Monday, June 19, 2017

The Atonement: Blank Canvas, or Work of Art?

As I've been studying Christ's Atonement this past week, the following thought came to me: The Atonement is not just about erasing sins. That would be like having a blank canvas which has been defaced by black marks, which are then erased. Erasing the marks would restore the canvas to its clean, blank state, but wouldn't create a work of art. God wants to work with us so that we become all that we are meant to be: a priceless and unique work of art, not just a clean canvas that shows no dirt but also shows no creativity or improvement. The Atonement not only erases the dirty smudges of sin, but enables us to add color, depth, and beauty to our lives, making them into a masterpiece. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

On the Path with Jesus

Alma 7:20 "I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round."

As I read this scripture this morning, I started thinking about how we start out on the straight path with the Lord, but as we sin we leave the path. Sometimes we just barely veer off and He's able to reach out and bring us back, but other times we get so far that we cannot see Him. If we continue to wander, there will come a point where we are no longer able to even hear Him.

Sometimes when we've wandered off we feel like He's abandoned us, and we're so surrounded by darkness that we think we'll never see His light again. That's the problem with trying to blaze our own path. We leave the safety and security of the only path that leads to true happiness. That doesn't mean that Jesus has left us. He's still on that straight path, calling for us, reaching for us, and wanting us to join Him again.

Depending on how far we've wandered, reaching Him may take a slight course correction, or it might require pushing through thorny patches, desolate deserts, or scary swamps. It's so much easier to stay on the path with Him than to have to fight to get back. But no matter where we are, He's always watching out for us, calling to us, and waiting to eagerly grasp our hand and pull us back to Him.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mercy, Justice, Healing

As I was reading Alma 42:13-26, I kept thinking about how mercy, justice, and the atonement work in our lives. As is often the case, I tried to find a way that I could really relate it to myself. Here's what I came up with:

Sin is like a self-inflicted wound. Imagine that you've purposely cut yourself. The wound may be small or large, shallow or deep. Whatever the case, you've now got a bleeding wound that needs to be taken care of.

Our first choice is whether or not to even try to take care of it. We can choose to ignore it. Sure, it'll be messy, and possibly even fatal, but it's our choice. Sadly, some people choose this option when sinning and end up in much greater pain, with much more scarring, than they ever needed to experience.

However, if we repent, then we turn to the Healer, who immediately binds up the wound to stop the bleeding, and then goes further and treats the wound in a way that will minimize the time it takes to recover and the amount of pain we will suffer. Again, it's our choice. Sometimes we may hesitate to reveal our self-inflicted wound to someone who can help us because of embarrassment or shame, but it's only by seeking healing that we'll ever receive it.

The laws of nature say that if we don't do anything at all to our wound, we will generally either bleed to death, end up with a nasty infection, or at the very least retain a sizable scar. When we seek mercy/healing, the laws of nature say that our chances are much better for receiving complete healing with much less scarring. Mercy is what enables healing. It doesn't make the laws of nature void, it just minimizes the negative effects.

This also made me think about how the atonement works the same way when we've been wronged and hurt by someone else. Jesus doesn't differentiate between which wounds should be healed- He tenderly binds up ALL wounds. When we've been hurt by someone else, we can make the choice to seek healing and lessen the pain of what's been done. But that has to be a conscious choice. Just like with a self-inflicted wound, we can choose to let these wounds fester and rot, or we can hold them out to the Healer and let Him make us whole again.

I love Jesus and the merciful healing He freely offers me. I have experienced it many times in my life. It is an amazing, humbling, inspiring feeling to have wounds bound up and pain, anger, and turmoil taken away. I know that I would be a much different person living a much different life if it weren't for the atonement of Jesus Christ. He is my Savior and my God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

In the Garden of Life, I'm Asparagus

You know the popular saying, "bloom where you're planted?" I've often thought of that quote as I've struggled to adjust to new areas. I have a hard time getting comfortable with new people, and it's often made me feel inadequate and out of place. It's not that I don't like people, or that I don't want to be one of those wonderful social butterflies who are at ease starting conversations and seem to find friends wherever they go. After this many years, I've just had to accept that I am who I am, and I am an extreme introvert who takes a long time to warm up to and trust people. 

I am not the daffodil of the social world, who is the first in the garden to greet the world. I'm not the cucumber, who grows and spreads and produces vast quantities of fruit. I'm not even the bell pepper, who is slow to get started and so picky about conditions that it may or may not give any fruit by the end of the season. No, what I've come to realize is that in the garden of life, I am asparagus. 

For those who don't know about growing asparagus, you usually plant a one- to two-year old root. The first year it's planted, it shyly sends a couple very thin and fragile stalks up through the soil. The second year there are more stalks and they are a bit sturdier. By the third year, if all has gone right, the asparagus root becomes a large plant producing edible stalks.

That's me. It takes, on average, 2-3 YEARS for me to become comfortable enough with new people that I start to "bloom." It's funny because after a few years, it's like I've hit some magic condition where I suddenly feel like I belong. My confidence rises, I'm much more willing to put myself out there, and I become a much more productive and participating member of society. 

I don't know why God made me this way, or even if He did. Maybe it's just the natural effect of my upbringing and of too much emotional damage. Maybe, with enough therapy, I could overcome some of this seemingly natural tendency. I don't know. And I don't really care at this point. It's enough for me to recognize and accept that this is the way I am. When I'm transplanted, it will take me awhile to bloom, but in the meantime I'll keep pushing my way through the soil and hoping that there are a few gardeners out there who are willing to give me the time I need to grow and produce.