Monday, April 9, 2012

Leaning on the Lord

So, we were in Institute today, discussing Isaiah, Jesus, and the Atonement. I love institute, by the way, it's such a fun experience. Even the not-so-fun experiences are good.

Anyway, we started talking about personal purity and personal righteousness, specifically enduring to the end. We discussed the nature of enduring to the end... that it doesn't mean merely gritting your teeth and pushing through. It means accepting all that the Lord places before you.

Too often we get into the rut of feeling we must do everything. We have to be the best student, worker, father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, spouse, friend, we have to be the best in our callings, clean the house, write your journal, food storage, family prayer and scripture study... an endless list of dos and don'ts. And all of those things are important, it's important for us to strive our best, it's important for us to try to keep every commandment; to be perfectly obedient. It's also never going to happen.

We are human. We stumble, we fail, we fall. That doesn't make perfection any less of a worthy goal, but it does put it out of our reach. We will always fall short. Because of our fallen state, we are incapable of doing our best.

How can I know I've done everything I can? I asked myself this often on my mission. For some reason it seemed to me I could never do enough, say enough, preach enough, keep enough rules, meet enough goals to attain that one, great, truly worthy goal of bringing souls unto Christ. The problem was that I was trying to do the work.

To me, Enduring to the End isn't about suffering through pain, or doing all you can. Pain hurts, and doing all I can... I will never feel as if I have achieved that. The great part is, I don't have to.

To me, Enduring to the End is about orientation- an orientation towards Christ. It is about realizing that God knew we would make mistakes and provided a way out for us. It is about realizing that our salvation is not dependent on what we can do, but what Jesus did for us.

Enduring to the End isn't about getting up when you've fallen, or walking instead of running forward. It's about moving in the right direction... it's about being pointed in the right direction.

What the Atonement means to me is that, even when I can't forgive myself, God has forgiven me. The saving grace of Jesus means to me that when I am week, he is strong. It means that I CAN forgive myself, and others. I can forgive others for the hurtful, terrible things they say to me. I can forgive them for hurting my loved ones, even, although that is more difficult. I can forgive myself for causing harm, and I can forgive others for the same. Because of the Atonement of Jesus the Christ, I can reach out to others.

Because it's not really me doing it. Anything I've ever said helpful to another human being has come from a higher source. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me," not because I am strong, but because He is. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Next to that, what are we? What can we ever do to compare to that?

Jesus broke the bands of death. What bands have I ever broken by myself? That is how I Endure to the End, not by relying on myself, but by focusing on Him. I make mistakes, but He never did, and He can fix the mistakes I have made.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jesus Loved You Enough to Die for You

Their is a lot of bile floating around, hurt feelings, accusations... if you listen, you can easily drown in it. Their are things about the church that are troubling, and that is as it should be. Doubts, human error, cruelty, these things also exist among us. They have even affected our history and they continue to affect our attitudes today. We are also human, and we have made a human culture around the gospel of Christ. These things are to be expected... avoided, but expected.

These problems help us to grow. However, they are not your problems, I think.

I told you why I liked you, because to me you seemed to need a reason to like yourself. I can tell you I like you because you are kind, desirable physically and mentally, but I don't think that this will help you. You will say it's not true, that I'm seeing what I want to see, or worse, that my liking you comes out of a base sensuality unbefitting a follower of Christ, and you will wonder again if their is anything worthy inside of you to be loved.

I can tell you, I have felt the same for such a long time. I have grown weary of it. It plagued me on my mission, in my dating endeavors, haunting me like a crocodile just under still water; a gargantuan creature I always tip-toed around, careful not to wake. I was certain that if I woke that awful beast, it would consume all my friends and family, but I also knew that even if I grew black-plumed wings, I would never be able to out-fly it's grasp on me. It held my soul, because the crocodile was me.

I want so much for you to know that God loves you for who you are. I want you to see you--the real you. The you that Christ knows, that I am confident you are, that you feel you will never measure up to. When you do good, I don't want you to feel it is to erase some terrible flaw. Even if you have a fatal flaw, mending that weakness is the office of Jesus. Yours is to accept what He has done with all of your might, mind and strength.

I don't want you or anyone to leave the Church. In fact, it is my sincere desire that all people, old and young, free and bound, from every nation, kindred... gay or straight, nonsexual, reprobate, the pure and the unpure... everyone, everywhere could receive the Gospel.

I see myself as a sort of missionary for those who are in danger of leaving the Church over this issue. Not because I am better than anyone, although I am certainly in danger of thinking so every once in a while. I can feel my own frailty, I know that man, all men, are as nothing. I wonder if I could really help anyone, and yet watching others struggle with those same issues I have faced, that I continue to face, I cannot help wanting to 'fix' things.

A friend of mine reminded me this morning that I can't. People have to fix their own problems, ask for their own advice. But I can write, and I can listen, and I can try to be a good example. What else can I do?

What could I do or say to help you? If I ask you to accept your own feelings--to let go--will you feel I am tempting you to give in to your basest desires? Will you see that I want you to be happy and have a fulfilling relationship with whomever you ultimately decide to spend your eternities with?

Then how else can I get you to realize that you are a worthwhile human being, a spiritual child of a Heavenly Father who loves you just as He made you? If you cannot accept yourself, how can I help you to see that Jesus loved you enough to die for you? To feel all your pain and suffering; to know you in a way that no other person can?

I really want to know. I have too many friends who hate themselves. Gay friends, straight friends, it doesn't matter. And I just wish I knew what else I could say. I love you. You are worth loving. Stop focusing on what others think about you, and go love them! Love them like Jesus loves them.