Monday, June 2, 2014

The Atonement - The Greatest Gift of All

Well, it's been another great week in Narvik. The sun is shining and it has finally gotten a little bit warm. For a few days there, it was even 20 degrees (I would translate that over to Fahrenheit, but my brain only works in Celsius at the moment, so sorry about that)! I don't have a whole lot to report as far as the work goes, because it has been a lot of the same things lately. Knocking on doors, contacting people on the streets, and trying to track down old investigators or potential investigators. But that's alright because there must be opposition in all things.

I have been thinking and studying a lot lately about the Atonement, and one scripture in particular that I read really caught my attention this week:

"And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law, no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever" (2 Nephi 2:5).

That scripture really hit me like it never has before, because man, we really are lost forever if left to our own devices. As I started to think more deeply about our plight here on earth so far away from our loving Heavenly Parents, I began to think about my own life.

I imagined that I was in a large warehouse filled with piles upon piles of boxes and crates. Confused, I looked around and pulled open the box nearest me, only to discover that it was filled with pictures. I pulled another box to my side and found only bundles of letters tied together with string. I read the note connected to the top envelope and gasped as I realized what they were. These weren't any ordinary letters. These were written by me. I dug out a bundle of papers and read the caption: "Words I have Used to Build Others Up." I picked another and read: "Kind Words I Have Said to a Stranger."

Realizing this was a warehouse filled with the record of my life, my interest grew and I began to move around the room. I opened a box of pictures and cringed as I read: "Times I Could Have Helped Another But Didn't-" Those were pictures I didn't want to see. I side-stepped a box labeled "Laziness" to open one filled with video-cassettes capturing the ways I have helped my mother.

In some categories I was pleased with the things that I found, but in many there were either too many, or too few boxes to be found. I moved to the darker corners of the room and jumped back, filled with horror at the things I found and the detail captured. I kicked at those boxes, determined that no one must every see the things they contained, but to no avail. I ran back to the center of the room, shuddering, only to find one little container no larger than a matchbox, standing in the middle of a patch of sun light coming through a whole in the roof.

Surrounded by mountains of boxes, I couldn't contain my curiosity as I wondered what could possibly be in this box, so clearly the center of the collection. I picked it carefully up and read a sticky-note placed on one, small index card. It read, "People I Have Shared the Gospel With."

I sank gently to the floor, crying as the enormity of the shame I experienced washed over me. I could not bear the thought of looking at any more boxes for the realization of my own miserable state overwhelmed me. I sat there and burned with the shame of it all, and suddenly the lights went out with a whoosh, leaving me to wallow in my own self-pity, surrounded by my weaknesses and guilt. The pain that I experienced was unbearable and there was only one thought that consumed my back: I had to destroy this place. I reached into my pocket and found matches. I tried furiously to light anything and everything on fire- to burn that place to the ground. My vision blurred and I used every single match in that box, but it didn't make a difference. Nothing would burn, nor would the boxes move after I had decided to destroy them.

Trapped in my own guilt and shame, I crawled miserably through the murky darkness to the darkest corner I could find and curled up in a ball there. I wept into my knees for what seemed like an eternity, resigned to endure my pain forever. The anguish of my soul burned through any other emotion or thought I had- I had failed. I had failed the test.

In the middle of this torture of my being, I light suddenly flashed on near the entrance and I saw Him. His eyes met mine, and I couldn't bear the sadness there, looking into my soul from His perfect face. I couldn't believe that He had come. Anyone but Him! I tried desperately to hide the worst boxes, but it was still no use. He continued to walk sadly through the boxes, calmly picking them up one by one and examining the contents. I longed to stop Him as I watched His composure remain the same- beautiful, graceful, and magnificent- but with each new box the sadness grew deeper in His eyes.

He took each box he went through, and tore my name off the contents, replaced with His, and placed it in a bag He was carrying. One by one, the boxes disappeared into His bag, and in what seemed like a heartbeat, He was suddenly finished. He walked slowly to me, and I couldn't bear to look Him in His eyes. But I forced myself to do it, and the love I saw there washed over me and I couldn't hold back the tears. He left me gently to my feet, and cried with me. Everything about the way He acted told me that He forgave me, and the love I felt washed through my entire body, erasing the memory of everything I had just experienced. I wanted that moment to last forever, and I was filled with gratitude for the task He had accomplished which I could not do myself.

He put His arm around me as the lights came back on, and we walked together out the door, into the cool night air.

I am so grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ, because without it, I would be nothing. Without Him, I am nothing.

Have a great week!

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