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A couple of weeks ago I had an enlightening experience I’d like to share:
For some reason, my mind and its processes seemed to collapse that day. I felt as though I was moving in slow motion, and that anything that came at me was too fast. My cloudy brain dysfunction was all encompassing, and it felt very strange. I was blessed to attend the temple that evening, and somehow through the mile deep “fog,” I was amazed to be given a striking insight, and it was this: “Whatever you’re deficient in at a given moment, is exactly the thing that you need to ask to borrow from the Lord.” In my case, what I needed was mental capacity and strength.
I learned, that if we lack strength at a given moment, we need to trade it for His strength. If we have mental dullness, we need to exchange it for His brilliance. If we have anxiety, we need to swap it for His peace. If we have resentment or anger, we need to let them go, and pray for His love and forgiveness to fill the same part of us that has been otherwise occupied with weakness.
I love the concept of applying the Atonement piece by piece.
Our Natural Man self Doesn’t Want What Christ Offers
This process can be very fluid. We have life situations that can vary from moment to moment, opening us up to powerful need. Christ has everything that we might require and is so willing to share. There’s only one hitch, – and that is that in order to share understanding and attributes with Him, we have to first dismantle our “natural man.” That part of our self doesn’t like to be messed with!
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 1:14)
The more of ourselves we abandon to Him, in exchange for His Atonement, the more we will become like Him, because once we let our “weakness” go, we have room to house HIS traits.
Our Real Selves and the Creation of the Natural Man.
When we were born, our spirits entered our body. At first only our real Selves shone through with a sweet radiance that we all brought with us from the heavens. Any baby (at 8 or 9 months), when they finally come to a stage where they can recognize themselves in a mirror, are ALWAYS delighted because they know and love who they really are! They often try kissing the mirror, probably realizing with joy, “Oh, THIS is what I look like in a body! I LOVE me!”
As we grow older, we slowly begin to develop our “natural man” self, gradually separating from spiritual ONENESS, by crowding out God, and our higher Self, succumbing to carnal and selfish desires.
We all struggle with the light and dark parts of our being. This false self is not compatible with God, but as this was part of the plan from the beginning, the Lord has the solution. He can help us overcome and return to that pure childlike state.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God… and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man… and becometh as a child…” (Mosiah 3:19)
Our Selfish self Rules
Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
“Such is the scope of putting off the burdensome natural man who is naturally selfish. So much of our fatigue, brothers and sisters, in fact, comes from carrying that needless load. This heaviness of the natural man prevents us from doing our Christian calisthenics; so, we end up too swollen with selfishness to pass through the narrow needle’s eye.” (Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference October 1990)
The Atonement was designed to help us overcome and transcend this lower selfish “self,” and become ONE with God so when we’re ready, we can receive His attributes in exchange for our “natural man” Telestial ones.
Polar Opposites Can’t Coexist at the Same Time in the Same Body!
We need to let go of weakness in order to gain true power. We can change “natural man” weakness into Godly Qualities.
Pride can be replaced with Humility
Impatience can be replaced with Patience
Hate, anger or contention can be replaced with Love
Lust can be replaced with Bridled Passion
Fear and doubt can be replaced with Faith and Belief
Selfishness can be replaced with Selflessness
Whatever we relinquish as our worst, can be replaced with His best. We can be ONE with Him in part after part. Success comes by being willing to let a weakness go, pleading for His help, and then believing that He can and will replace our “natural self” fragments with His God portions. This process slowly helps us regain and enhance who we truly are.
The Practice of Undoing Discord
Elder Juan A. Uceda tells a wonderful story about how the natural man can be dismantled and replaced with Christ virtues:
“One morning a family gathered to study the scriptures as usual… as they started’ to read the scriptures, the father noticed that one of the children did not have her personal set of scriptures with her. He invited her to go to her room and bring her scriptures. She reluctantly did so, and after a period of time that seemed like an eternity, she returned, sat down, and said, ‘Do we really have to do this now?
“The father trying to stay calm, said, ’Yes, we have to do this now because this is what the Lord wants us to do.” She responded, “I don’t really want to do this now!”
“The father then lost his patience, raised his voice, and said, ‘This is my home, and we will always read the scriptures in my home!”
“The tone and volume of his words hurt his daughter, and with her scriptures in hand, she left the family circle, ran to her bedroom, and slammed the door. Thus ended the family scripture study –no harmony and little love being felt at home.”
This father went to his room and knelt in prayer asking for forgiveness and asking the Lord to fill him with what he needed to replace contention with peace and harmony in his soul so that he could give it to his family.
“The father knew that he had done wrong… He wanted to be a good father and do the right thing, so he stood up and went to his daughter’s bedroom. He slowly opened the door and found his girl sobbing and crying on her bed. He kneeled next to her and said with a soft and tender voice, ‘I’m sorry. I apologize for what I did.’ He repeated, ‘I’m sorry, I love you, and I don’t want to hurt you. And then from the mouth of a child came the lesson that the Lord wanted to teach him.”
“She stopped crying, and after a brief silence, she took her scriptures into her hands and started to look up some verses. The father watched as those pure and delicate hands turned the pages of the scriptures, page after page. She came to the verse she sought and started to read very slowly with a soft voice:
‘For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
“While he was still kneeling next to her bed, humility overcame him as he thought to himself, ‘That scripture was written for me. She has taught me a great lesson. Then she turned her eyes to him and said, I am sorry, Daddy.”
“At that very moment the father realized she did not read that verse to apply that scripture to him, but she read it applying it to herself. He opened his arms and embraced her. Love and harmony had been restored in this sweet moment of reconciliation born of the word of God and the Holy Ghost.” (Juan A. Uceda, October General Conference, 2010).
Pride had been replaced with humility and love.
Rooting out and Replacing
The Atonement was designed to dismantle our “natural man” by rooting out undesirable feelings, physical and emotional sensations one at a time and replacing them with Godliness. As soon as we notice a negative trait or emotion welling up, (and we’re willing to let it go), we can plead for help. Know that we can and will receive relief. He’s the God of Strength, Brilliance, Power, and Love, and as we ask Him to fill us, HE WILL! That’s what He died to do! Are we willing and ready to welcome His gift?
You can CONTACT Anne at [email protected]