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.
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.