Blog Bucks: Congratulations Kathryn and Isaac!
So in the last post I had talked about finally feeling like myself again. I guess to begin somewhere, I'll actually start relatively close. About a month ago I was asked to give a talk. Brother McLean talked with me for a bit to help me choose my topic and he asked me a question, I answered and he said, "there's your topic." I said, "What's my topic?" and he said, "How do we love people we don't even know?" So - Charity. To be honest with you, my heart sank. I was not in a position to talk about Charity.
I had some unresolved issues with forgiving people. How could I stand up in front of everyone (including those I could not forgive) and give a talk on charity when I could not even talk to them or look them in the eye when I saw them at church or else where? It was obvious to me that I had some work to do on myself before I could really give this talk.
I was at least able to push the date of the talk back to the 12th of this month. Unbeknownest to me - that was Mother's Day. Brother McLean sent me a text a few days before I was to give my talk, asking if I realized that and I had said 'I can speak some other time' and then he asked if I could incorporate mother's into my talk. I didn't really see how. He called me and we discussed my topic "Charity and Forgiving those who have hurt us" and he said that he really wanted me to give my talk, and that it could apply to some people and their relationship with their mom. So I had to throw mother's out there a few times in my topic.
Can I just say - I was nervous before, just to give a talk in general but now I realized that I was going to be giving a more candid talk about forgiving those who have hurt us in the midst of others talking about how great moms are. That's more nerve wracking. Then on Sunday I found out that I was the second speaker. The first girl talked about her grandmothers and talked about how great they were and then there was me. I stood up and explained that I had been assigned to talk several weeks ago, before we knew it was mother's day....so this wasn't going to be the typical mother's day talk. I will post the text of the talk at the end - but first I want to tell you about my process of forgiving. Not the entire process - the Lord's been at work on me for a very long time, but I feel like it was the last month or so where I have really been thrust forward in my progression and ability.
The Thursday before I was asked to give a talk in church, I went to the temple. I was in Annapolis and the GPS said that the temple was 37 miles away, so I thought it would be easy enough to go there on the way home. It took me two hours! When I got to the temple, I sat in the parking lot trying to let go of all the frustration and road rage I felt. The GPS lied to me, the driver's cut me off, and the whole thing was a disaster. When I got out of my car, I didn't feel like I should go in to the temple. So I went down to the side, found some stairs no one really bothers, and sat down and prayed/cried to Heavenly Father. I told him I wanted to come home, I could feel his spirit and I knew in that moment that I was the only reason I was not inside the temple. I was close, but I wasn't letting myself do what I needed so I could go in. I cried to my Heavenly Father that I could not forgive, that it was beyond my ability to do it. I had tried for six months, sometimes telling myself I had forgiven - but would not forget, I could forgive but not want anything to do with that other person. But it obviously wasn't working. I wanted to forgive, forget, and move on with my life. Outside the temple that day I did my best to hand it over to the Lord.
Then Sunday I was asked to give a talk - it's why my heart fell when Brother McLean mentioned Charity as a topic. I didn't possess charity, I wasn't even close. The talk was the catalyst to complete the 6-month process. I ended up mentioning this story in my talk, and I meant it when I said that this talk was an answer to a prayer. The Lord heard my cries, heard my pleas of imperfection and inability and he gave me something to help me along.
A week after the assignment was given, I was able to have this incredible moment where I realized that I had finally forgiven. Nothing really had changed all that much, but this feeling was overwhelming. I looked at the person whom I had directed all my hurt and anger towards for six months and I didn't panic, I didn't feel sick to my stomach or was flooded by memories or what they had done to hurt me. I looked at them and NONE of those feelings were there. I wasn't sure how to take that. I looked away and then looked back again, to see if it was a fluke. But those feelings STILL WERE NOT THERE. I couldn't help but smile. I had forgiven and there was no mistaking the feeling, the true, unconterfeited feeling that I had finally forgiven.
In Stake Conference, it was repeated twice, "Have the courage and the faith to do what you know is right." I knew that I had forgiven, and I knew that to keep that feeling I had to talk to that person. So I got the hint, and I approached them after Stake Conference. It's little things here and there, a few text messages, saying 'hello' in the hallway, but it's progress.
It truly feels like a miracle to forgive someone. You don't realize how heavily you're entrenched in your own grudge. It does not hurt the person in the way that it hurts you. I hope that was somehow conveyed in the talk - but then again, I prayed VERY hard for the spirit to deliver the real message to people.
One last thing - In Elder Uchtdorf's talk this past General Conference he said something that stuck out to me, especially as I was in the midst of my struggles. I will write what I wrote in my notes - though I'm not sure if this is exactly how he said it, "Turn your heart toward the Lord - explain to Heavenly Father what you are feeling, acknowledge your shortcomings, tell him your trials." Turn to the Lord - always turn to him when you are struggling - because his yoke is light.
So - to top off an already incredibly long blog post - here is the text of my talk. I did not always stay "on script" and I threw in some things at the end (which I have already mentioned above) - but this was the jumping off point for me.
Seeing As The Lord Sees
In “The Challenge to Become” a talk given by Dallin H. Oaks, he says, “The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness is that charity, “the pure love of Christ”, is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes.”
The priest and the Levite were not bad people, in fact, both would have served in the temple. Both would have probably done good deeds here and there (or professed to) but it was the Samaritan who truly possessed charity. He didn’t see the man in need and cross the road because he was too busy, or uncomfortable, or felt the man deserved it. He looked on the man and had compassion. It was because of who the Samaritan was (or had become) that he had compassion and cared for the man. The parable wasn’t just for the lawyer, but for each of us. And in case you missed it, our neighbors are all around us.
Some characteristics of Charity are found in Moroni chapter 7. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
In verse 48 of chapter 7 we read how we can develop charity. “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.”
I like how it says, “All the energy of heart” because sometimes it truly feels like that is what it takes. I believe that charity is developed by praying with all the energy of heart and then getting up acting.
A few years ago, Sandy was teaching our institute class and she said something that has stuck with me, she said that we feel the Lord's love greatest when we are instruments in the Lord's hands, because the love he has for the person we are serving is flowing directly through us to them. What better way to feel the Lord’s love then by carrying it around inside of us, trying to extend it to others? I remember a few years ago when I was first called into the Relief Society Presidency. I had only been in the ward officially for a few months, I’m pretty shy so I didn’t really talk to anyone and I didn’t know the sisters I was serving with much less the sisters I would be serving while in the presidency. But I remember being filled with this immense love for the sisters; I couldn’t quite explain how I loved them when I hadn’t even learned their names. I’m sure many of you can relate, through your callings or missions, there are people we do not know and yet we feel a great love for them, a desire for them to be happy and to help them come closer to Christ.
But charity isn’t limited to those with callings, Moroni says, “charity is the pure love of Christ and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Sounds to me like it’s something for everyone to strive for.
I loved Stake Conference a few weeks ago. President Maddock shared something his brother told him, “You must learn to see as our Heavenly Father sees.”earn to see as our Heavenly Father sees.” It’s not a ‘must’ because he’s in the stake presidency, and it’s not just a ‘must’ for the relief society or elder’s quorum presidencies or for our bishopric, it’s a ‘must’ for all of us. Sister Virginia Pearce says in her book A Heart Like His, that we are all beggars before Christ. We are all equals in our need for repentance and forgiveness and for the mercy and grace of God. We are here to be tried and tested so that we may learn better how to become as God is, and to love as God loves.
Now I wish to talk about something that has been very difficult for me. I have talked about God’s love and how we can feel it for people we barely know or have yet to meet. Sometimes I feel like it may be easier to look at a stranger and see as our Heavenly Father sees than to look at someone who has caused me pain, to look past the hurt and THEN see as Heavenly Father sees.
Something we all have to learn to do is to soften and open our hearts. I find that when we let people in to our lives, we open ourselves to them for all the good and the bad that they bring; for friendship, for heartache, for love, for hate. When we let people in, it’s because we hope for the best. But we are all human, we’re imperfect, we make mistakes and we hurt each other – sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional, but it happens.
The natural man within us would have us close off our hearts, to hold on to pain and anger as a defense to guard against future hurt. I want to bear my testimony to you that this is not a good thing to do. When you close off your heart it is not just to others around you, you also close off your heart to the spirit and to our Heavenly Father, and when you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable to the adversary. In 2 Nephi 28 we read, “For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains and they be stirred up to anger, and perish; For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well – and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them; I am no devil, for there is none- and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains; from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works.” Brothers and sisters, I have felt these chains before, I have been unwilling to forgive and in doing so, closed off my heart. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first, I justified it as a way to move on from pain, but I never felt like myself, something was off. Sister Pearce says of those who choose to close of their hearts, “Their hardened hearts also prevent them from feeling love from their Father in Heaven and it is this love and peace that they so desperately crave.” My heart was closed off, deprived of the ability to feel God’s love, I say the ability to feel because I do not believe that God ever turns his love away, he says multiple times in the scriptures that his hand is stretched out still. I was in desperate need of a change of heart.
Elder Uchtdorf said in his talk “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”:
Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking – even a change of heart. But there is good news. This “mighty change” of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives.
• Forgiving ourselves and others
• A major change in our attitude and way of thinking
• A change of heart
To me, and I may be biased and making this fit into my topic, this is what happens as we develop charity. Charity is a change of heart, it is repenting and forgiving, it is seeing as our father in heaven sees, it is opening our hearts to others and hoping for the best. It is the pure love of Christ and I hope and pray with all the energy of heart to be found possessed of it at the last day.
I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to prepare this talk. I felt my prayers for the strength to forgive and to change my heart answered, and trust me, I had been praying with all the energy of heart for a while. I have a renewed testimony of the Lord’s love for us and for the liberating power of forgiveness. It can take time, and that’s okay. Opening our hearts again to others and to the Savior is a choice that we make and it takes work because we are fighting against the natural man. Sometimes it’s like taking one step forward and two steps back but hang in there, it is hard but it is possible. The Lord wants you to succeed and he will provide a way.