Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thoughts on the Atonement and Christlike Love.

I never, never get tired of this image by Liz Lemon Swindle.
A long time ago, I went crying to a good friend of mine about an ugly breakup I was going through. A fairly significant contributor to that breakup was my struggle with depression and anxiety, and I was feeling pretty hideously awful. My friend listened to me, and then said simply, "I wish I could take it from you." I've never been able to forget those words.

Yesterday, these words came into my mind again, as I learned about a challenge a family on our unit is going through. The nurse caring for the patient said to me, "I would donate my bone marrow for her," and it instantly brought tears to my eyes. Again, here was someone saying, "I wish I could take this away and carry it myself."

Of course there is already one who can take this from us, and my first thought when meditating on these two experiences was that Christ is the only one who can take our sorrows from us. In the most obvious sense, he is the only one who can take our sorrows. And for some reason, this magnificent, perfect being loves us enough to choose to do so, suffering the pain of Gethsemane and the cross so we can be resurrected and perfected, and so that we are never alone in our pain.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:12).
However, as I continued to think about this, and about the love that caused my friend during my breakup and my coworker during this family's struggle to voice such loving intentions, I realized that, while we can never measure up to what Christ has done for us, we can in our own small ways take upon us the pain of others. There is a quote I love that says "Shared joy is double joy; sorrow shared is half sorrow." (According to Google this is a Swedish proverb -- I couldn't remember where I heard it first). In addition, when I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I made a promise with God that I would
Bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort (excerpted from Mosiah 18:8-9). 
It occurred to me that these experiences are the way God prepares us to become more Christlike. These moments when we desire to take another's pain, we are experiencing a small measure of charity, or Christlike love, and practicing for the day when we can return to Christ's presence and learn to become like Him.

(Also, slightly tangentially, this made me think about how everything about baptism is practice in emulating the Savior. Entering the water is a symbol of his death, and being brought up is a symbol of his resurrection, as we are made new beings through our baptism. And then this piece of the baptismal covenant, in bearing one another's burdens etc. demonstrates how we are promising to follow Christ's example as we take on the responsibilities and blessings of baptism. Maybe a post for another day, where I can explore this further -- I definitely want to study it now).

Anyway, back to the subject at hand of Christlike love -- as I thought of this, I thought of how others had borne my burdens and made them lighter in the past few days (days that have been a little rocky due to a lot of stress and not a lot of sleep). There was the coworker that stayed a few minutes past her long night shift with a stressful patient to listen to me talk about how I am adjusting to being on my own as a nurse. There is my husband, who took a trip out of his way and his busy schedule to buy me cupcakes (cupcakes are the ultimate balm for my soul). While I know I am so far from where I want to be in developing Christlike love, I am grateful for these chances to see it displayed in others and the motivation it gives me to develop it better in myself, as well as grateful to the Savior who teaches, exemplifies, and personifies that charity.

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