I feel I am always learning. The Lord reveals things to me in layers and sadly sometimes it takes a long time for me to, “get” what He is trying to teach me. One of the greatest things I’ve learned on my mission is how the atonement works. Since this learning has come to me in layers I am going to write a few posts about how I have come to understand what the atonement is for, figuring how to use it, and how to actually feel close to my savior.
I have felt close to Heavenly Father for a long time. I talk to Him in prayer. Communication is important to me and so it’s been easy for me to feel close to God since He listens to me, answers my prayers and talks back to me in my heart.
I haven’t always felt close to Christ. I think it’s been a lack of understanding of how to feel close to Him. I often felt like Christ was the way to communicate with my Heavenly Father, like Christ provided the house and the table and chairs to sit at and talk, but the conversation was with Heavenly Father so although I felt thankful and grateful for Christ providing the way, I felt close and bonded to God, who I actually communicated with.
I also think what prevented me from feeling close to Christ was I just used the atonement for sin. I know I am suppose to repent every day so at the end of the day I would think about what I needed to repent of and lots of times couldn’t really think of anything and so I would conclude, “Guess I don’t need the atonement today, can’t really think of any sins I committed.” And then I would obliviously go on my way. Of course many days I could think of, “sins” and then I would repent, use the atonement and feel happy for Christ to clean me, but I still wasn’t quite getting how to feel bonded to Him. I loved my Heavenly Father with all my heart and felt so much learning and growth spiritually but I just related that to God, not Christ.
Another point I want to make is I felt the spirit at times in my life. I am a spiritual person by nature and I would love to feel the spirit when I would go to church, to the temple, when I read my scriptures or prayed, when I talked with my friend about spiritual things, etc. I loved recognizing when I felt the spirit.
When I received this calling God put me on a path to understand much more about how the atonement works and how to increase Christ in my life.
When we received our calling I literally felt God put me in a bubble; a little spiritual bubble that in a very powerful way showed me His power and hand in my life to influence me for good. I will quickly describe this:
I was a busy woman. I was teaching dance almost full time at Lakerigde Jr. High and American Heritage private school. I was the Young Woman’s President in our ward. I had 5 unmarried children whose lives I was still quite involved with. I had a big house and a gargantuan yard that I received no hired, outside help to maintain. And I was doing other little things like attending the temple once a week, visiting my parents at least once a week, and exercising and eating healthy.
Through all of this my goal every day was to never bring stress into our home. I worked hard on this, it was very important to me. I wanted to help out with the cost of Meghan and Ryan’s missions but I couldn’t justify working if I created or brought stress into our home because of my schedule. I felt life was good and things were excellent. I was very happy. (I also felt strongly that God was preparing me for something, but I had no idea what it was. :)
Then we received a call from Pres Boyd K. Packers office to come and have a visit with him in Oct of 2011. (I’ll have to share that story some time.) It was an exploratory interview to be a mission president. And then one month later we got a call from Pres Uchtdorf’s office to be called to serve as mission presidents. Instantly all I could think of was all we had to do to get ready. I started making a list immediately. It went something like this: Get Nathan and Jordan’s eagle projects finished and the board of reviews done, get teaching and grades done for my three classes at Lakeridge and find a replacement for them to hire, get choreography finished and rehearsed for the dance festival at American Heritage and find a teacher to take over for me in Feb., get all pictures printed and scrapbooks caught up, organize my office and pack it up, get the house ready for Meghan to come home from Romania, do a wedding luncheon and reception for Ryan (yes this was on the list in Nov, but he didn’t even ask Marissa until Dec when Meghan got home), turn the basement into an apartment for the kids to stay in while were gone, rent the house, get young women in excellence and new beginnings done, pack and store all of our stuff, clean and paint the house for the renters, read Preach My Gospel and do the tutoring sessions at the MTC, and many other normal day to day family things.
We were able to get all of these things done and I felt pretty good through it all. I felt like I was in a little spiritual bubble. Maybe it was a numb shock because I didn’t feel a lot of anything, but whatever it was, I felt like it was a gift from the Lord that allowed me to feel calm through it all and need very little sleep.
So we eventually arrived in WA and had a whirlwind life for a while. I can’t describe how much I felt the Lord carried us, but it was amazing to be speaking, teaching, traveling, cooking, authorizing medical things, helping missionaries with personal issues, and dealing with so many things at once and just feel inspired, strong, and calm the whole time.
Now here is what happened that taught me a beautiful thing. Eventually life started feeling normal and I started feeling more normal. (I should say natural, like a natural man.) In the normal life I described before, I felt the spirit at times and I would say things like, “I felt the spirit….”. But in this new life I had been living I had been feeling the spirit all of the time. Now starting to feel more normal again I started realizing when I felt a loss of the spirit. This was life changing in the learning I received. When I felt this loss of the spirit, I would ask why, what just happened to me. I could actually trace back what I had just been thinking about that caused a loss of the spirit. It was usually something negative I had let in, something that was a little judging or labeling, some distracting thing that was unimportant, some worry I had no control over, or something that wasn’t perfect that I felt should have been. As I started to think and feel these more “normal” ways, I really felt great desire to not. I knew I couldn’t be effective in this calling if I didn’t have guidance and direction from the Lord through his holy spirit all the time. The calling was just too spiritually demanding. It just wasn’t going to happen if it was just me.
I knew I needed to not be myself. I needed to keep what the Lord had given me. It was a surreal experience. Having this huge desire to feel the spirit all of the time, turned me to my Savior. I could quickly pinpoint what I needed to repent of; right in the moment I knew what I needed to use the atonement for. I repented of negativity, criticism, worry, irritation, distraction and many other things as soon as I started to feel them. It was very effective. I discovered right in the moment I could just repent and feel a restoration of the spirit almost immediately. I discovered how powerful just saying the words, “I’m applying the atonement to that”, could be. I even burned the rolls for a New Leadership Training and felt quite bothered. I wasn’t feeling happy or the spirit. I just thought, “I am applying the atonement to that” and instantly felt so happy and had no concern for the burnt rolls. That was a realization for me that Christ is concerned with our lives!! Our real life. His power can cover and go as deep as we need it to, but it can also cover little things too. Saying the words, “I want to apply the atonement to….” became a realization of how to access power.
I learned that the Saviors atonement isn’t just for big sins we may commit. Our Saviors atonement is for anything in our lives that cause us to feel a loss of the spirit. I can ask for the atoning blood of Christ to be applied to anything that causes me to feel a loss of the spirit, so that I can literally have the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion. I have been able to share this with the missionaries many times when I felt it was what a missionary needed to know.
I also learned that I can ask for the atonement to be applied for things I can feel coming at me that aren’t quite inside of me yet. If it’s on the fringe of my being, I can apply the atonement as a barrier so that it never really gets inside of me. I visualize Christ’s atonement as a barrier between me and the things of the world. In this way it is a protection for me also.
Because of this experience I have received spiritual knowledge of what my savior has done for me and how His atonement is literally a power around me and I can call upon it at anytime throughout the day. I use his atonement by saying, “I’m just going to let my savior carry that, worry about that, clean that, make that fair in the end, heal that, etc.” Whatever I need to have the spirit with me, that is what I give to His sacred and beautiful sacrifice for me. I have developed a relationship with my savior that is so bonded to Him all day long. I rely on Him, I turn to Him, I come to Him by using His gift. I need Him every day, all day long, and He never fails me.