Tuesday, February 14, 2017

FHE and some muddled thoughts

Last night for family night we talked about fulfilling our roles to the best of our ability. More specifically we talked about David O. McKay's mission experience encountering a stone at Stirling Castle which read, "What-e'er thou art, act well thy part," and how that became a life lesson for him.

We talked about how we can be good students, siblings, children, parents, [insert church calling here]. We talked about how we can be good cleaner-uppers, good going-to-bedders, good teeth-brushers. We talked about how we can be good listeners, good peacemakers, good friends.

We have so many opportunities to "act well" every day. Are we doing it?

Doing our best shows others that we love them (Happy Valentine's Day).

For the activity we made sugar cookies together. I handed out a strip of paper with an ingredient listed on it and in order to make the cookies we all had "bring something to the table," as it were. We all had to be fully invested, we all had to "act well" our part or else our cookies wouldn't turn out.

If you were supposed to be a cup of flour, we needed you to be a cup of flour—not half a cup of flour. If you were supposed to be one egg, we needed you to be one egg—not 5 eggs. Otherwise our cookies wouldn't turn out.

Likewise, in a family, it's hard to get a job done when one person refuses to help and it's hard for everyone to have a fun time when one person is trying to be the centre of attention.

We want our cookies—and our family—to "turn out," so we need to always be putting forth our best selves/ingredients.

But what happens if you run out of sugar? What if someone refuses to share their baking soda? What if someone puts in salt instead of sugar?

Sometimes even if we're trying our hardest, we still fail. Sometimes people disappoint us (when they aren't acting their parts well). Sometimes people sabotage the cookies (or their families).

This can be very disappointing, heart-breaking (or even torturously, gut-wrenchingly painful).

Fortunately, we can borrow a cup of sugar. We can substitute baking powder for baking soda. There are plenty of things we can do to "save" a recipe but sometimes...sometimes you need to start over. It's sad, it's hard, but it happens. And in the end you still end up with cookies. (In our extended family we've had the experience of ending up with two wonderful, unique batches of cookies after deciding to quit the original recipe; and that, too, is a beautiful thing).

I've been thinking a lot about the atonement recently. This month's visiting teaching method is titled, "Christ's Atonement is Evidence of God's Love." I think understanding God's love is a difficult thing to do, understanding the atonement is difficult to do. Recently our extended family suffered a bit of a shock and it's been hard to process, even from our comfortable role of "observer." We haven't sampled this particular batch of cookies (not really). We are simply aware there's been a switch-up: someone we love used salt in their recipe instead of sugar (and it has been terribly painful to watch other loved ones currently choking on those cookies, and still more loved ones doing their best to contain the fallout of such a grievous mistake).

In spite of everything, I still love this person, and that is what has been the key to helping me understand the atonement a little bit better as of late. Because if l'il ol' fallible me still loves this person, how much more is Heavenly Father capable of love? Much more.

A big part of love, sometimes, is watching people suffer...and loving them through it. Here on earth we suffer tremendously through the significant—and fairly random—trials of mortality (I'm boycotting the word tremendous): we stub our toes, a hurricane ruins our house, we get cancer. We also suffer through the consequences of poor choices: if we touch a hot surface, we get burned; if we disobey our parents, we get grounded; if we are consistently late to work, we get fired.

This suffering is a manifestation of God's love because it is through suffering that we grow. We realize that we need to make a change in our life, we repent. We do something hard, we get stronger.

I don't think it's easy for God to watch us bumbling about down here, but I think he allows us to bumble about anyway...because he trusts us. He doesn't solve every problem...because he thinks we're capable. He waits for us to reach out to Him...because he fosters independence. He designed the plan of salvation...because we need salvation. He knew we'd make mistakes, that we'd need the atonement every single day of our lives. All this is evidence of God's love.

I hope that in our family we have a safe place to make (and fix) mistakes, to practice treating others with love and kindness, to learn how to be good people, to learn how to make good choices, to use our agency wisely. Hopefully (but not necessarily because: agency) those lessons will sink in and we'll be able to avoid suffering through the consequences of grievous mistakes. But if not, then hopefully our children will remember that even if we have to sit back and watch them suffer, we love them, their Savior loves them, and their Heavenly Father loves them (and will lend them strength to make it through their trials).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:35, 38–39

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