Sunday, January 18, 2009
Leave It There
My idea of nirvana would be to sit at the feet of very brilliant people and discuss very big ideas without interruption for…oh… just about forever. That is why I look so forward to Tuesdays. From the ranks of America’s academia, the church’s general authorities, or global leaders in government, business, or social causes, BYU pulls the best to address its student body. And I’m there. Well, not there-there, but devotional/forums are broadcast live on BYUTV, so I sort of feel like I’m there. I am transported mentally to the Marriott Center and wonder what my kids are thinking -- while they sit in those stadium seats thinking, “What’s Mom thinking?”
At the rostrum this week was my “favorite” apostle (is it okay to have a favorite?): Elder Holland. My youngest, in our post-"game" analysis, tried to describe his passionate delivery: “Mom,” she said, “he was almost shouting he got so excited!” I wish I could quote him directly, but the talk was too recent; BYUTV doesn’t have a transcript or recording of it yet. You will have to take my word for it that this was one of his most moving ever. And the gist of it all?
“Don’t look back!”
That’s it; a very big idea in three little words.
Lot’s wife made the fatal choice of “looking back” (Genesis 19) and Elder Holland was pleading with us not to make the same mistake by (the highlights):
1) not forgiving ourselves for the past when we’ve repented and grown past it all
2) not letting others grow past the past when they have made intentional change
3) not giving up on a hard, worthy challenge
He emphasized that each of these grieves the Lord.
I was grieving, in acute pain, when I once sought refuge in the temple. I was hoping to keep my troubles private, but a bleeding heart leaves a trail. Sister C, a temple matron and Relief Society friend, sniffed me out. Her kind inquiry was all I needed to burst into tears.
“My dear!” she cried in alarm, “have you laid this at the Lord’s feet?”
Remembering all my prayers, I said that I had.
“But dear,” she continued as she looked into my wet face, “you didn’t leave it there!”
I was stunned. She was so right.
After hearing the truth from Sister C, I felt suddenly tired of the pains which had plagued me too long. It took a few more days of introspection, and then I finally cast my burden on the Lord, gushing out my angst in torrents of sorrow, with a passion and abandon I’d not given into during previous prayers: “This is too big and too complex for me, dear Lord,” I begged, and then, echoing Alma, I cried within my heart: "O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me....” (Alma 36:18) What followed was one of the most profound experiences of my entire life. Like a wild, raging river that suddenly, gently ebbs into a bubbling brook, my pain just melted away. I sat very still, hesitant to breathe. It was over. I felt it deep in my bones.
That was many years ago. I do remain sorry about parts of the past. I do regret those things still and some of the consequences live on. But I am free of self-recrimination (Alma 36:17-19). That was part of the peace package: the assurance that the Lord Himself would eventually bind up loose ends; the unraveling which was beyond my ability to sew up. He is the Master and will make something coherent out of raggedy, mismatched remnants.
Elder Holland has spoken on this theme before. In April 2006 Conference he said:
“…we must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything we can change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior's Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it.
He will take it from there.”
At the beginning of a new year, I am glad Elder Holland reminded me to look forward, to let myself and others change…for “there is hope in thine end…” (Jeremiah 31:17). My armistice with the past is holding strong.
And the future is brighter for it.
(Elder Holland's talk will be rebroadcast on Sunday, January 25th at 4:00 and 9:00 p.m. MST. Watch it on BYUTV or at http://www.byutv.org/)