One summer when my mom was a teenager she had the opportunity to participate in a pageant about Christ’s life.
I don’t know what character she played nor do I know all the details (so I hope I don’t mess this up), but I remember her description of one particular evening during that summer that changed her life and leaves tears in her eyes every time she describes it (and mine too).
Part of the pageant was a reenactment of the resurrection of Christ and one of the nights as it was being acted out something struck a chord in her that had never been hit before. As she sat there internalizing the reality of Christ’s resurrection and surreal love for her as an individual she remembers being hit for the first time that Christ was the central focus point of the gospel.
Overcome with tears she went and hid in a nearby bush, partly overcome with the spirit of how she felt, but also a little bit mad that all those growing up years had been filled with somehow missing the point. She had mistakenly been clinging to the thought that the gospel was all about not smoking or drinking alcohol…or what not to wear. She had internalized that the gospel was made up of rules and regulations…standards to bring happiness. But she had missed the part, the culminating central focus of the gospel: God loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us. And He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. And He set and example for us to love each other with a pure love and no judgment.
Huddled under that bush with the music blazing in the background and tears streaming down her face my mother had her first real “conversion” to the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ where the central focus point is the Savior of the world and what He did for us, not all the fluff and rules she had clung onto so tightly.
In the church I belong to we believe that God still reveals things to His children through prophets just like He did in times of old (Moses, Noah, etc.). We have high standards to help us be happy. We stay away from things that are not good for the amazing bodies He has blessed us with, we strive to prioritize family time and put our spouses first, we go to church to help remind us of what’s most important in life, and we seek to serve others as He would. We are blessed with a Sabbath day each week where we can renew our covenants with God and ponder the big picture of life and what it’s all about.
We also have a precious gift called free-agency. It can be a tricky one sometimes because it means we need to make decisions here and there that aren’t outlined to us from someone else…even our parents or a best friend we look up to. We need to pray about things and learn to lean on God for support when sometimes it would be so much easier to just ask someone else what they think and follow their example. And the trickiest thing about all that? We need to help our kids understand that free-agency thing as well. We believe that we should teach them correct principals and gradually let them govern themselves. Make some important decisions all by themselves…and even let them make not-so-great decisions once in a while. That’s how they learn.
But most importantly in the church I belong to we are taught to try our very best to love unconditionally as Christ loved. To love someone who comes into church smelling like cigarette smoke or who runs through a drive-thru after church on Sunday just as much as our perfect-on-the-outside neighbor who we may relate to in every way. Everyone has a different story. Everyone comes from different backgrounds. Everyone has been brought up differently. But we are all children of a God who loves us and we should reach out to each other no matter how differently we live or interpret things and try our very best to love unconditionally. The Atonement is for each and every one of us in a very real, individual way. And it is real.
I’m grateful for all the comments on that post yesterday because it gave our family a chance to sit down and have a great talk about how we live life. We talked about what standards we have. What kind of examples we want to set. I told Elle I think she is wonderful and I’m so proud of all the good decisions she is making in life. And maybe we could all use a little review of “For the Strength of Youth” because it gives us great guidelines from loving leaders inspired by an even more loving God :)
So many people asked what I think about the whole modesty thing, and I don’t think that matters for anyone else but myself and my family. We have prophets and amazing leaders who give us guidance through the scriptures and general conference and church each week. We need to search and ponder and struggle through prayer to have our own convictions with guidance from above and not let the decisions others make affect us and bother us if they are different from ours. That’s what makes us stronger. And that’s what will make our children stronger as they set off into lives of their own.
How I hope my children can have their own “conversions” to Christ just as my mother did on that hill hidden snugly under that bush so long ago.
And how I hope that they will always remember that what matters is that we each live our lives the way we feel a loving Heavenly Father would be proud of us for. And love others around us just as He would if He were right here with us.
Because really, He is right with us…and He loves us as unconditionally as He hopes we will reach out and love others…with no strings attached.