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Very few people reach adulthood as adults. It’s almost a misnomer to assume that a person is all grown up when they reach 18 or 21. In fact, nearly all of us arrive at these numbers (25, 30 and beyond) with quite a bit of growing up still to do.
We make big decisions and embark on career and marriage when we’re still works in progress, not yet completely “baked.” In fact, are we ever truly finished?
The process of growing up is a lifelong journey, one many couples agree to make together, knowing their spouse has imperfections just as they do. And that partnership is often a huge help in the process. Other times, it doubles the difficulties.
All of us grow emotionally at different rates. And some of us have gaps in our maturity because we were raised by imperfect people. The truth is that all of us make parenting mistakes, just as our own parents did, and as our children will after us. We do our best, we try to improve on the past, but this is mortality. While most people will grow to adulthood seemingly happy, many still have aches and sorrows, discouragement and hurts deep inside, that simply happen to everyone. From unkind labels to deep scars, everyone has scratches on what started as a smooth surface, even if no harm was intended.
Think of an ice skating rink. It begins glassy and smooth, but each person who skates there leaves a mark. Some of the marks are pencil-thin, barely perceptible lines. But some of the skaters leap and land, sending a shower of ice into the air, and deep grooves into the rink. At a certain point the rink becomes cloudy with frost and scrapes.
How can we cope with the scratches and nicks of life? How can we restore that glossy surface again—or can we? Ice rinks use a Zamboni, that clever vehicle that rolls over the ice, scraping away loose chunks and then lightly flooding it with water, to recreate a smooth surface. Even in small, outdoor rinks, owners use the flooding method to fill in the tiniest indentations. Water flows into every ridge and crevice, and the scratches virtually disappear.
But we have something even more wonderful, a way to remove every mark, every blemish we have accumulated in our lives. It is the power of the Atonement. By taking our sorrows to the Lord, we find solace. We know He cares, even when it seems no one else does. We know He understands completely, and has felt every ounce of our pain. His love can flow into our souls and find every spot that needs filling in.
He can scrape away the frost, teach us how to forgive, and help us realize the triumph of replacing resentment with real love. He can show us how to set aside our bitter burdens, the harsh memories that we’ve kept alive in our souls. He can help us weed out those elements of our lives that are holding us back today—the addictions, the habits, the tendencies that do us no good. The Savior can show us how to chart our own course, and not repeat mistakes from our upbringing. He can flood us with the desire to turn from a selfish focus upon ourselves, to the generous focus upon helping others—and that one shift in our attitude can almost define real maturity.
In the process of growing up and maturing, there is no greater help than the love and nurturing our Redeemer can give us. And it’s there anytime—we don’t need to wait, like an ice rink, until we are completely obscured by snow. We can renew our covenants as we take the Sacrament each week. We can go to God in prayer anytime, and receive renewal, comfort, and healing. He can fill in the blanks for us, finish the parenting we need, and guide us along this field trip, all the way home. None need sorrow over a less-than-perfect upbringing, because our Father in Heaven is the ultimate parent, and can take over and bring us all the way up to the kind of maturity and joy that really define happy adulthood. Smooth and glossy, better than new.