Recently, I have felt a gnawing – a sort of hunger. This gnawing has not been satisfied by food or water. It is not satisfied by the things of the world. It is hole, waiting to be filled. I sometimes have mistaken it for physical hunger, and tried to fill it with food, to no avail. I have tried to fill it with other things: busy-ness, greater dedication to work, creating – without success. I realize that this gnawing is a spiritual hunger: a desire to feel of the spirit more strongly, and find manna for my soul.
There is a spiritual craving in my soul, in my mind and heart. I realize that I do not always listen to this spiritual craving. I easily get distracted from the things of my world: laundry, work, cooking, cleaning, writing. Yet, my soul is hungry.
I must admit, my relationship with the scriptures has been off and on. Sadly, some of the times when I have turned to the scriptures have been during difficulty. I waited until things were hard, and then I turned to the scriptures. When motherhood came along for me, life suddenly got very busy, and the essential of scripture study turned more “optional”.
Recently, though, I have felt a greater desire and intent to read and study the scriptures. At breakfast, with my children, I open the scriptures and we read together. For some reason, I have felt the power of the scriptures reach my heart more frequently this go-around. I have more fully understood that these scriptures are for me, now, today. I hope to help my children feel that, so as they grow, they will feed their own spiritual hunger with those things that satisfy: scripture study, prayer, service, church attendance, the sacrament.
It almost feels as though there is a literal “hastening” going on around us spiritually: a greater need to find peace in the hectic world we live in. The world drives us to feel insecure, incomplete, and inadequate. The world encourages us to focus on comparing, wealth, and power; the world offers a constant “ruler” where either we are measured above or below the mark. This leads to feelings of pride, envy, fear, insecurity, and worthlessness.
When I open my scriptures (and I fully acknowledge I need to do so more diligently), I feel peace emanating from its pages. It is almost like the voices from the past are there, willing me to find comfort and knowledge in those pages. They are willing me to move forward in this battle of life, and seek and help those along-side me.
This week, I was taught a lesson from a scripture story I have read repeatedly. In Alma 56-57, there is the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors, the “little sons” of Helaman. The word “sons” stood out so powerfully to me this time, perhaps as a reflection of my feelings of own children, and how I am leading them out to face the battle called life.
These very young men, without any experience with warfare, bravely go forward in battle against vicious, powerful, and experienced armies. They do so with complete trust and faith in their parents, their leader, and their God.
In Alma 56:46, these little sons say to their leader, Helaman:
“Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.” (italics added)
And, in the next verse, we have Helaman’s own musings:
“Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death, and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives, yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.”
I can only imagine Helaman’s heavy heart as he went forward with his little sons. The love he felt for them, and the heavy responsibility for their well-being and safety must have been a difficult burden. But, with faith in his heart, Helaman and the 2,000 sons move forward into war with Antipus and his armies, and the armies of Antipus surrender to them.
Afterwards, Helaman responds in verse 55 and 56:
“And now it came to pass that when they had surrendered themselves up unto us, behold, I numbered these young men who had fought with me, fearing lest there were many of them slain.
But behold, to my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength; and with such mighty power did the fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them…” (italics added)
I believe Helaman had considered that some of these boys would die in this battle. He was a seasoned warrior and knew the perils of battle. He was aware of the dangers, and the limited skills and abilities of these young men. I am sure in his private moments his prayers were focused on the well-being and safety of his little sons. I imagine there were tears privately and silently shed in preparation for the task before him.
As I face the world, with my children at my side, I must draw strength from the example of Helaman and his little sons. They bring me hope, they bring me courage, and they remind me that my spiritual hunger can be filled as I search, ponder, and seek guidance and hope from the scriptures.
I hope each of us can find greater peace and greater fulfillment from spiritual manna. I know it is something I need to seek more diligently. I also know the adversary is working on me to distract me from that which is truly fulfilling. I have a testimony of the power in the scriptures. I know it has brought me great peace, and I am continually learning from its pages.