Monday, September 14, 2009

Spiritual Paralysis

Jo Anne loaded me up in the van and took me to the doctor's office a while back.  Some tests had been run previously and the doctor announced to us that I had a kidney stone that was too large to pass. He scheduled me to have it blasted which didn't sound too pleasant, but in my unfeeling, paralyzed state I thought I could probably handle it.  I wondered at the time how they would choose to anesthetize me. 

It is very interesting being paralyzed.  In my situation I have no feeling from my neck on down which is both an asset and a liability. Let me explain.  On the one hand, having no feeling is really quite wonderful when I have kidney stones, ingrown toe nails, and minor surgeries performed on my lower anatomy.  I have chatted with doctors as they have cut away at me, which is always a bit distracting and uncomfortable for them.  I think they would rather operate on someone who is comatose.  They do always remind me to be sure and not move however.  I faithfully comply! 

I really do believe though that being physically paralyzed and not being able to experience pain is much more of a liability than an asset. The reason I feel this way is that since I have no feeling, I don't know when I am being hurt and therefore I can't protect myself or know when I am being badly injured. 

One of my daughters had a boyfriend who, on one occasion, was helping to get me into our modified van.  The front passenger seat has been removed so that I can be locked into place by the side of the driver.  Trying to impress my daughter, he got me into the van quickly which was impressive to us all, and started pushing me vigorously into place.  However, in doing so he got me too close to the driver's seat causing the ring finger on my left hand to get caught on the seat.  As he continued to push me rapidly forward I watched my finger being bent all the way back to my wrist and I said to myself, "Boy, I'll bet that hurts!"  I went to the doctor who x-rayed the finger and then announced to me that it was fractured and that he was afraid he was going to have to immobilize it.  I wondered where he had gone to medical school!

Our bodies, as created by Heavenly Father, were designed to experience pain to let us know that something is wrong.  Although pain is not pleasant, it can be a blessing in helping us to seek immediate help to discover the source of the pain, take the necessary measures to alleviate it, and thus avoid more serious damage.

I believe that our spirit functions in much the same manner. However, if we do not heed the promptings that come to our spirits from the Holy Ghost, it is also possible for our spirits to become paralyzed -- "past feeling." 

When an individual is spiritually paralyzed he cannot "feel" the still small voice and is not aware that he is in great spiritual pain. 

Most people I know that are physically paralyzed were brought into that state usually as a result of one traumatic experience.  Spiritual paralysis is very different in that it creeps up on us little by little until, without even realizing it, we are no longer able to "feel" the still small voice of the spirit and of our conscience. 

I think it is important that we understand some of the causes and cures of spiritual paralysis so that we might take the necessary steps to protect ourselves from it, and be cured if already infected.

There are some obvious causes, or rather manifestations of the disease, like violating the law of chastity and becoming addicted to pornography or drugs for example, but I personally believe we usually only do these kinds of things after we have already been infected with the beginnings of what can turn into a serious case of full-blown spiritual paralysis.

And so what might be some of the things that bring on the early stages of this disease?  I believe they can include such simple things as not having our personal private prayers each day, or not reading the scriptures consistently, or just being mentally lazy and not reading good books, or watching too much TV or playing too many video games.

Each day my caregiver exercises my body for me.  It's called range of motion.  By stretching my muscles and tendons my body stays flexible and looks fairly normal.  If I did not receive this daily exercise my limbs would begin to be frozen in place and become distorted and twisted.  I believe the same thing can happen to our minds and spirits if they are not regularly exercised.

President Hinckley told the youth of the Church in the Priesthood Session of a General Conference just prior to his death to: "... Please, please ... not fritter away your time or your talents in an aimless pursuit.  If you do so, it will lessen your capacity to do worthwhile things. I believe it will dull your sensitivity.... and as you look back, you will be disappointed with yourselves."  [Gordon B. Hinckley, May 2005, Ensign.]

Within days following my accident I realized that whatever quality of life I would have from that time on would be centered in the mind and in the spirit. 

Thankfully I had a great love for reading that was instilled in me by my mother when I was a young boy that proved to be a priceless gift upon becoming physically paralyzed in helping me to not become spiritually paralyzed as well.

A while back, a good friend of mine shared an important thought with me that I found to be very meaningful.  He said, "If it is true, it never gets old!"  I feel that way about great writing -- literature, biographies, and history.  This philosophy also applies to truly great music, and especially to the Scriptures.  They never grow old -- they have stood the test of time -- because they are true! 

Thankfully because of wonderful computer technology and voice recognition software, I am still able to search the Scriptures in my condition. 

Elder Carlos E. Asay, a former general authority, once said that "Reading the Scriptures is like having a conversation with deity."  Along with prayer, it is the most important activity I engage in on a daily basis.  Surely I would have become spiritually paralyzed as well as physically paralyzed had it not been for my love for reading and the self-discipline required to do it.

I have often thought if I had not searched the scriptures for so many years of my life, beginning in the mission field, where would I be now?  But because of my love of reading good books ,as well as the scriptures, my days are filled with happiness and fulfillment.

Thankfully, we never need to be the victims of spiritual paralysis; we can immunize ourselves against it through prayer, hard work, self-discipline, keeping the commandments, searching the Scriptures, and exercising our minds through reading good books. 


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