Friday, October 2, 2015

If It So Be That They Will Repent

Safety is something that many of us take for granted in a first-world country. Unlike our ancestors, even the poorest of us generally have access to food, water, and shelter. Most of us wake up in the morning, go to work, mow our lawns, go shopping, without ever once feeling unsafe. When something does happen to us, it's a shock.

A coworker of mine recently experienced a break-in. It was a kid who knew the family, and thought he could get away with ripping off a few cell phones. He confessed to his misdeeds, and the family now knows who it is and what led up to the break-in, but he still said that they couldn't sleep well at night, knowing how easily their safety could be shattered.

A similar phenomenon happened on 9/11 when the American people for the first time in living memory were attacked on our mainland. Everyone felt unsafe, scared. Their paradigm had shifted.

On the other hand, I have lived with a certainty of uncertainty my entire life. Perhaps as a military brat who lived at a point on one of the main supply chains during the Gulf War, perhaps only because my particular personality took the necessary security measures very seriously, when 9/11 happened I was unmoved by a paradigm shift. I always knew we weren't safe, and now everyone else realized it.

The Lord Himself has warned me that I would have to live "almost with an element of fear" in my life because of people who would try to take advantage of me. Because of certain circumstances, I know fear. So when Nephi tells me that all "people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel," I take that very seriously. I want to feel safe again, almost more than anything else. I wish I could take my children's and my safety for granted.

It is part of my calling on this earth to create a safe haven for the beloved of the Lord. Perhaps this is why the Lord has taught me about fear. Because, all things considered, as deeply as I know fear, I have not lived it as deeply as many. For every child who has a relatively happy childhood, there are so many others who never had a childhood at all. Abortion, abuse, neglect, parents abandoning responsibility or being ripped from it by war and famine, bullying...the list goes on and on.

I have been thinking deeply on my faults lately. There is a part of me that wishes I could repent in the sense of never doing it again. But there are so many things about me that I have fought tooth and nail to rid myself of, begged and pleaded for Christ to take it from me, but all to no effect. I will never be perfect. I will never even come close.

I do not have a confidence in my standing before God. I no longer try to "make it to the Celestial Kingdom" because I already know that I can't. I have no sense of safety in my ability to follow the laws of God. I fear being unable to forgive. I fear my own impatience and self-centeredness. I fear my lack of time and energy to do the things I'm supposed to do. I am not, and never was, a "sweet spirit." In no measurement of worth on this earth do I measure up.

But instead of driving me to permanent despair (though do not mistake me, it has tried) this knowledge of my own weakness and undesirability is teaching me to stop measuring myself. Like a spiritual anorexic, I need to GET OFF THE SCALE. I stop spending so much time worrying about my faults and have started opening my eyes.

Because if there is ever going to be a time when those who have repented—the beloved of the Lord—have a place of safety to dwell, it's going to be because that place has been carved out of sin, terror, fear, and anguish. And it is going to have to be carved by those who have felt the mark of sorrow, those who are "acquainted with grief." Directed by the Great Mourner, He who brings joy, we can help create safety and order out of uncertainty and fear. That is what God does.

I long to be obedient, I long to be worthy. But that is for God to decide, not for me. I just have to trust Him to take care of that part. It is my part to make His work my work. To see the seeds of divinity in every single one of us and do my best to help it grow. Hate, anger, "agitation," envy, outrage, bitterness...are all so, so easy. It is hard to choose forgiveness. It is hard to let go of weakness and trust God to make it all right. But we must, whether that weakness is in leaders, parents, spouses, children, friends or enemies.

Because that is joy.

"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent....Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. I am Jesus Christ...."

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