I have contemplated a lot as to whether or not I wanted to post this. I think in a lot of ways, many of our trials and experiences can be very personal and in many circumstances should be kept to ourselves. That being said, I realized that as I was going through this process, that there is a hope that someone else can benefit from what I have learned.
“Forgiveness is more than saying sorry…” We could play a little rendition of ‘name that movie,’ but for those of you who don’t know what movie that is, it could ruin the fact that I’m trying to be serious for once in my life. Still, the idea behind that (hilarious) quote remains true.
I know that each of us has our own burdens, struggles, trials and challenges. During the past few years, forgiveness has been one of mine. Without going to much into detail, I will give you a little bit of background. The “growing up years” weren’t always so easy for me. I always had an incredible and loving family. However, it was difficult to make and keep friends. I was the shrimpy uncoordinated kid that got picked on. People said things about me that ruined my self-worth. From elementary school through high school, people would say things to me and about me that constantly made me feel like I wasn’t worth the wasted air.
I wasn’t treated fairly. I was often hurt, depressed and alone. I wanted more than anything to be friends with and included in groups with the very people who hurt me the most. My self-esteem was literally nonexistent. Although I know that many kids go through this, I felt like I was alone. I’m also sure that those who have met me recently may not see the absence of confidence that I am claiming. Let me assure you, it literally plagued me.
The past five years have been incredibly eye-opening for me. I have learned a lot about myself, love, friends, and most importantly my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. As I served my mission, it was easy for me to forget about past events and especially the people that I couldn’t bear to face again. When I came back, I had a fire in me that a lot of people at home had not seen before. Many found out that I do, in fact, speak my mind. All of a sudden, I was funny instead of awkward. However, I did not expect that it would be difficult to come home and realize that I had not completely surmounted the feelings of inadequacy. As I began to reconnect with people, attend my singles ward, and go to activities, I started to crawl back into my shell a little bit. I was extended a calling in my ward to be the executive secretary to the bishopric and thus was forced to deal with these individuals that I hadn’t seen or thought of in years. I learned that many of them have changed, as have I. I hadn’t even given them the chance to show that side before I continued to judge them relentlessly. I was now serving the people that I felt had hurt me the most.
I couldn’t let go.
That’s when I recognized that I was the only one that had a problem. I had been out preaching repentance and forgiveness for two years and now here I am, a hypocrite. The once humbled servant of the Lord became ‘proud’ and ‘superior’ to those who had made him feel worthless before.
For the last few weeks, this has been on the front of my mind. When I go to institute, Sunday classes, the temple and especially sacrament meeting- this has been my mantel. Forgiveness hasn’t come easy. I hope and expect that it has been let go, but I would feel it in everything I do. The worst part is that I realize that I have now done things and said things that I needed to be forgiven for. How can I expect that such a sweet redemption can come upon me when I am so selfishly acting the way I have been?
As I was sitting in sacrament meeting quite a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a song I don’t recall ever hearing. The second verse stood out to me as if it was written in bold red ink.
Hymn #197 O Savior, Thou Who Wearest A Crown
“No creature is so lowly, No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee, They feel thy love’s embrace;
The very souls who slay thee Have access to thy grace.”
“The very souls who slay thee have access to thy grace.” I repeated that phrase in my head the rest of the day. The scripture references at the bottom led me to Matthew 27. Tears filled my eyes as I read the following verses (28-31).
“And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.”
I’ve never been given a crown of thorns. I’ve never been beaten or spit upon. I certainly haven’t ever been crucified on a cross that I had to bear. And yet, I am led back to that same line from the hymn, “The very souls who slay thee have access to thy grace.” He took upon himself His own persecution, mockeries, and unfairness and still He has offered to take mine as well.
“Come unto me all, ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
My institute teacher said something the other day about Christ that really made me think. (He may have been quoting someone but I’m not sure). He said “He had the power to be a lion, but He chose to be the Lamb.”
As I have tried to relate this all to my life lately, all of these things have really come together to help me understand the power of forgiveness. I have the disposition to be fierce, defensive and judgmental. My character reacts on instinct and inhibition. I have the power to be a lion, but in my quest to become like my Savior, I need to forgive. It's finally time to move on.