Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Taking Up Our Cross Daily, and Losing Our Life for Christ's Sake

Luke 9:23-24 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

“Even before the Savior’s Crucifixion, the image of “taking up one’s cross” would have been a familiar and perhaps troubling one for the disciples. Crucifixion was a common means of execution in the Roman Empire, and its victims were made to carry their own crossbeams to the place of execution. By using this imagery, the Savior vividly taught His disciples what they must be ready for and called upon them to follow His example by submitting to the will of the Father in their lives.” (New Testament Student Manual; https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-student-manual/introduction-to-mark/chapter-13?lang=eng#title12)

In this one statement, Jesus made it clear that to follow Him would require sacrifice, and maybe even physical death. Being one of His disciples wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

A cross signified death, and a cruel and ignoble death at that. It wasn’t something that any human would willingly submit to or ever volunteer for, yet the Savior made it clear that He would ask every one of His followers to do just that, but in a symbolic way. Although some will be required to die because of their discipleship, most will be required to give their life in a different way. 

To take up one’s cross daily would mean to symbolically  accept the death of our “self”, as we give our life in service to others. We have to let our selfishness and self-interest die in order to let our higher nature thrive. Ego has to give way to charity, self-absorption has to be eradicated bit by bit, and love has to overcome pride. We must follow our Savior’s example of serving, giving, teaching, and loving. 

President Ezra Taft Benson gave some examples of ways we can lose our lives in service: “Opportunities to lose oneself for the good of others present themselves daily: the mother who serves her children’s needs; the father who gives his time for their instruction; parents who give up worldly pleasure for quality home life; children who care for their aged parents; …time for compassionate service; giving comfort to those who need strength; serving with diligence in Church callings; community and public service in the interest of preserving our freedoms; financial donations for tithes, fast offerings, support of missionaries, welfare, building and temple projects. Truly, the day of sacrifice is not past”

There are plenty of opportunities to lose our life daily. We just need to open our eyes and actively look for those occasions. 

The amazing thing about losing one’s life for Jesus is that He will recompense us for every sacrifice we make, in ways that we cannot imagine.

President Ezra Taft Benson described what happens in the lives of those who “lose their lives” for the Savior: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).

Monday, January 28, 2019

Woman With an Issue of Blood

So this will probably be TMI for some people, but I have been dealing with menstrual bleeding issues for awhile now. In September I started bleeding which kept up for almost 3 months straight. Needless to say, I was weak, discouraged, and utterly disgusted with my body. I made an appointment with a gynecologist to seek treatment. The recommended treatment was a D&C and uterine oblation. In simple terms, they would go in and scrape out my uterine lining, then cauterize it. I'm only a few days out from surgery, so there's no telling how successful this procedure will be long term, but I try to hold onto hope that I won't need further interventions. 

My reason for sharing this isn't to inform everyone about what's been going on with my body, but to explain why I am so fascinated and moved by the story of the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:38-48, Matthew 9:18-22, and Mark 5:24-34.

Although I can empathize to a certain extent with what the woman went through physically, I live in a much different time and culture and can't relate to her full experience. The woman with the issue of blood would have been considered unclean, and likely would have suffered social and religious isolation. (Menstruating women were required to separate themselves for seven days because anyone who came in contact with her would also be considered unclean. Because this woman had a bleeding disorder, she would have been considered continuously unclean, and would have had to remain separated from friends, family, and neighbors, except maybe other menstruating women.) She dealt with not only the issue of bleeding, but also of isolation and restriction from religious ceremonies for twelve years.

What's most amazing about this woman is her faith. In twelve years of suffering, she didn't give up on her faith. Some might feel that she had every right to turn her back on her religion because none of the religious leaders could help or heal her, and likely only added to her misery, and apparently prayers weren't helping her situation much. But she must have known that healing was possible. She tried everything in her power to achieve it, spending years and all of her livelihood seeking doctors who could help. 

What must she have thought when she heard of Jesus? His reputation for most would have been as a religious leader, maybe even a prophet, who taught about love and compassion, who healed scores of people from ailments that no physicians had successfully cured. Surely the hope welled up within her once again, that through God healing was possible.

She didn't try to send a message to Jesus, but went to Him herself. She was only one among a throng of people trying to get close to Him, to entreat Him to notice them. Her faith was such that she just knew that if she could only touch the hem of His garment, she could be healed. She did so, and immediately felt the flow of blood cease, and knew that she had miraculously been healed. She must have felt such relief and joy!

Jesus, though, wasn’t content to let her get away so easily. First He asked who touched Him, and when all denied, He then let the crowd know that He knew, which would have let the woman know that she could either admit what she had done, or have Him point it out Himself. In fear, she not only had to admit to touching His clothing, but also for what reason. If it's still uncomfortable to talk about menstruating today, you can only imagine what it might have been like back then! It had to be terribly embarrassing to someone who was already isolated through no fault of her own.

I often wondered why the Savior bothered to single out this woman. He could have just as easily let her leave and enjoy her healing. He already knew that it was her faith that allowed the healing to happen, so why highlight her experience in front of such a large crowd? 

I think that the Savior did it out of love. Even though this woman was probably scared and embarrassed, the Savior treated her with kindness and compassion. He comforted her and told her that it was her faith that helped to heal her. This would have set her at ease, and showed her that Jesus cared about her personally. Another thing this would have done is to make it clear to everyone around her that she was no longer unclean, and that even though she had not been allowed to participate in religious ordinances for twelve years, it hadn’t diminished her faith. She was worthy of healing, and should be welcomed back into full fellowship again, with no qualms about uncleanness. 

I wish that the narratives could have followed up on what happened to the woman afterward. How many people did she influence with her testimony of Jesus? What great works might she have done, now that she was freed from constant bleeding? Did this affect her fertility? Or maybe let her be done with menstruating once and for all? The scriptures relate the miracle and focus on the Savior's ministry, so it's understandable that nothing more is known of this woman. But her faith lives on as an example to me. It taught me that sometimes healing takes many years, and sometimes comes when you're just about out of hope. It shows that bodily functions sometimes go awry, and that Jesus is not uncomfortable being approached about them. Nothing is off limits with our Savior. We can literally go to Him with any mental, physical, emotional, or intellectual concerns we have and He will not only understand, He will care. And sometimes He will provide miraculous healing. Other times, He will stay by our side and give us the strength to bear our burden. Either way, He is there for us and with us. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Blood of Christ

I'm taking a Nutrition course this semester, and one of the things we're studying is how proteins are synthesized in the body. This necessitated a quick overview of cells and DNA. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how these microscopic cells can contain a person's DNA, but it also got me thinking about how this might relate to the blood of Christ. As I was reading in Mosiah 3:15, it says "...the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood." Blood is what stood out to me in this verse, especially the idea that the atonement is through the blood. 
From my limited understanding, Christ's blood would carry his DNA, and His DNA would carry His genes...genes He got from both of His parents. That means that his blood would literally hold the genes of a God. 
Jesus instituted the sacrament (Lord's supper) as a symbolic way to take His blood and body into ours. Spiritually, that means that as we partake of those symbols, we are agreeing to take His blood, His DNA and genes, into our own body. This would change us at a cellular level, if it was physical blood, but being spiritual, I have to think that it also changes our spirit in some very real way. As we take the sacrament, we are literally trying to become more like Jesus, trying to change the very fabric of our being.
Another interesting fact is that donor DNA endures in blood transfusion recipients for up to seven days. Think about that, and the relevance it has to taking the sacrament. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are given the opportunity on a weekly basis to symbolically take the blood and body of Christ. Every seven days. The same amount of time that a donor's DNA would stay in a recipient's body. His sacrament gives us those seven days of having His spiritual DNA combined with ours. 
If we are repentant and sincere, His blood (even just the symbol of it) might literally be what activates the atonement in us. At-one-ment... our bodies become one with His, our wills become one with His, and our lives become one with His. Isn't that what it's all about? Becoming like Christ? It's amazing that He has provided such a simple symbolic way, that most of the world hasn't even understood the science of for millennia. 
The more I learn, the more I stand in awe of the greatness of our God. 

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.