Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Why

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."   -- 2 Nephi 25:26 (Book of Mormon reference)

The first thing that came to mind as I was reading this scripture, was “Why Christ? Why not kindness, tolerance, or even a close synonym to Christ...why not just love?  Why do we need to focus so much of our attention on a being that most of the world has never heard of?  Why do I talk, preach, and prophesy of Christ?  What makes me rejoice in him?”  

Anyone who’s spent 5 mins with me knows that I tend to ask a lot of of these kinds of questions.  Personally, I love questions.  They force us to venture into an often intimidating unknown, just to find answers coupled with more questions. Often I find that venturing usually teaches me more than I asked for in the first place, and this time was no exception.  So I asked...why Christ?  Well, though I will probably spend forever trying to understand the full answer to that question, I think I did find a few key reasons in my venture.  Unlike those ambiguous concepts, subject to tone, language, and interpretation, Christ is a concrete provider of 4 essential things I need to find, feel, and achieve happiness.  Namely, Christ provides…

1.) Direction

2.) Empowerment

3.) Empathy

4.) Purpose

To illustrate those points, I’m going to use an allegory of what I know of Christ and why I talk, preach, prophesy, and rejoice in Him now.  I know it may be different for you, but go with me on this if you can...

You are wandering through an oddly crowded desert.  Your throat hurts, you’re lethargic, uncomfortable, and just generally unsatisfied.  You wonder sometimes if you’re the only one who feels this way, because nobody else seems to be talking about it.  Then one day, you read an article that describes what you feel.  They call it thirst, and tell you the cure is something called water.

Grateful to have a name for your experience, and glad to know you’re not alone, you start telling people you’re thirsty and that you need water, but nobody seems to know what water is or where to get it.  Some claim they can get rid of the thirst without water, but after two chiropractors, three prescriptions, and one witch doctor, you’re still thirsty and beginning to wonder if relief is possible or if this ‘water’ stuff really exists.  

Then one day, a woman you know tells you that she knows a guy who has water, and is willing to give it to anybody that asks.  His name is Christ, and he is accessible through a strange and bizarrely simple process called prayer.  Admittedly,  you’re skeptical.  Your past attempts have jaded you from the possibility of relief and now prevent you from believing her words.  She responds with patience, compassion, and respect, but continues to remind you of this Christ as the pain persists, and prays for you to find the relief you seek.  Sensing her genuine concern for you, and wanting to see what she sees, you finally allow yourself to trust was she says, and reach out for this Christ of whom she speaks.

Sidenote: My guess, is that this sharing of ‘what is possible, real, and available’ is at the root of why we talk, preach, and prophesy of Christ.  Those around us can be directed to Him once they know of his existence, and once directed to Him, he can then (#1)direct them to redemption, relief, and ultimately, joy - through his example, and with his love.

So continuing our story, we find item # 2 - Empowerment. (Or what I like to call - "how we get to where we want to go.")

Ok, so you earnestly seek to find this Christ, and one day he shows up on your doorstep.  Excited and hopeful, you ask him for this water you’ve heard so much about.  He hands you a small vessel of it, and as you feel your first hint of cool, invigorating relief, he tells you of a journey you can take to find everlasting relief to your thirst. Of course, you want to be taken there immediately. He helps you to prepare for the journey by releasing you from the debts and ties that bound you to the desert, and only asks that you promise to follow him because the journey is not easy and the path, at times, unclear.  He assures you that he has made this journey and knows it well, that there is an infinite amount of water to be had, and now being redeemed, you are free to go with him.  But, it’s a dangerous world, and having seen some awful things already, you pack heavy to make sure you’re prepared for the worst.  

Christ looks at you and your load with paternal adoration and tells you that you don’t need all of that baggage.  He promises he’ll provide you with everything you really need if you trust and have faith in him to do so.  But you look at his empty hands, and skeptical of his words, decide to take it anyway.  Lovingly, he offers to help bear the load, but you still don’t trust him enough to hand anything over.  “Just lead the way,” you say “I’ve got this.”

Throughout your journey though, you realize how difficult it is to to follow him and continue to lug all this stuff around.  The route he has chosen is far from easy, so you take him up on his offer and start handing some things over.  With each relinquishment, you feel better, lighter, and more able to enjoy the journey ahead.  Christ turns out to be an excellent traveling companion.  Not only does he take on your load, but he listens, teaches, comforts, and most importantly, enables you keep going, no matter how difficult the obstacle ahead.  
You do start to notice that at every obstacle, he convinces you to give up more of your load, and each time you do, you feel stronger and more able to overcome.  As you continue on this path, you become pretty sure he’s guiding you through those obstacles on purpose, but with hope of permanent relief, faith in his love, and His sustaining support, you do continue.

Gradually, you start to realize how busy this journey is.  There are people EVERYWHERE trying to get to this water.  You also start to understand that it’s not just you that Christ is guiding, and that the journey runs more smoothly if everyone works together to reach the destination, just letting Christ lead the way.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before your fellow travelers become obstacles unto themselves.  Loads once shared become unevenly borne.  Disrespect, discontent, jealousy, cruelty, and even just crankiness take their toll on everyone.  Social factions and fissures form.  People become isolated and self-centered - wholly focused on how to make THEIR journey better without regard to those around them.  

You look around and start to guard and protect yourself with whatever baggage you have left.  Christ suggests that instead of hiding behind those defenses, that you hand them over to him, and extend your arms out to help and support those around you.  You see the pain and violence of your companions, and respond with “um...I’d rather not.”  But he invites you once again, to trust him and his seemingly empty hands.  Figuring he’s been good on his word thus far, you decide to do it.  You let go, you open your arms, and reach out to those around you.

Christ then proceeds to connect you to others in a way you didn’t know was possible.  You find yourself able to see things as they see them, to feel of their pain, anguish, and frustration but also their excitement, hope, and joy.  It’s heartbreaking and it’s glorious, and you simultaneously feel an outpouring of love and a desire to uplift all of those souls around you.  “What is this?” you ask.  “What is happening?”

Christ reveals that ultimately, your individual journey is actually supposed to be kind of a group effort.  He explains that, through the atonement, he has come to know and understand each member of that group in a profound and eternal way.  Because you are connected to Him, he can connect you to others in ways you would not otherwise comprehend or understand.  What you’re feeling is what he feels, though perhaps on a much smaller scale.  He explains that it’s called charity, and that it is an essential element for any member of the group hoping to reach their destination.  He explains that this (#3) empathy is how each of us learns to love as he loves, and is necessary for salvation.  Those who do not learn and practice this love, will simply never find the relief they seek.  

The concept of this ‘group effort’ and the openness and love it requires hits you hard.  During some peaceful contemplation of the idea, one of your fellow group members walks up, smacks you across the face, tells you to get your act together and keep moving cuz you’re holding everybody up.  Jarred and indignant, you rail back and say things that you know will cut deep.  All of the love and compassion you felt previously seem consumed by tumult of pain, rage, and vengeance.  Armed and ready for battle, your open arms are no longer so open.  Christ pleads with you to lay down your weapons and turn the other cheek, but you’re hardly listening.  You want justice, and you want it now.

Christ, knowing your desires, reminds you that he will forgive whom he will forgive, but of you it’s required to forgive all men, and you promised to follow him.  This only infuriates you more and you feel torn by your desire for justice, and his demand for mercy.  You look to him with pain and tears in your eyes, remind him that this person hurt you, that you didn’t deserve it, and ask him why he didn’t stop it from happening.  He reminds you that he knows and has felt that pain, asks you to trust him once more, then beckons you to come to him.  

Still hurting, confused, but trusting his love for you, you lay down your weapons and run to him.  When you do, he heals the wounds, teaches you how to turn that pain into compassion, and buoy’s you up as you continue on the journey.   With his help, healing, and strength, you do eventually figure out how to forgive, and even feel empathy for the friend that struck you.  As the wounds heal and the pain subsides, you actually start to understand his wisdom in letting you get hurt in the first place, because now you know that they are not empty hands, but that they are full of power, comfort, guidance, and love.  Slowly, you continue to give up all of the defenses and hurts you were holding onto for protection, and with Christ, continue to reach out to those around you.

With that openness and compassion, Christ also teaches you how to heal relationships and make them stronger than ever before.  Surprisingly, you find that your reconciliation efforts have a far reaching and somewhat compounded effect.  Somehow, it has helped others learn to better empathize with and forgive one another, and consequentially, they also learn to be better about not doing things that require so much forgiveness.

The journey thus becomes safer, faster, and more enjoyable as members of the group continually reach out to, empathize with, and uplift one another.  When one member trips up or struggles, they are supported until they regain their footing.  They are not perfect, but they are kinder and more generous, they refrain from judgement, and they see the divine potential within one another.  Ultimately, they learn to love one another as Christ loves them, and courageously work to progress together to become more like Him.  

As Christ continues to lead them in these efforts, the (#4) purpose of this journey itself becomes very clear, very real, and very personal.  Though he is ready to extend relief and eternal happiness to all who seek it, the travelers who persistently sacrifice for, submit to, covenant with, and trust in Christ, will learn what it means to no longer thirst. Their journey teaches them how to become one with Him, and through that union, they learn what it means to become like God.

My eternal family: definitely the 'group' that has taught, loved, and helped me the most thus far.

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