I took the white bread off the plastic tray. This time I was really going to catalog my past week. I thought and thought. Who had I wronged?
I’ve been a decent man. I’ve never done anything too grievous. Sure, when I was a kid I stole candy and maybe a toy from a store. I was never caught. Sure, when I was younger I told a lie or two to get out of trouble. I was never caught. But in general, I’ve been a good guy. I’ve never had to make a big course correction in my life. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I’ve never cheated anyone out of money. I am honest in my dealings with people. My life is good. My family has what they need. My wife loves me. My daughters love me. I love them. I have a home. I have a job. I have good health. I am not suffering. I have not experienced pain from a large loss in my life. I have not experienced the pain of racism, the pain of sexism, the pain of homophobia, the pain of divorce, nor the pain of violence. And there is nothing I have done to have earned such a life – it is just the capriciousness of life.
Do I need to experience tragedy to understand Jesus’ atonement?
As I sat with my eyes closed, sitting on the hard metal chair in the overflow area of the chapel, I thought, “Who have I wronged this week?” No one came to mind.
I don’t write this to sound self-righteous. I write this to allow you to see into my heart and my struggles. I don’t think I’m the only one who has had these thoughts. If I haven’t felt this need to repent, what has Mormonism offered me? Comfort? Comfort in what? Comfort that I have always had the answers, while others haven’t? Security? What kind of security? Security that my life is acceptable to God? Judgement? Judgement of what? Judgment that my life is right and good and that others’ lives need correction?
Was my agnostic friend correct the other day when he said, “Religion just gives the right for people to judge others.” Is Mormonism bigger than that? Is Christianity bigger than that? Is the Gospel bigger than that? Is Jesus bigger than that? Does Jesus offer more?
So why would someone like me need the atonement that God the Son offers freely to all?
17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Am I that man? Am I so settled in my goodness, that I am completely blind to who I really am?
The small water cups on the plastic tray came. I pondered more. I felt a crack. It was almost as if a light began to enter into my mind – through the side of my head – through my right temple. What was this light?
I began to reflect not on my possible sins and transgressions, but on who I can become – who our Heavenly Parents want me to become – who Jesus wants me to become – how they see me.
More giving of my time.
More giving of my money.
More willing to give service.
More willing to allow God’s grace to enter my life.
Am I willing to let that light break open that crack and enter into my life? Am I willing to let Jesus not just rearrange things, but actually tear my whole house down? Am I that brave?
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I pondered. I rather like my old house.
Later, I spoke with a friend of mine about this. He is divorced. His children live two states away from him now. He said something quite profound. “Mike, you are lucky then. I’ve made big mistakes in my life that have caused me great pain. I have had pain that I have not brought upon myself. You aren’t feeling compelled to change because of a huge transgression. You are free to choose. You have the blessing of not being acted upon, but of acting.”
“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon…”
I felt that light open my mind more and more. I resisted. No. That’s too much to ask. That is too hard.
Will I act?
Will you act?
Terrific reflection, Mike! So many bigger framings for life and spiritual journeying besides "sin and repentance." May you (and all of us) crave and become addicted to this kind of "crack" and what it is calling us toward!
Great post Mike! It is both inspiring and humbling.