Last week in Come, Follow Me we read about the Savior’s suffering in Gethsemane. I was also preparing to speak on Sunday about the Atonement. I reflected frequently on what I know and continue to learn about the Atonement. These are a few of the lessons that came to mind as I read and pondered Matthew 26 and Mark 14.
- Even Jesus wanted to give up: “let this cup pass from me” says so much to me about the extremes and agonies of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. One of the miracles of the Atonement is that He wanted to make the suffering stop…but He completed it because He knew that it was necessary to provide the opportunity for repentance and eternal life for all of God’s children.
- Weak things become strong: to me, the Atonement provides the opportunity for transformation––not just sinner to saint, or mortal to immortal, but also shy person to enthusiastic ministering sister/brother, or socially awkward to strong friendshipper. In a miraculous way through the Atonement, Christ is able to step into our weaknesses, give us His strength to begin improving, and teach us how to improve.
- Will power and energy: on my mission I learned that even when bone tired and without energy, I could keep working if I had the desire/will power.
- He really does understand: again, a miracle of the Atonement I don’t fully comprehend, but I know Christ understands each and every person who has ever lived on earth. He knows what we’re going through, and He CAN help.
- Being enough: not sure what I meant by this originally but we all need to embrace the fact that Christ loves us––imperfect us––just the way we are. He loves us enough to also see our eternal potential and encourage and facilitate its development.
- Joy in misery: this is another transformation topic I ponder…the fact that even in the midst of experiencing tremendous pain, disappointment, or misery, we can experience joy in the Gospel through Jesus Christ.
- Just me and God: learning to rely on God without having anyone else physically present on whom I could rely was a fear-inducing but necessary lesson. While studying Come, Follow Me I have reflected on how confident Jesus must have been to teach the way He did, prophesy the things He prophesied, and pursue His path to Atonement, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. God the Father was His bedrock and He needs to be ours as well.
Having trained in the Humanities, I value the creative genius that brings music, visual art, and performance art to the world. I find so much of worth in these creations, because, so often, they point me to God. I have felt my mind quicken and my spirit resonate with art, music, and literature as I discover something good, true, and beautiful. These qualities speak to the source of creative genius, even the Creator of all.
But when the arts become exercises in ego or explorations of evil practices for the sake of curiosity or titillation, they lose any elevating connection to God and we are reminded that “since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself” (Alma 22:14). So much of what we do on earth only has lasting meaning if it points to God and includes Him in the process. Think how very different an average day might be if you began that day with a prayer asking God to help you work on improving a bad behavior, to give you an opportunity to help someone in need, and to watch over a particular family member. How would dedicating your day to these specific purposes change your thoughts, your actions, how you looked at other people throughout the day, and more? What we do on earth takes on its greatest meaning and significance when we make God part of the details.
Jesus Christ adds value and purpose to our lives through His Atonement. Despite human ability to create marvelous works of art, innovation, and mechanical brilliance we cannot merit anything of ourselves in an eternal sense. Only “the sufferings and death of Christ atone for [our] sins, though faith and repentance” (Alma 22:14). We cannot save ourselves but Christ can. He suffered, bled, and died for us all so that we could have the opportunity to repent and gain eternal life. “[H]e breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory”––He provided the gift of Resurrection to all “that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory…” (Ibid.)
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!
Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.
In my quest to become a disciple of Jesus Christ (to be serviceable and obedient), I have noticed my own predilection for contrariness. A big part of me fights against being obedient, following the promptings of the Spirit, and desiring godly things enough to act. For example, I knew I needed to serve a mission for a long time before I could bring myself to even fill out the paperwork. As I tried to bring myself around to this personal commandment, I began praying for a desire to serve. Like Ammon exclaimed to Limhi in Mosiah 8:20, the Lord suffered long with me: He was patient and kind and helped me prepare to serve well even as I “fled” from Him.
The Prophet Brigham Young taught that sometimes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “live far beneath [their] privileges” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. by John A. Widtsoe , 32; qtd in New Testament Teacher Manual, Lesson 30). Certainly Ammon thought so of humankind in general! And while God will suffer long with us because He loves us, if we want to learn the mysteries of God, gain wisdom, and achieve our greatest potential, we have to choose to believe, we have to act out of an inner desire to learn and achieve.
I know from experience that the path of discipleship is no cake walk. Maybe you, like me, “tremble inwardly at what may be required” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance”, General Conference [Apr. 2002]). But, whatever you do, don’t run away! Choose to believe, pray for a desire to believe if you need to. The Lord will suffer long with you and He will help you not only become your best self, but He will help you achieve marvelous good in this life and receive eternal life in the next.