Happy Easter week!
Easter is coming at us full force and I’m trying to slow things down, get us all centered on what really means the most to us. Thankfully I have been asked to speak in church on Sunday so I’ve been forced (in the best way) to sit and ponder more than I normally do. There is so much to take in when thinking of Christ, his life, death and resurrection. Stealing some minutes of peace here and there in this busy family feels fantastic, but also kind of like I’m trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant. There’s just so much to absorb. Jesus is so great. His atonement so grand.
I think this video that my church put out pretty much sums up all that I want to say.
Because of him, everything.
Because of Him everything ugly and hard and wrong in life can be made right. His life, his miracles, his teachings, his suffering, his death and his resurrection gives meaning to all ALL that we encounter. Not only does He make up for our mistakes, but He makes up for weaknesses, or inadequacies. He can heal our pain. He can make everything right. Through him we can be enlivened. Through HIs light everything is illuminated. In His light we can comprehend all things.
Like Isaiah says, Jesus gives us beauty for ashes. The oil of joy for mourning. Through him all that is burnt and ugly and confusing and wrong about our lives can be made clear and beautiful. He doesn’t take away the opposition but something about His light transforms it. Trials and sorrow, pain and weakness become tools with which we are made whole.
This week as I’ve been pondering His great sacrifice I’ve been trying to figure out how it all works. I feel like from an early age I could understand simple analogies explaining how Christ’s death paid the price for my sins. How he makes up the difference, how his redeeming love reconciles me, a sinner, to an almighty and perfect God. And this is astounding to me. But making up for my sins and shortcomings is only a part of the atonement. I believe that Christ’s atonement also can take away suffering that isn’t a consequence of my sins. I believe that somehow he can give my life meaning with which I can use that which might otherwise make me weak and knock me down to make me stronger, to give me experience, to propel me forward. And this week I’ve been trying to figure out where the clean analogy is here. How does Christ’s suffering and death magically make all of those ugly things in life meaningful, progressive, important, propelling? How does His sacrifice work in my life to make me whole, to give me light, to make my weaknesses into strengths? I’ve decided that a huge chunk of this can’t be comprehended with my mortal mind, but I have arrived at a few new ways of looking at things.
1. Christ’s sacrifice for me encircles my life in His love. Because of His supreme sacrifice on our behalf he has a kind of love for us that is unique and unsurpassed. The kind of love bestowed by his sacrifice gives us strength, it changes us. And when we are changed we can see the world anew. The power of His sacrificial love gives us strength to bear up our burdens and when we bear up our burdens we become stronger and we can step above them to see the bigger picture. And when we see that big picture we can attach meaning to our suffering and pain. Meaning transforms pain from something that crushes us into something that strengthens us.
2. In the garden of Gethsemane Christ felt every pain and agony I ever have or will feel. This enables Him to have perfect empathy for me. Empathy is a powerful healer. I’ve seen it at work in my life. And I’ve watched as empathy changes my kids. I’m always trying to correct them when they’re wrong, trying to help them see a better way, trying to get rid of their hurt and sadness. Sometimes that approach works, but mostly it doesn’t. But when I empathize with them? That’s when they are healed. If i tell them I know how they feel, mourn with them and help them identify their feelings from a place of compassion and understanding then they are imbued with power to move forward, to get past the pain, to put themselves in a better place. Empathy heals us. And because of Jesus' perfect empathy he can perfectly heal us from all the effects of opposition in this life.
3. Christ is the light of the world. Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life, filled with goodness and perfection and peace and incredible love. He spent his entire life healing and blessing and teaching and praying and sacrificing. And then He willingly gave His life. He went as a lamb to the slaughter, willingly, peacefully. Surely He could have called down angels form heaven to save him from the grief and pain he was called to suffer. Surely He could have passed up the bitter cup. But it is impossible to imagine the Christ I know doing that. There is too much goodness in Him. He lived a perfect life. And then he surrendered his perfect life. For us.
I believe that something in that act, and in his willingness from the foundation of the world to drink that bitter cup, filled Him with light. A kind of light that radiates from him throughout all the earth, through all the universe, permeating all the dark corners, illuminating everything. The light radiating from this supreme sacrifice shoots through all of our lives. All children of God are born with His light. And in his light all can be comprehended. This is what allows us to see the good in the bad, the meaning in the mundane and confusing, the joy in the suffering. It is through this light, made bright and possible through Christ’s sacrifice, that all that is wrong is made right. It is through His light that our burdens become light.
So what do I hope to do with this new (or maybe just remembered) truth about Christ’s atonement and how it works? That’s what I’ve been asking myself over the past few weeks. Christ's atonement bathed the universe in light and love and healing empathy. These elements of Him are all around us, available for us to drink in and use. It is there like a radio broadcast, available to all, we just have to tune in. How do I tune in? How do I, on a daily basis feel buoyed up by his empathy, plugged into the powerful current of his love, bask in his enlivening and clarifying light?
I’m sure there are lots of ways to plug into the power of Christ's atonement daily. I hope to make figuring this out a life long pursuit, but I’m going to start by just making it more of a consistent habit to ask to be plugged in. I’ve gotten pretty good at asking God to forgive me of my sins. When there’s something big and glaringly askew I have felt the cleansing power of the Atonement when I pray for forgiveness and take the sacrament to renew my covenants. And His redeeming love is glorious. But I’m trying to ask for fixing as much as forgiveness. I’m telling God my troubles and asking Him to fix things and trusting that He will. My prayers are turning to: I’ve done my best, please make it whole. I’m at a loss, I don’t understand, give me light, help me to see. I’ve messed up over and over again, please make things right, I’m giving this to you. This needs to be healed and it’s beyond me. Please heal it.
I’m also realizing how when I’m present enough to consecrate my puny little sacrifices to God I feel tapped into Christ’s atonement. If I go about my daily work as a mother slamming things into place and ordering people around with a heavy resentful little rock in my heart I don’t feel enlivened by Christ. But if I steal a moment here or there, in prayer or with the scriptures or in meditation to become mindful, to step back and see the big picture I can see how my sacrifices are a small similitude of what Christ sacrificed for me. How my love can empower my children just as His love strengthens me. How mortality, all of it, gives me experience and makes me more like my savior, more able to succor others. And when I can be present enough to see this, darkness and resentment melt away with the brightness of His light that floods in.
Staying close to God by loving Him and keeping His commandments and honoring the covenants we’ve made with Him also yokes us with Christ. Plugs us into his Atoning power. I believe that if we give our lives up to Him He will make so much more out of them than we can. He will make us bright as he fills us with His love. We will not just bathe in His light that is in and through everything, but we will take on His light. We will be light.
Christ is real. He lives. He came to earth to show us how to live, to teach us about who God really is and how He loves, to die for us and then break the bands of death through resurrection. His sacrifice for mankind enables His light to fill the earth, making all things meaningful. Making up for all of the consequences of the fall: reversing spiritual and physical death and giving meaning and beauty to all opposition.