Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak in my ward(church). As nervous as I always get, I am always so grateful after, because I learn so much as I study the topic of my talk. I am going to share my talk in two separate posts-not because I think I’m so cool, but because I hope that you will feel joy and hope. We all have a loving Heavenly Father, and older brother, Jesus Christ, who are always near. Always ready to give us strength to face the challenges life brings.
“Just imagine for a few minutes with me. Try to imagine the time before you came to earth. It was so beautiful. So full of light, peace, and warmth. We were so happy. We were with our family. We were with our Heavenly Father and older brother, Jesus Christ. Imagine we were having a family council meeting because soon we would be coming to earth. And our Heavenly Father wanted to give us a few reminders. Imagine He told us how much He loved us. How proud of us He was that we chose to follow Jesus Christ. Imagine that He reminded us that life on Earth would have its challenges. And that there was no way we could be perfect on Earth. We would each make mistakes. And we each would need to learn how to forgive ourselves and others. We would have to learn how to forgive our siblings, our parents, our spouse, our neighbors, our fellow church members, and even total strangers. But our Savior, Jesus Christ, would be there to strengthen us and teach us by His example. We would also have the Holy Ghost to give us comfort.
In a recent talk by Elder Echo Hawk, he shared an experience that helped him to grow. One tragic night at Christmas time, his younger brother and wife were killed by a driver who ran a red light. This left behind a young daughter, now without parents. He said, “anger toward the young offender began to well up inside.” But as time passed, a sentencing was held. And as he watched his parents and older sister reach out in forgiveness and love to the offender’s parents, Elder Echo Hawk’s heart was softened too.
He said, “Brothers and Sisters, are there people in our lives who have hurt us? Do we harbor what seem like fully justified feelings of resentment and anger? Are we letting pride keep us from forgiving and letting go? I invite all of us to forgive completely and let healing occur from within. And even if forgiveness doesn’t come today, know that as we desire it and work for it, it will come- just as it eventually did for me after my brother’s death.”
So first we need to desire to forgive. And this can be a huge step. And second, we need to work at forgiving.
Mark and I have been married 19 years. And through these years there has been a lot of joy! But there has also been many lessons on learning to forgive. Our first three months of marriage were a bit of a learning curve. There was one particular day where we disagreed about something completely silly-I’m sure- and I left out the back door with my scriptures. And shortly after I heard Mark go out the front door. I thought he left-like drove away and left. I thought, what has happened to us? How can we have times of such joy, and then end up here today? Well, Mark had just gone out front to change the oil in our car. When he was done, he came back in and locked the back door-unaware I was still out there-he probably thought I left too. I remember feeling so alone. I also remember feeling very strongly that I needed to apologize. I’m 100% sure that the disagreement was my fault. If you know Mark, you know it takes an awful lot to ruffle his feathers-if you can even do it at all. So, I walked around to the front of our little apartment and knocked on the door. I desired/sought forgiveness. I apologized. Luckily, Mark and I decided that day that we were going to change. We were going to be a team. Now we’re not perfect, and we’ve had to revisit and continually work on this, but that’s just what Elder Echo Hawk means by work. It’s a process over time.
Sometimes it takes real effort-or work- to succeed at forgiving. Elder Echo Hawk said, “As we forgive, I promise the Savior will strengthen us, and His power and joy will flow into our lives.” And Elder Lynn G. Robbins in his recent talk said, “To become like [the Savior] will require countless second chances in our day-to-day struggles…”
As we know, this life is a time for us to prepare to meet God. And lucky for us, He gives us lots and lots of chances. Elder Uchtdorf tells a story about how every time a plane flies there is what’s called a “point of safe return”. It means that up to that point, the plane has enough fuel to safely return to the airport. He says “Having passed the point of safe return, the captain has lost this option and has to continue on. That is why this point is often referred to as the point of no return…Satan wants us to think that when we have sinned we have gone past a ‘point of no return’- that it is too late to change our course. But he continues, “There is always a point of safe return; there is always hope. You are the captain of your life, and God has prepared a plan to bring you safely back to Him, to your divine destination.”
As a youth I attended a state activity where we were able to play all sorts of carnival and gospel centered games. After playing a handful of games, one of my YW leaders tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could help her with something in the hall. So off we went. As soon as we were in the hall, she gently told me that I was playing the game of life and that I had just died. Wait what?! She took me to a room where I was “judged” by my bishop. He asked to see my tickets, now tickets were given for playing the gospel games, and candy was given for playing the carnival games. After he counted, I was literally one ticket short to go to the celestial kingdom. I couldn’t believe it. If I had just “died” two minutes later I would have had enough tickets. I asked if he could make an exception, but he said no. So I was escorted by some lovely helper angels to my kingdom. After waiting there for what seemed an eternity, we were all allowed to go to the celestial kingdom and learn about choices. This day really impacted me. I think it really made me think about trying my best. I think it also made me a bit paranoid because it was missing the most crucial part of this journey in life. When we go before our Father in Heaven, we don’t stand alone to be judged. Our Savior stands beside us. And if we have given our best efforts, repented to the best of our mortal ability, he supplies the extra tickets. Because he has already paid the price for us to enter the Celestial Kingdom. It is now up to us to do our part. So learning how to forgive becomes even more essential. Because at least for me, it is a life-time curriculum to learn how to forgive. That’s why I plan on living to 100. It will definitely take me that long.”
I hope that this week as we go about our daily habits, we will become more aware of how we react to ourselves and others as we all try to make our journey in this life back to Heavenly Father. And as we are more aware, I hope that we can be more understanding, more loving. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that he supplies the extra tickets. I know that there is no way we can be perfect in this life. We must learn to rely on the Savior after all we can do on our own.
Sometimes letting people help me is hard-ok a lot of the time. And as I was preparing this talk, I realized that I want to study more about the strength we all can receive as we allow ourselves to keep trying, as we allow the Savior to help us, and how important it is to allow others to help along this journey of life.
May you be blessed this week with the peace and joy of the miracle of forgiveness.
Life is Good. Share the Good.
PS Isn’t my engagement photo from 19 years ago so cute?