Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christ's love

I have always struggled with the idea of a loving Father, and an indulgent and guiding Elder Brother. As the oldest in my family, I have tried to follow Christ's example in loving my younger siblings, and trying to show that love in ways that are meaningful to them. The fact that I am not nearly as successful as Christ in doing this goes without saying, and I know some of my siblings are disappointed that I am not the older sister that they would choose if they could. I often wish that I understood my siblings better, but I also know that I cannot force a relationship when one side is uninterested. I think Christ must feel that sadness when He is offering his love, attention and gifts, and we do not see the value in them, or are offended that His gift is not what we want for ourselves.

I had it suggested to me some time ago that one of my particular failings is that I am not able to think like my siblings, and understand them. When I asked for clarification I only received vague responses that I personally found unhelpful, but it has made me reflect on a number of situations, although I doubt my reflections were those that were hoped for. However, in my studying of how Christ offers gifts to us, and how we are given the chance to accept or reject them, but not choose what they are, I have gained some insight into my own relationship with Christ and Heavenly Father.

My relationship with my own father is complicated, and generally very painful. For years that colored my views of Heavenly Father, and made Him almost incomprehensible. I could create an abstract "loving father" in my mind, but had a hard time translating that into concrete actions or feelings within my life. While I might have wished for another father, or one with qualities which I feel would have be more complimentary to me, that is not the "gift" that I was given. Just as my siblings may not always think that a gift I offer them is what they want, and may even be offended by my inability to read their hearts and minds, I was offended that a loving Heavenly Father would give me an earthly father who would cause me so much pain.

For quite some time, I have wished that I could change a significant portion of my early life, and in doing so create a family in which I felt like I belonged. I wanted relationships which I have never had, and a chance to look back on my life with fondness and a desire to relive, at least in memory, my earlier years. I recognize that while the Lord does not personally wish to give us pain, He does wish for us to have experiences that will help us grow and become more like Him. If he had given me a life without the pain of my past, how much farther away from His experiences would I be now? He was willing to take on all of the burdens, sins and sorrows of the world. He was willing to serve those who would rather that He would never have been born. He was willing to forgive those who spitefully used Him. If I had never had any pain in my life, would I be able to understand Him, and be appreciative of the gifts of the Atonement?

I do not mean to say that I think that the Lord wants us to commit sins, or to make mistakes or hurt other people. Part of becoming more like Him is to not wish those things on others. However, we know that the Lord invites us to repent. None of us will escape this life without sin or blemish. None of us will go through life without offending another, or hurting someone else. None of us have committed such "small" sins that we could atone for them ourselves. None of us have the power to make ourselves, or others, whole after we have transgressed. Certainly the Lord desires that we do our best not to commit sins needlessly. He wants us to learn of Him and to do everything that we can to follow His example. However, if we think we can live a life that is good enough that we don't need the Savior or His atonement, we are simply deluding ourselves with foolish pride. We all need the Savior to intercede with the Father, if we wish to have any hope of returning to live with Them someday.

Since all of us have need of repentance, and of learning to ask the Lord for forgiveness, then to become more like Him, we also all have need to learn to forgive others, and truly move beyond those episodes. If we still hold onto grudges, hurts, or feelings of superiority over those who have sincerely asked our forgiveness, or for those who see no need to ask for it, we have not learned to be Christlike, and are in danger of having Christ refuse to forgive our sins. When we are told not to judge, because we will be judged in the same way we judge others, this goes beyond merely needing to give a token forgiveness. Christ does not forgive us, but refuse to let go of the pain and hurt caused by our sins. We do not expect that all future things we do will be found unacceptable because of a sin which has been repented of, and yet how often are we guilty of refusing to see the good that someone who has previously wronged us has done?

I do not want this to sound like a lecture. I am in the trenches of figuring out how to forgive others, especially when they show no remorse for what they have done. I struggle with frustrations and insecurities which make it harder to forgive and move on. I find that there are walls around my heart, put their by pride and past hurts, that I must allow Christ to show me how to tear down. Some of those walls are exceedingly high and wide. I have to remind myself that I am NOT justified in leaving them up. When I allow Christ to show me which brick is the foundation of my stubbornness, and work on that particular issue, I must constantly stay grounded through scripture reading, prayer and listening for answers after I pray.

I think the biggest lie that Satan tells us is that there is nothing positive that can ever come out of a sin. It is true that sinning is not positive, but if we let the atonement work in our lives, and strive to become better people, who are more in tune with the Lord, we can find many positive things which happen after we have committed a sin. It is the learning and growth that comes through repentance, forgiveness and restitution that allows us to become more Christlike, and closer to our Heavenly Father. It is when we forgive others that we can see the beauty within us, that comes from being Heavenly Father's spiritual children, who are struggling through an earthly and physical experience. When we understand that this life is a test, and that the score comes not from adding up every mistake we have made, but instead it comes from looking at home many mistakes we have fixed, and how forgiving we have been to others as they have made mistakes, that is when we truly start to understand Christ's love.

I believe that Christ will help me to forgive those who have hurt me. I have not completed that process, and I do not know all of the steps that it will take. I know it will include forgiving myself, and accepting that Heavenly Father knows me better than I do, and the Christ, as my elder brother, has gifts for me that I would not have chosen myself, but which are essential for me to live with Him someday.

1 comment:

Kathy Haynie said...

This is a lovely personal essay. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the insights you have shared about this essential path to happiness. I am rooting for you!