So the scripture challenge I did with my mom and sisters is officially over (I posted something I'd learned through the scriptures or church pretty much every Sunday for weeks). And I won. Yes, I'm awesome. But I'm going to keep posting my spiritual thoughts quite a bit. Since one of the big reasons I blog is for my posterity, I want them to know what lessons I'm learning and offer them inspiration that could help them in their lives. Plus, hey, some of you readers seem to really like this stuff.
Anyway, as my official "finale" to my scripture challenge posts and as a precursor to Easter, I want to share my very favorite thoughts about the Atonement of Christ. The passage below is from the book Lighten Up by Cheiko Okazaki (was in the General Relief Society Presidency - our church's women's organization). My sister Shawni and I shared this with each other in letters when we were both serving missions for our church. It made me cry then. It makes me cry now. It reminds me that no matter what I may be going through, I'm never alone. And it helps me really feel the beauty of the Atonement in my heart.
We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence as part of his great Atonement in Gethsemane. It's our faith that he experienced everything - absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family that Jesus took upon himself.
But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually.
That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer - how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize.
On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years.
He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that.
He's not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don't need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He's not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
You know that people who live above a certain latitude and experience very long winter nights can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day. Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we'll open the door and let him.