Sunday, October 24, 2010

Behold the Great Redeemer

by Annmarie Worthington

jesus carrying cross

What an incredible sacrament meeting we had this morning. I learned from everything, beginning with the hymns.  At my ward, one of my callings is the chorister. I love music, so getting to share music about my faith is wonderful. The only downside is my exposure. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so the challenge for me is not to give away every private thought on my face while leading the music. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I do not.  I think only once have I broken down in tears during a song….at least publicly.

Today’s sacrament hymn spoke to me greatly. I intensely felt both my failures and my desire to do more, to be more like Him.  We sang #191 Behold the Great Redeemer die. Aside from meditating on His sacrifice and grieving for the pain my sin has caused, there were a few phrases that challenged me greatly. As soon as I sat down from leading the music, I began to jot my thoughts down furiously. 

The first was the statement, “No murmuring word escaped His tongue.” With everything the Savior went through, and it is more than any of us ever will, no matter what our circumstances, He never once uttered a word of complaint.  I have had my fair share of pain, but never once has Heavenly Father forsaken me. Although, I’m sure I’ve wrongly accused Him of that before. The Savior, however, did have to lose His Father. God had to forsake Him as part of the atonement.

Can you even begin to imagine the agony that brought Him? We’ve never been without either the presence of God or the redeeming influence of both the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.  What an all-encompassing loss. And yet, He remained without sin.  When the religious leaders, along with the throngs of the populace, were abusing Him, spitting on Him, and slandering Him, He never once retaliated or complained. I Peter explains why.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

--I Peter 2:21-23

If I would remind myself that God is a righteous Judge, not only of His children, but their circumstances. God allows things into our lives for a reason. Committing myself to  Him means trusting Him, submitting to His desires, even if they are contrary to my own. It also means trusting Him.  Remembering He is a righteous judge. Also remembering that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  I need to remember there are blessings ahead and not just focus on the challenges and pain of my present.

The second thing that spoke to my heart was, “Father, from Me remove this cup. Yet if Thou wilt, I’ll drink it up.” Oh! What a heart! I want to say that. I want to be like young Mary, in the book of Luke, who said, “I am the bondservant of the Lord, be it done to me according to Your word.”  Why do I find that so hard? I let my dreams get in the way. Again, I’m focused on the wrong thing. Instead of planning my dreams, I should be learning and planning His. No matter what they are.  That is hard for me.  I have things I long for, and a deep loneliness that I cannot explain to others in a way that makes sense.  I long to get to the place where I only desire whatever He wants.

Finally, the phrase, “I’ve done the work Thou gavest Me.”  How many of us can say that? Not me.  There is so much yet to do. Of course, we can’t do all of it ourselves.  I think the key is “Thou gavest Me”.  I need to be sure all I do, is what He had for Me, and not just get busy doing things.  I try to remember to everyday ask how He wants me to use my time that day, but many times I still get caught up in my own agenda.  What I want to do is make sure I’m fasting and praying and studying to know His will. That way I know I’m expending my energy on what He has called me too. And then, once I find out, make sure I “do the work”.

There may never be a Sunday…or Monday…or Tuesday…..where I don’t see how far I have to go, but it is such a joy going there.  I wish I were more like our Great Redeemer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Am Not Alone—An increase in Faith

by Annmarie

You know, I really shouldn’t blog when I am on pain medication. For some reason the pain medicine makes me emotional and lowers my inhibitions, making me likely to say (or write) anything. You can get all my secrets out of me when I’m on pain meds. However, when I’m emotional, what I want to do most is write….or cuddle someone. The kids are at their dad’s house this weekend, so the only outlet left is writing. Let’s just hope I don’t give up anything too personal.

I teach Relief Society tomorrow. The scheduled lesson is on faith. I’m quite excited about teaching that topic, because it is one I desire to grow in more than any other. Some time back I remember sitting in the chapel on a Sunday morning and confessing to God my lack of faith, pleading with Him to help me know how to develop more of it. Immediately the Spirit said to look up Alma 32. I did and was quite excited to see it was a manual on developing faith. I have grown to love that chapter. 

However, shortly before our recent General Conference, I was still feeling like I was failing in the area of faith. I went to God in prayer again. I told Him I must be His slow, “special” child, and I need more help. I spoke to Him about Alma’s chapter, confessing that I DID have a deep desire to believe and have complete faith, just as the chapter said to. But, I confessed that I felt that although the chapter said that seed would swell and grow, that maybe there was something else necessary that I was missing. The only thing that I felt had swelled was my desire. I still didn’t feel my faith had improved much.

This prayer went on for many, many weeks, and I was beginning to worry I would never improve my faith.  I don’t know if anyone noticed, but many of the talks during October’s conference were on faith. I took copious notes and rejoiced that my God loved me enough to give me more help. I rejoiced again as I noticed other prayers being answered through conference. One in particular really strengthened my testimony that God hears and answers MY prayers.

I was torn about a family decision. I could tell someone in priesthood leadership over me thought I should no longer homeschool my children. I have agonized over that decision often, in much prayer, and always felt like it was the only right decision for my family. My leader never said anything to me personally about his feelings, but I could sense it. I wasn’t 100% positive that was how he felt until a few days ago, when a friend, who was frustrated with me, told me that the leader had said something to their family about it.

Although frustrated with that information, by the time my friend mentioned it to me, I was already at peace about my decision, because God gave me the answer during conference.  You see, previous to conference, I was worried that maybe I wasn’t understanding the Spirit correctly because this priesthood leader felt differently than I did about it.  I’m new in the church, and learning to discern the Spirit is a LONG, often difficult, process. What if I was letting my emotions and desires confuse what the Spirit was saying? However, anytime I prayed about it, it was the only answer I got. Everything else seemed dark and wrong.

I didn’t think I could with a clear conscience do anything other than homeschool. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure it would destroy my family emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Not to mention the academic step back, including the fact that my poor oldest child had already taken all the math and science classes (save one) the public schools had to offer, and he’d have to spend the next three years just repeating stuff he’d already learned. But, what was I to do with my leader’s opinion. Doesn’t God guide us through our priesthood leadership? So, I went to the Lord in prayer again. I told Him that I wasn’t sure what to do. I want to homeschool my children, and I felt that HE wanted me to homeschool my children, but it felt to me like my leader did not want me to homeschool. What was I to do? How can I guide my family, if the direction I feel I’m given is contrary to what my leader felt?  Was I to make every decision based on what my leadership thought was right, even if I felt very much to the contrary?

Oh how blessed I was to have one of the talks teach us how God gives revelation! He specifically said that though God gives revelation for us to our priesthood leaders, when it comes to areas of family government, He gives the revelation to the head of the family, not the priesthood leader. What peace I felt wash over me when those words came out of the apostle’s mouth. I wasn’t misunderstanding the Spirit. I just didn’t understand the chain of revelation. I did know what was right for my family. It was even more comforting to me that the apostle used the same wording I had in my prayer. I told Heavenly Father I love my children more than anything and needed a specific, clear answer, and He gave me one!

There were many other ways which my dear Father in Heaven spoke to me, answering very pressing questions during conference. It was such a balm to my soul in ways no one would be able to understand. You see, since February of this year I have secretly felt like my soul was being ripped apart. A series of unexpected events, that would periodically rear its head again, would leave me feeling trapped and abandoned. I wasn’t sure if God was hearing my pleas for help. I often worried I had slipped through the cracks, or worse, maybe I wasn’t important to Him. Or maybe He just didn’t like me.  Maybe He felt I failed Him too often and was not worth the trouble. I loved Him very much, and wanted Him to love me too, but I felt like my pleas were going unheard and I didn’t know what to do.

Having Heavenly Father answer so many of my cries and concerns during conference gave me such confidence and peace. He WAS hearing my prayers and worries. He did care enough to help me understand. He answered my prayers. That experience has helped to increase my faith, my trust in Him. I still have so very far to go. But, I’m glad to know He is with me on the journey. I am not alone.