How do you apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in your life? When is the last time you did apply it?
I hope all of you answered today or the last time you partook of the Sacrament.
I’ve been thinking a lot about being connected to the Savior’s atonement, but not altered by it.
[A lady] had a small house on the seashore of Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. She was quite wealthy but also quite frugal. The people were surprised, then, when she decided to be among the first to have electricity in her home.
Several weeks after the installation, a meter reader appeared at her door. He asked if her electricity was working well, and she assured him it was. “I’m wondering if you can explain something to me,” he said. “Your meter shows scarcely any usage. Are you using your power?”
“Certainly,” she answered “Each evening when the sun sets, I turn on my lights just long enough to light my candles; then I turn them off.”
She’s tapped in to the power but doesn’t use it. Her house is connected but not altered. Don’t we make the same mistake? We are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation. We occasionally flip the switch, but most of the time we settle for shadows.
What would happen if we left the light on? What would happen if we not only flipped the switch but lived in the light?” (Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus, pg 9).
Sometimes we tend to feel shadows are all we deserve.
It’s Hard to Apply the Atonement Because…
In Relief Society a couple of weeks ago, I asked sisters to finish this sentence, “It’s hard for me to apply the Savior’s atonement because:” They were so brave and answered so honestly. The answers really impacted me, because at some point in my life, I could relate to all of their answers.
Here are most of their responses, in no particular order. Are any of these responses yours? How would you help someone sharing these thoughts with you?
*I’m not always willing to admit my weaknesses.
*I sometimes feel I don’t deserve it or worthy to receive it.
*I feel my trial is so minuscule and I try to work it out for myself.
*I don’t care.
*I don’t have a strong testimony of it.
*There are forces trying to stop me.
*I feel ashamed of my imperfections and feel like I should be able to do things on my own.
*I feel like I have to do it on my own.
*It causes me to change or put in great effort that I just don’t have.
*I didn’t feel love for myself and couldn’t fully understand till I loved myself as Christ does.
*I don’t fully understand it or know how.
Aren’t those amazingly honest replies? I instantly felt bonded to the whole room. I don’t know all of their sufferings, sins, or weaknesses, but I knew I wasn’t alone in my journey to understand and apply the Savior’s atonement. And I loved all of them even more in our shared vulnerability.
And a glorious realization is that even in our pride and imperfections, we’re connected to the power and can flip the switch.
Flipping the Switch
Each of us have the capacity through the power of the Holy Ghost to find answers, if we will. We can search the scriptures, pray, ask others for help. Next weekend is General Conference. I love listening to conference with questions in mind. Asking the Lord for help to understand how to better apply His atonement in my life is a great question to ask and then listen for an answer to.
The Savior’s atonement encompasses basically everything in our lives from a fallen world to a promise of resurrection to our personal salvation including all of our sins, sorrows, and weaknesses, and all of everyone else’s sins, sorrows, and weaknesses. The Savior’s suffering unconditionally paid the price to redeem the earth and promise each of us a resurrection.
However, the Savior does not force us to give up our sins, sorrows, and weaknesses. He commands us to repent and invites us to cast our burdens on Him. But, ultimately, He lets us choose to flip that switch.
Sometimes flipping the switch requires talking to the bishop. But most of the time, it just requires a conversation with God. I recognized I did something wrong. Please forgive me. Help me change. How can I avoid this? Or this is so hard for me. I need help to change this thought or overcome this weakness. Please teach me how to do that.
Sometimes change is instantaneous. Sometimes our habits are so entrenched that we revisit the issue with the Lord again and again.
Asking For Help in My Weakness
Two experiences as a kid taught me principles of applying the atonement. Both happened when I was eight years old living in Mustang, Oklahoma.
The first involved a difficult chore assigned (aka inflicted) upon me. We lived in a small house on an acre lot. Dad gardened in half of the lot. The other half was moundy yard. The front yard was flat but big. The backyard was even bigger and extra challenging with pretty dramatic inclines which were tough for a kid who could barely see over the lawn mower handle. It took forever to do.
One particular day it was so hot and humid with oppressive stale air. I finished the front yard drenched and tired. I couldn’t really rest because I couldn’t restart the mower if I cut the engine. I did the easiest part of the backyard.
Then I turned towards the inclines. I should say I eventually learned how to strategize on that lawn. But I hadn’t leveled up to that at this point yet. I went down to the bottom of the yard and started pushing the mower up the incline. I thought I was going to die.
I looked up at the fiercely bright sky. No clouds. I leaned my head on the lawnmower handle. The thought came to pray. I looked up into the sky and asked God for some clouds so I wouldn’t die. I never doubted that He would.
I turned to the incline and began to push. Soon I felt wind rising from behind me, blowing my hair into my face. I looked over my shoulder and saw storm clouds rapidly approaching. The temperature dropped immediately. I laughed and shouted THANK YOU to heaven. I felt rejuvenated and quickly finished the task.
I struggled a long time in my weakness, but when I looked to God for help, not only did my environment change, but I felt strengthened to accomplish the task I’d been asked to do.
Calm in the Storm
The second story is one of my favorite childhood memories. My mom’s sister came to visit us with her kids which was awesome! We loved having cousins visit. We had four kids at the time and lived in a really small house. The house was bursting at the seams with energy and body parts.
One afternoon while dad was at work, the tornado siren went off. This unnerved the cousins. My memory recalls all of them in distress and crying.
The siren continued. My brother and I just stood by a wall away from the mayhem. I told him I was going to go outside to get away from the crying and to see if I could see the tornado. He agreed. I was eight, Donovan was five. My mom had her hands too full to notice us slipping outside to watch a tornado.
Super responsibly, Donovan and I ran to the irrigation ditch at the front of the yard by the road. We snuggled our bellies into the curve and propped our heads on the far side of the ditch. The siren still blared loudly, but we couldn’t hear the crying quite as much.
I’m not sure how long we laid there, but I noticed electricity raising the hairs on my arms and legs and neck. My brother’s hair stood straight out. Funny.
Suddenly, we didn’t hear the crying or the siren. An absolute roar drowned out every other sound.
We lived in the country with very few buildings blocking the surrounding view of the plains. So with a pretty unhampered view, we watched the tornado cross our visual horizon. It touched down in some farmland a half mile from our ditch and bounced back into the sky and down again, moving parallel to our road.
As I laid there in awe, I remember feeling the most profound peace. As I’ve tried to retell the story, I realized I can’t adequately describe the roar of the tornado or the profundity of my inner calm. The wind raged and I felt absolute peace.
I think of that experience a lot. Chaos and storms rage around me all the time. But because of the Savior’s atonement, I find peace and safety. If I’m raging internally with the external storm, I need to repent or ask the Lord to take a burden so I can return my stasis to peace. I know I had that experience so I could recognize the difference between peace and chaos.
When our arm hair returned to normal, we ran back into the house, our little minds on fire. We found the huddled masses in the bathroom and told them the tornado had passed. And we knew that it passed because we watched it go by. Some mom chaos then ensued.
Flipping the Atonement Switch Brings Peace
A few days ago, I chatted via text with an inspiring sister in our ward. She’s experiencing some raging, chaotic health issues. Her text reminded me of my tornado story and how Jesus Christ’s atonement absolutely impacts our lives.
She wrote: “Even my doctor is concerned with all this serious illness in such a short time. Still walking in faith knowing his plan is perfect. I had a blessing and have peace as crazy as it sounds. It’s just frustrating, but then I think of the atonement, especially now at Easter and all that was given for me, I’m humbled and this is but a small thing compared. Thank you for your love. His plan is perfect.”
Another dear friend in the midst of her own unexpected raging winds texted me last night. “We all have a journey to go through that is designed to make us better people and better equipped for the future and to help others. We’ll get through these tough times and be so grateful in the end.”
Their strength and peace come from the flipping the switch on the enabling power of the Savior’s atonement in their lives.