Am I a horrible mother?
Can I tell you about the moment I realized I was totally failing as a parent?
I had decided after hearing something at General Conference–I can’t even remember what year it was– that every single night at dinner I was going to ask my kids how they’d felt the spirit that day.
Great idea, right?
Seriously, it was a genius idea.
I was especially excited because I was SURE that my kids would be able to tell me about lots of spiritual experiences they’d had each day. I mean, I was teaching this stuff at EFY, in seminary, at Education Week . . . and I was bringing those lessons home and teaching my kids too. I just KNEW that our nightly chats around the dinner table would prove what a remarkable job I was doing as a mom.
Except it didn’t.
It actually proved the opposite.
Because every single night, when I would say, “Kids, how did you feel the spirit today?” they all had the same answer: “I didn’t feel the spirit.”
I was shocked. I’d taught them this stuff!!
So I’d ask, “Are you sure? Because I know you felt the spirit and we’ve talked about this before . . . ” And they’d say, “No. I’ve never even felt the spirit.”
I mean, really. Ouch.
Here I am teaching all of these kids around the country about how to feel the spirit and my own kids have no idea that they’re feeling the spirit every day.
I felt like a total failure.
But I’m grateful for this experience because it helped me realize something important: the problem wasn’t that I hadn’t taught my kids, it was the WAY I was teaching them.
So I went on a personal mission to find the simplest way to teach kids how to feel the spirit.
And I found my answer.
And it left me totally surprised.
One day as I studied I happened to be reading in Galatians 5 it talks about something called the fruits of the spirit, which I’ve always just thought of as signs that something is good.
You feel love? —> It’s a sign that something is good.
You feel faith? —> That’s a sign that something’s good.
But when I read it this time I realized something I hadn’t before. And that is that apples come from apple trees . . and oranges come from orange trees!
When the Lightbulb Turned On
Which sounds very obvious until you realize that in Galatians 5 we’re talking about the fruits of the spirit . . . which means we’re talking about what comes off of the “spirit tree!”
So when we feel these “fruits of the Spirit” it means we’re feeling the Spirit!
I realized as I read Galatians 5 that I was looking at the most simple, understandable list of ways that kids, youth, you, and me are already feeling the Spirit.
Want to know what the list is?
You can find it in Galatians 5:22 – 23–
“But the fruit of the spirit is
- long suffering
Nine signs that you’re feeling the spirit that are so basic, so simple, that we’re all feeling them every day!
As soon as I figured that out I went to my kids and said:
“Hey guys, when is the last time you felt love?”
And they all looked at our dog and they were like, “I feel love right now!” (She’s everyone’s favorite, of course.)
And I said, “Great! That feeling of love is the spirit!”
Then I said, “When is the last time you felt joy . . .. just pure happiness like there was so much love for the whole world because you just felt so, so joyful?”
And they said, “Christmas morning!”
And I said, “Great! That was the spirit! That was the spirit you were feeling on Christmas morning.”
Then I asked them, “Remember when we listened to President Nelson at General Conference? What did you think when he talked? Did you feel a lot of doubt or did you just believe what he said?”
And they said, “We believed him.”
And I said, “Awesome! That’s faith. That was the spirit. You were feeling the spirit.”
And we went through the whole list of fruits of the spirit.
- When was the last time you were patient . . . when someone deserved to be punched in the nose and you didn’t punch them in the nose? That was the spirit!
- Or when did you do something nice for someone else? Great. That was goodness. That was you feeling the spirit.
- When was the last time you wanted to eat 13 cookies, but you only ate 12? Awesome. You had temperance (or moderation) there. You felt the spirit.
It Actually Worked!
And they got it you guys! They really got it!
This was the thing that had been missing when I taught my kids about the spirit.
It was like a lightbulb had gone on and everything suddenly click.
I can literally ask my kids at any moment when they last felt the spirit and they can answer right away.
They KNOW that they’re feeling the spirit all day.
So here’s my invitation to you: read Galatians 5:22 – 23 either on your own or in your family. Make a list of the last time you felt those 9 fruits of the spirit and then LOOK for those feelings each day.
Because we need to be able to #HearHim all day every day.
And recognizing how you’re already feeling the spirit will give you such a head start in learning how to better #HearHim.