20 December 2007

The Atonement

My friend, Jacqui, sent me this email today about her experience at church recently: Today in Sacrament we listened to 6 men they wore short haircuts and white shirts with colorful ties, they smiled and joked. They looked like you and me but this was a sacrament meeting unlike any other I have ever attended and one of the most sobering times I think I shall ever experience but also one of the most spiritual times I shall ever encounter. Within our ward boundaries we have a drug rehabilitation center called the Renaissance Ranch. People come from all over the country to attend, but all are members of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Days Saints. For an hour and a half our family and others listened to these men young and old confess that they were all recovering drug addicts and alcoholics. You might think that these men were what you would consider your stereotypical drug addicts from broken homes and not very educated but they weren't. These were men, who had been successful in their lives, who had been bishops son's and had served missions, been sealed in the temple and had loving parents. As we listened they spoke to us of the devastation that drug addiction had played in their lives and how it has damaged their families. They spoke of what had brought them to this point and they also spoke of how the atonement was what had finally brought them home. Our first young man spoke of how he had been in a family that looked perfect from outside but was emotionally distant within, though they attended church, they were unhappy as a family. Our second young man from Arizona spoke of how he had served a mission, he was one of five kids and had loving parents but he also spoke of the expectations that come from being a latter day saint and how we are often given the message to be perfect and how often we are judged by those around us if we get it wrong and how we feel we sometimes cant live up to those expectations, so we live a lie. This young guy spoke of how he and his counselor wrote on a stick it note “today is the day I begin to live real.” Are you living real? Are you happy with your life? Are you being really who you are? These were all questions he asked us. We aren't expected to be perfect. Begin today by living real, being honest and open about what you really are. Our third guy who spoke to us, he too had served a mission and had a good career, been married within the temple , he had a beautiful family with four children, he was sixty days clean, he had just two years ago began using drugs by the time he arrived at the renaissance ranch he was a heroin addict. He said he felt worthless till he was able to put the atonement within his life. You see, yesterday I realized the power the atonement really has within our lives. These men told us that they had been to hell and back literally that they had done things that they were so ashamed of, that it was only through the atonement of Jesus Christ that they could stand before us and truly know they were forgiven. Our last man who stood before us was not young, he was graying around the temples, he was older than the others, he looked like he had been here before but one thing he said touched everyone, he said "help someone around you who is struggling and help yourself in the process." I looked at my children today and wondered what lessons could be learnt from these men and the other recovering addicts that have passed through our ward this past year. I think the words that were spoken rang loudly in my ears; it’s okay to be you, to make mistakes. Today is the day we can all begin living real, the day we can use the Saviors atonement within our lives. Today is the day we can look around us and realize we are all part of the same family and that when we help those around us suffering we help ourselves. I felt inspired to share this experience; it certainly made me think of what is real in my life. I hope you can for a moment ponder on what is real in your life and then if you feel someone else may benefit from reading this… PAY IT FORWARD. Jacqui I don't think she meant to start an email chain by that last line. But I posted it because I thought it was a good point about being judgemental, (critical, if you will) even within our own families. Recently, we had a family over for dinner and the husband made a comment that I found interesting. He told me, "I'm glad you talk to me." Then he explained that he's a friendly person and says "hi" to people who pass him. In his experience, he's found that many women shrink away, especially if they see that he has a wedding ring. It's as if because he's wearing a ring, he shouldn't talk to women other than his wife (um, what country do we live in?) or that means they're going to have an affair. That broke my heart to think that a nice guy is getting treated that way because of a snap judgement being made. He doesn't seem creepy or look weird - I'd understand if people were apprehensive if he were, although that wouldn't be an acceptable excuse. I wish more people would just be niiiice to everyone.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved this post so much! Thanks! It's so refreshing to read. And just to give you another perspective, I often "shrink away" when people (men or women) talk to me because I am really self-conscious and shy and afraid I'm going to say something stupid. I'm amazed at how many people out there are as shy as I am, I would have never guessed it. Maybe tell your friend that, so he doesn't assume it is him.

Angela Fielding Photography said...

Love that post! It's interesting as members of the church how we do judge each other on being perfect. As a missionary we were searching for those in need of the savior and repentance, NOT the perfect ones. That's not what the church was established for was perfect people, but for the sinner in all of us that need a little help to overcome that natural man. I for one am so grateful that the savior was willing to make it possible for all of us to change our ways. I need to take advantage of the blessings of the Atonement more than I do. Thanks for the story!

Anonymous said...

Great post...for obvious reasons I am posting annon..but mostly because I don't want this info linked to my blog...

OUr family is recovering from a situation that involved my husband making choices that were very hurtful to himself, to me, to others and our children. I literally thought that everything as I knew it would never be the same... after many months, many hours of therapy and much prayer he is trying to "fix" things and do his part to start to heal our family. It is very hard for me right now to think about trusting him and get past the hurt. He has been excommunicated from the church is working to come back, but it will be years before this can happen. I think about the baby blessings, the baptisms and other things that he will not be a part of and I am SO ANGRY. The irony is that I am trying to understand how the atonement can help ME. I want to believe that if he has changed and follows the rules, the atonement will help heal him (and me) but I really don't know if I can ever be at a point where I can trust him ever, ever again.

Ironically, if it had been a non member who had done things, "found" god and then got baptized, me (and everyone else) would not think twice about giving him a clean start. The fact he was raised in the church makes less likely to trust it..even though he is essentially a non member now...

I appreciated this b/c I am really struggling to understand how to apply this to MY part of this situation I find myself in.....

Also, our entire stake knows what happened and since this also involved infideltiy on is part, no one will look at him at church and we have had difficult comments directed at us. Ironically, mostly at me because I 'stayed". This is apparently something that irritates other women who swear that "if their husband ever did this, they would leave". Let me tell you, when it is your life and your family, you would think long and hard about it. I promise...

Anyway, that was long, but I wanted to let you know I appreciated the thoughts. I wish it was a easy for me to believe my own husband as I was to be ready to believe that these men, also had really changed... I guess I am a cynic. DO people really change? I don't know.

Geo said...

Thank you for sharing this, Lucky.

Monica B. said...

I loved this post it was a wonderful reminder of how we should love each other and help each other the way Christ would.

The women who commented anonymously I feel so bad for her. You are not wrong to want to save something eternal. We have a bigger picture than the throw away marriages these days. I can't believe how painful that must be, but you are a strong person for trying to make it work.

Anna Costa said...

Thanks so much for posting this! What a breath of fresh air!! It's such a good reminder to for me to step out of my comfort zone and be aware and helpful of other people that might be suffering. We weren't given the gospel for our own benefit - we were given the gospel to help others find peace and happiness as well. Thanks for the reminder!

xo

Heidi said...

I agree with your man-husband-friend. Except a lot of married men in my ward won't talk to me. . .

Good heavens, my stretch marks ensure I'll never have an affair. I'm just trying to be nice!