Monday, 11 June 2012
All about forgiveness . . .
As you all know . . . I went to the Temple last Thursday along with the other members of my Relief Society Presidency. This was a trip that we had planned for some time and it was something that I had really been looking forward to doing together. The Temple is such a beautiful place . . . an inspiring place . . . a humbling place . . . a place where, I believe, one cannot get any closer to heaven on earth. It is a place I love to go and a place I love to be, and the thought that I would be there with these two very special women and friends, was really something that I had been wanting to do for a long time.
We had a lovely drive up, even though the rain was lashing down and around us . . . I am always a nervous passenger in the car, but for some reason on Thursday I was not. I was completely comfortable and at ease . . . and I was enjoying the conversation very much. I don't very often find myself in the company of women alone, so it was really nice.
I have to say that I really admire these two women that I serve with in Relief Society. They are such wonderful examples to me of all that I can be and all that I strive to be. They have both been members of the church for a very long time . . . one was born into the church and the other bravely converted all on her own when she was just 14, although she was not able to be Baptised until she was 18. The courage and example these two wonderful women have shown me in the years I have known them, has always been inspiring and encouraging. They are two very special women.
As we sat in the Temple that day . . . together . . . I was really feeling very happy that I had come . . . that it had been really far too long since I had been to the Temple (Todd's and my anniversary last November), and that we (Todd and myself) needed to come to the Temple far more often. I just love the spirit which I feel when I am in the Temple . . . that feeling of peace and inspiration that surrounds us all within it's blessed confines . . . it is truly an amazing feeling . . .
But then . . . when sitting in the Celestial room with these two lovely women . . . it came into my mind some of the things that I had done when much, much younger . . . way back when . . . and I felt unworthy to be sitting there in the company of these two devout sisters . . . I felt like I was besmirched . . . like I shouldn't be there . . . it was not a nice feeling at all . . . and tears did trickle down my cheeks. Nobody takes much notice of things like that in the Temple . . . it is such an inspiring place . . . people are often moved by the spirit to tears . . . I have been on many, many occasions.
But I sat there . . . feeling very unholy . . . very unworthy . . . very much like I should not be there, that I did not belong there amongst all these worthy other people, and most especially amongst these two very special sisters. I even had the thought that I didn't belong in the church . . . that I was very unworthy ever to be in the presence of God, or in the presence of good people. Those thoughts tainted the rest of my day . . . and the few days that followed.
I really wanted to talk to Todd about the way I was feeling . . . but, at the same time, I was afraid to tell him about it . . . because I didn't want him to think I was unworthy either . . . or to tell him anything that might cause him to think any less of me.
Saturday evening . . . after we had said Grace and were eating our supper . . . I asked him . . . when we are Baptised were we completely washed clean of everything we had ever done. Now, intellectually, I KNOW the answer to that question . . . I know that Baptism washes us completely clean of everything and that when we rise up out of that water, we are raised anew . . . born anew . . . washed clean in the blood of the Saviour . . . forgiven. We talked and I told him of how I had been feeling, and he reassured me that no matter what I had done . . . I had been forgiven of it . . . and to think otherwise was taking away from the atonement of the Saviour . . . to think that I had ever done anything that could not be forgiven, was saying that what the Saviour did for mankind was not enough for me . . .
That is a horrible thought . . . and intellectually . . . I know that what the Saviour did was enough for me . . . enough for everyone . . . and I have always been so very grateful for that. But I have been struggling with this certain thing for a very long time now . . . since my children were small . . . and it is a thought that rears it's ugly head in my mind from time to time and tells me I am a very bad person . . . and there is no hope for me. I think we all must have feelings like that sometimes . . . because, well . . . none of us is perfect are we? And . . . we all come with a past.
So forgiveness is a thing I have struggled over these long years . . . not for others . . . I can and do forgive others quite easily . . . but it is the forgiving of myself that I struggle with. I get by really well for a long time . . . and then, every so often it crops up in my mind again . . . and I am battling all over again, once again feeling not good enough. Only this time it was worse . . . because those feelings had actually come to me in the Temple of our Lord.
So Saturday night in bed I thought, and I thought . . . and I thought. I looked at the relationship that I have with my children . . . how three of them are very close to me . . . but how the other two are somewhat alienated from me . . . and I thought . . . "This is your punishment." Not a nice thought at all . . .
So here I was sitting in church yesterday . . . and those same thoughts are going through my mind . . . that I am not good enough to be there. That I will never be good enough to be there. That I will never be forgiven . . . etc. As I took the Sacrament, I was saying silent prayers in my head . . . asking my Heavenly Father for some reassurance that I was forgiven . . . that all was not lost . . . that I could come back into His presence one day . . . that I was good enough.
The speakers at church were very good yesterday. First two young men bore their testimonies. One, a new missionary in our area, and the other a wonderful young man who will soon be leaving us to go to America. Then another young man gave a talk, which was good and rather witty, quite enjoyable really. The final speaker was our Stake Mission Leader. He is a wonderful man. I have never known a more humble or caring man. He's been various things through his life in the church . . . Bishop, etc. He has a lovely family . . . with wonderful children and so many grandchildren that they take up almost 1/3 of the chapel, seriously. His mother has been very ill in hospital these past few weeks . . . and they are now preparing to say goodbye to her . . . which is very sad . . .
He spoke about the hope we can find in the Gospel, and that . . . whilst they were very sad to be saying good bye to their mum/ grandmother/ friend . . . that they knew where she was going, that she knew where she was going . . . that they knew they would all be together again. It was all so very touching and inspiring. He spoke about how he had been as a younger man . . . how he had been a bad person . . . someone people would never have thought would have been within the reach of the Saviour . . . he described the very way I had been feeling about myself . . . he talked about a lot of things. It was a wonderful talk . . . but it was the bit at the end of his talk that really struck home for me . . . he quoted something that Jeffrey R Holland had said to us in the last General Conference . . . in a talk about the parable that the Saviour gave us about the Labourers in the Vineyard. And he quoted these words:
"We consume such precious emotional and spiritual capital clinging tenaciously to the memory of a discordant note we struck in a childhood piano recital, or something a spouse said or did 20 years ago that we are determined to hold over his or her head for another 20, or an incident in Church history that proved no more or less than that mortals will always struggle to measure up to the immortal hopes placed before them. Even if one of those grievances did not originate with you, it can end with you. And what a reward there will be for that contribution when the Lord of the vineyard looks you in the eye and accounts are settled at the end of our earthly day.
Which leads me to my third and last point. This parable—like all parables—is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats. This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace. It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.
I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable, but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."
And right there . . . in his words . . . was the answer to my deep and heartfelt prayer. There is nobody too far gone , and nothing you can do which will or can carry you beyond the reach of the Saviour's sacrifice. It is impossible to stray so far away that His light cannot touch you. We are all forgiven. It's time to forgive myself.
I am at peace.