Since I covered all the frou-frou aspects of our Easter celebration yesterday, I thought I’d talk about some of the more spiritual experiences and insights the day brought for me.
The Sunday before Easter Sunday, I was asked to give a talk in our Sacrament meeting the next week. I readily accepted. Public speaking is one of the few things I am not afraid of, and I find talk and lesson preparation the best way to learn things and become more in tune spiritually. I felt like it would be the perfect way to prepare myself for Easter Sunday.
I had a really busy week with Aaron’s birthday and other events, but because the topic of the talk was the Atonement, I had no shortage of material and I gathered it avidly all week. No worries, I just had to edit it and put together the talk.
Suddenly it was Saturday night. After Aaron’s celebration I got home late. I was exhausted. Ella had been up all night, all week. Refusing to eat, refusing to sleep. But when we got home, by some miracle she was asleep. The house was quiet, and I was sure I would be able to pull my talk together fairly quickly if I had an hour or two to focus on it.
Aaron soon left to take Benj to a late night soccer game. He was expected home at around midnight. The other kids were in bed. I was left alone in the silence. Perfect. I prepared to dive into my preparations. I wanted to talk about what the Atonement teaches us about Compassion, Empathy and especially Charity. I fired up the computer and typed the title of my talk.
Cue: Ella screaming in her crib. Mommy!! MOMMMEEEEEEE!!! HEEEWLP!
I rescued her and gave her some milk, assuming for sure that she would fall back to sleep immediately, given her extreme sleep deprivation.
No. This was not to be.
Instead she draped herself across me. Between me and my keyboard. I reached awkwardly over and her tried to pick out a few sentences. Then the thrashing started. And the kicking.
My first paragraph was deleted. Unintentionally.
Irritation mounted. I spoke soothingly to her through gritted teeth and tried to recreate from memory what had just been on my screen.
The staccato whining began, “Eh…eh…eh…eh…Mommmmmeeeeeee” (kick kick, thrash thrash…she sticks her hand down my shirt-default comfort maneuver).
I ignore her and reach over mountain of thrashing two year old with the added impediment of having an arm down my shirt, and try to think evolved, spiritual thoughts and knit them into some sort of inspiring message…
“Mommmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, eh eh….eh…” I try to reposition her on my shoulder to give me greater freedom to get to my keyboard. No. She wasn’t into it. Thrash thrash kick kick. I save my work…for it is in mortal peril.
Resentment seethes. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Can’t I just have ONE SECOND TO MYSELF FOR GOSH SAKES?? SERIOUSLY?!!! SERIOUSLY?????? I need HELP here! Where is my husband. At soccer. Of course! Do we have to play soccer every second of every day AND NIGHT!? CAN WE EVER JUST HAVE ONE FREAKING BREAK FROM SOCCER?!
I felt irritation building to boiling point, resentment rising like bile in my throat, as she thrashed around. I was frustrated to the point of tears. Why couldn’t she just sleep! Kids sleep! She’s two years old! Not two months old. WHY WAS SHE DOING THIS TO ME?
SERIOUSLY?! SERIOUSLY? Could this night get any more irritating or frustrating?
I just wanted to run away. To have one evening of peace, quiet, uninterrupted sleep, no hand down my shirt, no soccer schedule. Was it too much to ask that I have some peace while I write a talk about the Atonement??!
It suddenly occurred to me that it was somewhat ironic that I was feeling hostility for my family because they were getting in the way of me preparing a talk about charity.
This, of course, this was a perfect time to practice charity. And so I scraped the bottom of the barrel of my emotional reserves and will power, and forced myself to take a breath and pray. I asked the Lord to soothe my raw nerve endings and feel or at least act patiently toward my 2 year old, to treat her with kindness and tenderness. I prayed to understand how important soccer is to my son and how great it was that my husband could be with him to support him and spend time with him. I prayed for understanding and patience to outweigh my irritation. I will not say that my nerves were instantly soothed. Because they weren’t.
An aside before I complete my tale of woe…
I am a doula, and as such a prenatal educator, and when I teach expectant mothers about the pain they may expect during childbirth I always remind them that unlike a broken arm. childbirth is pain with a purpose, the pain is productive, and when they are able to keep that in perspective and focus on the outcome and reward they are working towards, they are able to work with their bodies far more effectively. The pain does not go away entirely but it becomes a lot easier to cope with.
Back to my story..
As I gritted my teeth and committed to having charity and then recommitted just seconds later, over and over again that night, I cannot say that the situation became easier. I was still beyond tired, my nerves still felt frayed, my child was still thrashing around more and more agitatedly and I was still feeling increasingly concerned about all I needed to do before I could rest, but I will concede that the commitment I had made to use this opportunity to try to become more Christ-like, to give this frustrating situation purpose, made the experience a little more bearable.
While I did not necessarily endure it well, I was able to endure it as best as I possibly could, until my sweet husband was able to come on the scene. As he walked through the door, with the clock approaching midnight, he saw my frazzled state and immediately suggested we pray together to allow me to collect my thoughts and have the energy and focus needed to finish the task.
Had I not been trying hard to keep my thoughts and actions charitable, I have no doubt that I would not have been in the right frame of mind to stop and breathe and pray with my husband.
As we did so, I received the comfort energy and clarity that he petitioned the Lord to bless me with. I felt a sense of peace and focus.
I am wholly convinced that had I not been trying to bring charity into this situation, I would not have felt the genuine affection I felt for my sweaty son as he allowed me to give him a hug hello and congratulate him on his good performance.
If I had not committed to having charity, I would probably have alienated the spirit and I am fairly sure that my state of mind could not have been salvaged enough to complete my preparations.
Elder Ballard said “charity begins at home. The single most important principle that should govern every home is to practice the Golden Rule—the Lord’s admonition that “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). Take a moment and imagine how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of thoughtless words or actions. By our example, let us teach our family members to have love one for another. “
As Christ took upon Him countless sins, struggles and pains, so we are given countless opportunities to allow ourselves to empathize with others and to be Christ-like in our reactions, to take upon us as much as we can the feelings and struggles of others and to do all we can to ease them while simultaneously refining ourselves and becoming more the manner of men and women He asks us to be.
When I try to ponder the pain the Savior experienced in Gethsemane it is utterly unfathomable. As a parent, I always say I can only be as happy as my most miserable child. When they are struggling, I struggle. In fact I believe that the pain and struggles our children endure are perhaps the most exquisite anguish that we can feel. I don’t know of a single parent who would not gladly trade places with a child who is in pain. It would be so much easier to bear that burden for them. When I think that Christ felt every type of pain of every human who ever lived, it is awful and awe inspiring. But when I struggle, it is also deeply comforting.
When we are struggling with something particularly difficult, is there anything more comforting than having the genuine sympathy and understanding of a friend who truly understands that trial? This is the reason why support groups exist, and are so helpful to those who are going through specific trials. We are most comforted when we feel that we are understood.
In a particular poignant and beautiful scripture, the Savior tells us, “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands”. He knows all there is to know about us, we are a part of Him.
Jesus Christ knows. He knows.
He perfectly identifies with every single thing we experience because He has experienced it. Not something like it, but our unique pain. He has felt it in exactly the same way we feel it. He knows the irritation I experienced, He knows exactly the way I was feeling that night.
Not only does Christ understand and sympathise with our pain but he accompanies that sympathy with comfort and good news. In John 16:33 The Savior says: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
So what does this mean for us? How do we use this gift He has given us to overcome our tribulations? How do we become more like Him?
Elder Uchtdorf recounted this story in 2010 LDS General Conference talk:
A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.
Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: “You are my hands.”
The newly ordained Pope Francis bucked tradition and risked much condemnation from conservative traditionalists when he washed the feet of muslim women prisoners the day before Easter. After which he said,
“We need to go out to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord.”
In the words of Pres. Uchtdorf: As we emulate His perfect example, our hands can become His hands; our eyes, His eyes; our heart, His heart…..I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us….
When we are tempted to judge, let us think of the Savior, who “loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. …
“[And] he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, … [for] all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.”
Since Easter I’ve been trying to keep these lessons in my heart, I have been trying to remember that I can be working every minute of every day toward being His hands. Every decision I make, every interaction I have brings me closer to, or further from Him.
Whether we are serving our family simply by not freaking out at them when we are all touched out and at the end of our rope. Whether we are going to the outskirts and serving the least of His children. Whether we are extending kindness, understanding and love for all people, not just those like us, not just those who are easy to love, who are easy to understand, who are easy to serve, who are easy to relate to. This is when we are His hands. This is when are encountering Him. This is when we are using His gift to become more like Him. This is when we are like Him.