This has been the topic of many recent general conference talks…
and my own private thoughts and conversations.
Whether we feel personal, social, cultural or religious pressure—
I believe that many experience a sense of frustration, intimidation,
hopelessness, or even self-loathing…
Simply because we can’t seem to fit the “ideal”.
I’ll save my social and cultural perspective for another day,
but at least in terms of religion—
I think the real problem is that we believe salvation is earned..
when in fact it’s granted by a merciful Father
through the divine power of His Son’s atonement.
What does it mean?
What is Christ’s part and what is ours?
I learned a powerful lesson that I hope can attempt an illustration of this principle.
From the time I was a little girl, I have felt that I was richly blessed.
I had been given a wonderful family, a strong healthy body,
education, privilege, opportunity, freedom,
wealth (by most of the world’s standards),
the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What more could a person possibly want for in life?
Because of this, I felt that I was indebted to God..
I owed Him. Big time.
And so I believed that if I could serve a mission for a year and a half—
It would be like writing him a big, fat check.
I’d sacrifice my life for Him,
at least for a moment,
and then I’d come home and we could call it “even”.
Obviously, I didn’t understand the debt I owe..
Or the account between myself and my Heavenly Father.
Once I got out on my mission..
I started to grasp that sacrificing
my time, money, talents, family, personal pursuits… life.
Wasn’t really giving up something that I “owned”
All of those things were really God’s in the first place—
That He had so generously “loaned” to me.
“I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by leading you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”
After reading this scripture,
I understood in an instant that my very breath wasn’t even my own.
All was a gift, all was a blessing, all was HIS.
Immediately, I panicked.
I felt so intensely my nothingness before God.
I was giving my very best..
All of my time, talents and life to His 24/7 service.
I was closer to living the ideal than ever before in my entire life..
Yet, in that moment I saw that it was hellishly not enough.
“if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”
It flashed over and over in my mind like a blaring neon sign..
My debt was even more unfathomable than I anticipated.
One that I couldn’t begin to comprehend.. let alone ever repay.
I ruminated over this discovery for hours, then days.
After a few torturous nights,
I was praying and distinctly remember the words,
“You were never meant to pay the debt.”
Relief, peace, hope and gratitude flooded my soul.
God knew that I am completely and wholly incapable of earning exaltation..
So He sent His son.
His perfect, Holy, Only Begotten Son
to pay the insurmountable price for me.. for you. for all mankind.
The most amazing miracle of it all,
is that His grace is ENOUGH.
More than enough to cover us all—
If we will just do one simple thing..
RECEIVE the gift of His grace
by TRYING to live the gospel of Jesus Christ to the best of our abilities FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.
In other words, try hard and don’t quit..
Because then is “his grace is sufficient for all men”.
The Bible dictionary explains the beautiful concept of grace.
“It is…through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins [aka the gospel], receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”
I finally understood that my one big work or mission
Was not (and would not ever) be enough to secure me a spot eternally with God..
No work I could ever perform would accomplish that.
This truth was, at first, terrifying…
but then liberating.
Because it meant that I don’t have to be perfect.
If I make a mistake or slip up,
I can simply correct, repent, learn and improve..
Move onward and upward!!
No one act or work damned OR exalted me.
It is the sum total of all my tryings/strugglings/strivings
that show God my desire to receive His grace and mercy.
Those consistent efforts to imitate Christ
(whether fails or successes),
coupled with the enabling power of His grace,
ultimately, help me BECOME as God is.
“With the gift of the Atonement and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.”
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
We aren’t here to pay the debt or perform perfectly,
but to learn, grow, try, repent and BECOME.
So if you (like me) often feel that you don’t measure up—
Do yourself a favor and remember the words of Elder Ian S. Ardern
“The Lord is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”
All the good you TRY to do pleases God immensely.
He loves you, cheers for you and is proud of you.
He is grateful and happy for your efforts—
Yet He knows your potential is far greater than you imagine.
So He invites you to use the power of His Son’s grace
(knowing we are incapable of such change on our own)
To become more than we now are.
To become as He is.
Trade toxic perfectionism for hopeful determinism.
We were built to become.