When a pilot is flying an airplane they may experience a frightening phenomena called “vestibular disorientation”. When pilots can’t see outside and aren’t able to orient themselves with physical landmarks they sometimes feel like their plane is turning. Or banking. Or rolling in a way that it is not. A pilot who experiences vestibular disorientation feels in their body something that is happening that isn’t actually happening. Their inner sense of balance, their whole body, may scream at them that they are turning or banking when it in reality it may be completely level. A pilot’s physical senses cannot be trusted when they cannot orient themselves to outside landmarks.
For a pilot to overcome vestibular disorientation they have to focus intensely on their instruments. They focus on exactly what the indicators say are really happening with the plane. They may feel with their whole body that they are rolling but they must trust the instruments that tell them they are flying level. It takes total faith in an instrument when your senses and feelings are sending off alarms and deceiving you to do something that would lead to your destruction.
This is, for example, what is believed to have happened to John Kennedy Jr. when he crashed into the Atlantic ocean. He was flying in zero visibility. He thought that his plane was banking and so he corrected. He didn’t trust his instrument readings. Unfortunately it was his correction that caused him to spiral into the ocean.
The metaphor of vestibular disorientation in aviation is a powerful one. Because our natures are fallen, and because we “see through a glass darkly”, it is easy for us to be overpowered with spiritual disorientation. It is possible that our body – our whole being – can give us false revelation. A body that is not sanctified can be a powerful false revelator.
When we are under the influence of our flesh it can seem like we are getting true revelation. If these senses are so powerfully real, then how is it possible to know if we are getting true or false revelation? We must learn to distinguish between the spirit and the flesh. In other words, we must learn how to taste and recognize light.
The light of Christ is the external instrument panel that can bring us out of our disorientation. The more we learn how to taste and identify the light of Christ, the better we will be at coming out of spiritual disorientation. But just as a pilot has to fight his core physical instincts and trust his instruments, we too, will experience a similar struggle. When abandoning ourselves to the requirements of the light of Christ may feel like an epic struggle. We may want to trust our bodies and desires instead. Having faith to yield to light instead of the flesh can feel like an epic battle.
But if we have faith to do exactly as the light of Christ invites us we can be quickly relieved from the disorientation of our fallen nature. Sometimes for a pilot they have to fight their disorientation and act against their physical instincts for 10-15 minutes before their bodies recalibrate. Likewise, we have to have faith to follow the spirit in exactness for some time before our flesh aligns with the will of the Spirit.
This could be considered “faith unto repentance”. It takes faith to act against our fallen instincts until we become recalibrated to the light of Christ. This “recalibration” is the process of becoming sanctified.
Sanctification is the state of being where our flesh, mind, heart, emotions, desires – all that makes up our very being – becomes aligned with the Spirit of Christ. It is to become one with Christ. Coming into this state requires us to act in faith on the light of Christ, even when it’s promptings and invitations seem to violate our senses. We may falsely believe that if we yield to a prompting that we will become uncomfortable, or unhappy, or become vulnerable to something we have worked hard to protect ourselves from.
I remember one day when I was in graduate school and had a long and tiring day in class. I had a lot of stress and a lot of school work to finish. In the evening, I just wanted to escape. Even though I had hours of work ahead of me I just wanted to go see a movie. I grabbed my keys and was walking out the door when I went to war with myself. The spirit instructed me to stay and do the homework. Everything else in me fought the prompting, making the case that I was tired, overworked, and “deserved” a break. I felt that if I didn’t go to a movie that my whole world would fall apart. It was a very dramatic internal showdown.
I decided to yield to the spirit in this case. Even though my flesh was screaming at me to flee my work and relax in a theater, I acted against my instincts and followed the prompting. It wasn’t 10 minutes later that I felt light, empowered, and full of focus and energy to finish a workload that was nowhere near as overwhelming as I had built it up in my mind.
Imagine if I had instead chosen to go the movie? I am sure that the work that I had put off would later seem unbearable. I would have been consumed in darkness, depression, and probably without hope. When we subject ourselves to our fallen world-view we become overcome with a false sense of the world. Everything gets painted in a distorted way. We do not see things “as they are.”
What’s also interesting is to think about the ripple effect this decision had. If I had resisted the prompting to stay home and study do you think I would have had a greater temptation to see a movie that I shouldn’t? I believe so. That night, when I prayed to the Lord, were my prayers different? The next day, when faced with a greater temptation, did I have more or less strength to be faithful to the spirit?
There are no small decisions. Everything we do has an eternal rippling effect. Thankfully, the invitation to repent is constantly before us. We can always choose to start faithfully following the promptings of the light of Christ.
We are all constantly living in a state where the Lord in his mercy and grace will give us promptings at anytime we want them. We can always ask the question, what does the light of Christ require of me right at this moment? I believe the Lord will always answer. Even if it’s small. It may be a prompting to simply sit up straighter and take a deep breath. It may be a prompting to continue praying in patience. Be aware of exactly what you are being invited to do.
If we act on a prompting, and we act without hesitation, the next prompting will be slightly clearer. And it will be more discernable. You will grow in the light of Christ and learn how to follow the Holy Ghost with precision (Alma 32). This process is also explored more in the post, Growing in the Principle of Revelation: How to Discern Between the Spirit and Your Own Thoughts
Here are some questions that we can always ask. If we respond to our first impressions to these questions, our world can transform quickly.
What does the light of Christ require of me right now?
What does love require of me?
What is the loving thing to do?
What is the faithful thing to do?
What can I change that I know I am procrastinating?
The Lord intensely wants us to return to him. If we engage him faithfully he will carve a path through stone and lead us to him. We will become beings full of light. We will become so that we “comprehend all things” (D&C 88:67). We will come to “know the mysteries in full” (Alma 12). We become the kinds of beings that will “shake at the appearance of sin” (2 Nephi 4: 31). We will see him as he is because we will become “pure, even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:49).