Wednesday, August 4, 2010

He Gets It

Today I got some not-so-happy news and it spun me into an ugly depression. Spinning is really the best way to describe it--like being caught in a whirlwind and also having that same tornado in your head and stomach. I write a lot here that is meant to be happy or inspiring--but I want it to be known that I get that life is hard--that there are moments that I just don't want to go on. But I also know that if I stop swimming I will drown. There is no one else for me hold on to.

Or is there?

I have been thinking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ lately. We talk a lot about it in church and we all sort of theoretically get that he descended below all and some way, which neither chemistry or physics can explain, took upon Himself all of our sins, suffering and pain. I've used the Atonement many times in my life, for repentance, but mostly for the healing from sorrows and pain. And it amazingly works. But each time something new and painful or sorrowful comes up in my life I have to stop and think, is this something God understands and cares about? And then, each time, I wonder: How do I do this? How do I access the Atonement?

I am writing this to remind myself and anyone reading that yes, this is something God cares and he does get it. Even though we can't possibly comprehend with our mortal brains how the Atonement actually happened, somehow, it did, and Jesus Christ did actually feel all the sorrows and sins and physical pain of all the people in the all the world ever. But just thinking of all the pain in my own lifetime is enough for me to get weak at the thought of it.

There is a cool quote one of my collaborators sent me that I can't find right now, but it's about how we can't think of the Atonement generally--because it is very specific. Jesus Christ didn't just take on the "sins and suffering of all the world." He took on the pain of my abusive marriage and abandonment and divorce, so that when I think about it, it pains me no more. Jesus Christ understands more than anyone what is like to watch your mother deteriorate with cancer. He understands the anger of learning that your ex-husband molested all of your daughters, of losing all your savings in a bitter custody battle, losing your two year-old because of E coli in the spinach you were feeding her to grow healthy and strong. He knows what it's like to bleed through your white shorts on a date, to throw up 12 times in one day, the shock of your unplanned and unmarried pregnancy, the bittersweet miscarriage of that pregnancy, the stress of an overdrawn bank account, the sadness of another year without a baby, or another year without having a husband, because he died at thirty-four. He knows what it's like to watch people you love take the wrong path, to lose your house in foreclosure, to lose your dancing career because you had a baby. He gets it.

Jesus Christ has felt and knows all of this personally. I think sometimes we get wrong messages from outside or inside that tell us every sin or additional sorrow we experience is adding more to Jesus' pain. It's not true. He already went through it, and He did it so we don't have to--if we can accept and use the Atonement. So how do we access the Atonement?

My friend Sara used to say, "Just throw it on Jesus." I like that image of physically lifting the burden off my back and throwing it at Jesus' feet. But as far as how it is actually done, that is one of the most personal and difficult to describe things.

For me it involves a lot of prayer, meditation, and reading about the life of Jesus Christ. It is not instantaneous. It takes time and real faith in the Atonement. It also takes forgiveness. Of myself and others. But that is a whole other blog post. Maybe tomorrow. I am still trying to spin myself up.


  1. I've been a quiet reader (don't know if I've ever commented before?). But I want to thank you for this post. For being open and honest, especially when it hurts. Because it made a difference to me and I'm sure many others.

  2. Things will work out. You're in my prayers. Hugs.

  3. Beautiful post reminding me about the importance of the Atonement in all aspects of my life. Hugs and good luck spinning back up!

  4. My trials are the small backpack in the room compared to yours, it seems like to me, but they sure have been weighing me DOWN as of late. I've been thinking about this lately... like Father puts more things in our pack, bit by bit and He's doing it to the point that we are literally cracking... cause only when we crack can He move the pieces around to where they need to be! ;) So, that's my take on troubles and some of why they are necessary. They really are a blessing, but I sure don't FEEL that way in the midst, let me tell you! I do agree that the Atonement is THE best balm ever. Balm of Gilead. :) I'm so grateful for it and for lovely writers like you who verbalize it's eficacy so beautifully!

  5. Thank you for your comments. Honestly, some days it is comments from readers that gives me the most joy. (When my daughter is away, especially.) It's nice to know and get immediate feedback that what I think and share has made a little bit of a difference.

  6. I found you by way of Heather's blog. I am a mom, wife, and RN, with hopes to continue my education one day to become a midwife. I used a midwife and hypnobirthing to get my 3 children (6, 4, and 2) here. Your post reminded me of this quote:

    The Atonement
    Chieko Okasaki

    Well, my dear sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything--absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer--how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. Let me go further: There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands about the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that. He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
    You know that people who live above a certain latitude and experience very long winter nights can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day. Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we'll open the door and let him."

    (Chieko N. Okazaki, "Lighten Up", Preface; p. 174)

  7. Thanks. I was looking for that quote. I couldn't find it so I just had to write my own list. Yay. I love it.



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