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The greatest event in human history is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As Latter-day Saints, we speak frequently about Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. We acknowledge his sacrifice often, and try regularly to repent, to enact his redeeming grace, so that our sins will be paid for and we can live with God and his Son again. We also emphasize Christ’s resurrection– the wonderful gift to all mankind, that we will live again.
But too many of us have only that much information about the Atonement. It is far greater and grander than most of us realize. It is not only for our passage into eternity; it is for here and now, for this mortal life as well.
Much of the Christian world, including many Latter-day Saints, think Christ’s agony was solely for our sins, and we cringe to think that we added to his pain. But he also suffered for every hurt, every slight, every sorrow we feel right now. He took upon himself the emotional scars inflicted upon you and me. He knows intimately the tears you’ve shed because of someone else’s unkindness or betrayal. He walked your very path when you’ve been discouraged and knows exactly how you felt. He even knows the pains of poor health, the grief of losing loved ones, the disappointments in life, all the sorrows not of our own making.
He asked, repeatedly, for us to give him our burdens, to hand over our worries. He is there to succor us when we hurt, to heal us when we are broken. It’s about far more than our repentance. His atonement was to bless us in this life while we are living as well.
How many of us utilize this glorious gift to cleanse our current vessel? How many sorrows and how much agony could you give him and thereby know peace?
One of the most common ways we forget to allow the Lord into our lives, is in harboring hurt feelings. It’s impossible to get through life without someone disappointing you or wounding your soul. People let us down, betray our trust, and even treat us with deliberate, evil intent, sometimes. Our prophets have told us not to take offense, but there we are, soon offended by something.
Like many women my age, I occasionally lie awake at night, struggling with insomnia. But many others find themselves blinking into the darkness as well. One night I envisioned a pie chart of all the things we stew about as we watch the hours tick by. One slice would be time spent calculating how much sleep we could get if only we could drift off right now. One of those slices should be labeled, “Clever comebacks I wish I’d said.” Another could be, “Mean people and what they’ve done.” A very large section would say, “Parenting mistakes I’ve made.” Right? You know I’m right.
The other night I actually envisioned myself speaking up to the woman in grad school (grad school—a zillion years ago!) who was writing an anti-Mormon novel, and would get the professor laughing along with her as I stood nearby, withering and too cowardly to speak up. Oh, the things I would say to set them both straight today. I lay there, mentally rewriting my history to make up for my own mistake of shrinking back when I should have been bold.
But it’s all water under the bridge. I don’t even remember her name. And I learned from the ordeal, so why ruminate and rehash it? Because it’s the middle of the night and my mind is wandering to negative, self-blaming scenarios of the past.
Even this little thorn is one I can hand over to Christ. We do not need to continually condemn ourselves. And we do not need to nurse grudges. Our inability to forgive ourselves and others is actually something Christ suffered over. When you carry a grudge, you are failing to forgive and move on– and that added to Christ’s agony in the Garden. Then, by deliberately hanging on to old offenses we also reject his offer to help us in the here and now. We are doubly discarding his gift.
Not long ago I was going over Satan’s List. This is the flip side of Counting Your Blessings. It was the middle of the night, again, and this time I was failing to exercise faith and was enumerating all the things that are wrong, the prayers still not answered, the goals I’ve missed, blah, blah, blah. I tell you this because I know we all go there at times. I was building up a grand Pity Party and was all set to call a caterer, when I heard a voice, not my own. It was still and small. It simply said, “When you feel your cup is empty, fill it with forgiveness.”
Suddenly I realized that was the answer to all my grief—I needed to forgive myself and others. That’s what belonged in my cup. Instead of waiting for God to change other people, cave in to my impatience, and remake my circumstances, I could fill my cup right now and be content.
What if we all placed an empty cup on a windowsill somewhere? I now have a beautiful cup I cherish that I keep in a special spot. Every time I we see it, I smile. To everyone else it probably looks empty. But I know what’s inside. And it is filled to overflowing.