‘Led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand’

Right now, Dustin and I are not really sure what we’re doing. Dustin left his job in February, and I am about to force myself out of my job (my Maryland teaching certificate expires this year, and I’m not renewing it). Fortunately, I will still get paid until the end of August, but after that, who knows what we’ll do? We are both looking for jobs, and we’ve been planning to move in July—we’re just not sure where. Basically, we’re going forward without a real plan. But we both feel like we are doing the right thing.

When you allow the Spirit to lead you, you might not know where you will be guided, but it will always be to the right place.
When you allow the Spirit to lead you, you might not know where you will be guided, but it will always be to the right place.

There have been at least two times in my life that I know that I have been led by the Lord for months or years, not having any plan at all—but realizing later that I had been led to and prepared for what ended up happening. The first time took many years, and ended with my being baptized. When I was 19 and finally decided to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I looked back and realized that the things that had happened to me were not coincidences. My family moved to Salt Lake City when I was in second grade, and I grew up feeling like I was pretty much the same as all of my Mormon friends. I was never interested in smoking, drinking alcohol, swearing, or pretty much any other negative thing that was discussed in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. My friends rarely invited me to church activities or discussed the gospel with me, but I did know a fair bit about the Church, and sometimes I liked the idea of having faith in something.

When I went to college, I discovered that most people my age didn’t have the same standards I did; around that same time, my friend Philip wrote me a letter and bore his testimony. People I met at college said rather negative things about the Church, which I was pretty sure weren’t true, and that led to me doing some investigation on my own—just so that I would know whether those people were wrong. When I was baptized during my junior year in college, I wrote to Philip, who was on his mission at the time, and said that I felt like I had been waiting for this my whole life. As I wrote that, I realized that I had been waiting for it my whole life, although I hadn’t known it. All of those earlier events—the move, the influence of my friends, the feeling I had of wanting to have faith, the criticisms of the Church, the testimony of a friend—prepared me until, at long last, I was ready to make a covenant.

The second time began when I returned from my mission. Or perhaps it began before that. As I was deciding whether I should serve a mission, one of my concerns was that if I left, maybe the guy that would be perfect for me would show up in San Antonio just after I left, and I would miss him. I finally realized that Heavenly Father doesn’t punish people for going on missions, and if I was going to get married, it would work out somehow. When I explained this to a friend, she pointed out that it might even be part of the plan. Maybe that perfect guy wasn’t ready yet, so I might as well spend the next 18 months doing something useful to get myself ready while he did the same.

I mostly forgot about that until much later. When I came home from Germany in the middle of the school year, I looked for temporary sorts of jobs so I could support myself until I found a regular teaching job. As spring turned to summer and I didn’t seem to have made any progress on the permanent job, I started to get nervous. I had applied in cities around the country and hadn’t heard much of anything. I figured that the Washington, D.C., area would be a safe choice, since my sister and her family lived here, so I applied to several school systems and even flew out several times for job fairs and interview events. It was really scary to not know how I would earn enough money to move out of Provo.

Finally, I was offered a contract in Prince George’s County, Maryland—not a job, just a contract. So I moved here and stayed with Karen. After a few days, the county found a placement for me. In November, I moved in with some roommates from my ward. In December, we had a party at which several people we didn’t know showed up (totally normal for a singles ward). In January, I went to a baptism conducted entirely in French for a new French-speaking member—a rather strange idea, since I don’t speak French. I met a guy at the baptism who had actually been at that party. I invited him to go to a party that evening with another friend. When he asked me out a few weeks later, my inward reaction was, Wow, that was smooth! I later found out that his own inward reaction had been, Huh—I wonder why I just did that.

After every date, my roommates asked if I was interested and if I wanted to go out with him again. Every time, I resolved to tell him that I thought we should just be friends, but for some reason I kept saying yes when he asked me out. When doubts crept in, some sort of autopilot seemed to take over and keep me moving in the right direction. I had no idea, when I went on a mission, settled (somewhat desperately) on a school system in the D.C. area, went to that baptism at which I didn’t understand a word, waited in the living room of the house he was staying in while he changed his clothes, kept agreeing to more dates, that I would end up marrying him.

Which brings me to today. Dustin and I both know that sometimes, we are “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [we] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). Occasionally, we are led without even knowing that we’re being led. This, we hope, is one of those times. We have faith that we have made the right decisions about when to start our family, how to support our family, when to resign from our jobs. What we are doing feels right, even though it feels scary at times. When we do what the Lord asks of us, we can count on his guidance, whether it comes in the form of an idea, an opportunity, or a gentle shove in the right direction.

This article appeared on pages 20–21 of Issue 2 | April 2011.

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