had listened to the interview I did for Sunstone a couple years ago. He explained that he was gay, but non-Mormon, and wondered if we could talk. So we talked yesterday for two full hours.

This person was one of the most remarkable listeners I've ever encountered. He was an active listener. He would ask a question, and I would answer, and then he would ask another question that showed he had really, really been listening. Really, really good questions. And this went on for two hours.

He had a lot of questions about my spiritual journey of the last three years. And as I said, he is not a Mormon (actually, he is not Christian either), so some of the questions included things like, "What do you mean when you talk about the Holy Spirit?" And, "How do you know when the Spirit is speaking to you?"

In answer to that last question, I told him the story of how, when I was seven years old, my dad, who was a Stake Missionary at the time, had given me the discussions. I remember after one session, my dad sat down with me, just the two of us. We opened a Book of Mormon together and he found a passage and asked me to read it out loud. After we had read, Dad asked me to describe to him what I felt as I read it. And in seven-year-old terms, I did the best I could to describe to him that good, peaceful feeling, that peace unlike any other peace that has become so familiar to me since then. And then dad explained to me, "That is the Holy Spirit." I explained to this individual, "That is how I learned to recognize the Spirit."

He then asked me to tell him when I typically felt the Holy Spirit the strongest. I knew the answer to that question, but it took time and effort to tell him, because by then the Spirit was very powerfully present, and I was finding it difficult to speak without weeping. I finally found the composure to explain that the times when I feel the Spirit present most powerfully are those times when I am reading and learning and bearing witness of Christ.

As the conversation continued, and as I continued to tell my story, I continued to weep quietly at times. But this remarkable man did not show the least bit of discomfort. He continued to listen, compassionately and attentively, letting me bear witness and tell my story, and always asking questions that showed he was absorbing what I had to say, and had deep respect for me. It was one of the most wonderful, intimate conversations I have ever had in my life. And when it was finished, we truly had put aside our strangerly selves and had become friends.

Toward the end of our conversation, he shared something of his own spiritual journey of recent years, which had many things in common with my own. We promised to stay in touch with each other and continue this remarkable conversation.

This was something of a miracle. For the rest of the evening, I felt so joyful, so full of peace. I had been given such a wonderful gift by someone who wanted only to listen!

This is the gift that we give each other. Ultimately, it's why we blog... Because of this need to tell and to listen, to bear witness, and to have that witness received.

In that spirit... I'm back!


Anonymous said...

and to think i'm proud when i finish a two page memo or have a deep conversation with a colleague about "lean" management.

Bill McA said...

Good to hear from you again, John. I was beginning to wonder if you had entered the witness protection program....

GeckoMan said...

John, congratulations on 'finishing' your manuscript! I'd like to be first in line to buy your book when it's published.

And yes, I've missed you, and am glad to find you back on your blog sharing your thoughts. I too have been busy remodeling a home and putting in a lot of hours at work, so there has been little disposible time for blogging. Like you, I hope to get back to it again.

I agree, it is so wonderful to feel the spirit when we bear witness of the Savior. I love this aspect of our religion and spirituality; it is one of the most confirming and positive experiences we share in the gospel. I hope your friend will find truth and solace among us, despite our contradictions, and that we too may learn from his faithful experiences.

Bravone said...

John, so good to hear from you again. As I watched conference today while making salsa, it really hit me that what you said "I feel the Spirit present most powerfully are those times when I am reading and learning and bearing witness of Christ." is the same for me.

When I get caught up in the culture, politics, and human side of the Church, I get frustrated and depressed. When I focus on the Savior, I feel so much peace. I made a resolve to study more his life and his words, and to not worry about the rest for now.

Congratulations on finishing your manuscript. Don't go losing it now. :)

John Hamer said...

Congratulations on finishing your book, I look forward to it.

J G-W said...

Thanks, John. And thanks for your thoughtful email... We will continue our conversation off line...