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Sunday, May 6, 2012

On Loving-Kindness, and Becoming Like Him

Hello all!

After some wonderful comments from some of my previous posts, I looked up Elder Maxwell's talk, "In Him All Things Hold Together." Though I suggest you listen to it while reading along. Thank you, Noah. It's been a fascinating instrument in my life as of late.

As some of you know, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Israel this last week. It was quite a trip. But the most awesome and inspiring experience was my visit to the Garden Tomb.
While standing inside the tomb, I was struck so powerfully by the gift Christ has given all of us in His suffering, but more importantly, in His success and triumph in atoning for us and overcoming death. I saw in myself a tiny glimpse of what He sees in me. It is why He undertook so great a task to begin with. How can I let Him down?

It's interesting, though, because I didn't immediately come to these conclusions. I had all these feelings welling up inside of me, but it wasn't until I was home, now, this morning, that I've been able to study this out and come to that conclusion. That is a further witness to me that this life is a journey we must make. If we are to become like Him, we must act on our divine impulses and work through the path of mortality.

Elder Maxwell says, “For the serious disciple, the cardinal attributes exemplified by Jesus are not optional. These developmental milestones take the form of traits, traits that mark the trail to be traveled.”

This weekend, I've been slowly coming to the realization that there is one quality I need to acquire (which will require work and effort) in order to further my journey. I've seen this quality shining out from some individuals recently and I realized that it is my journey to find this quality in myself: loving-kindness.

Maxwell continues on this phrase:
And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men. [1 Nephi 19:9; emphasis added] 
Ponder the term loving-kindness. It is a special word, used in David's plea after he sinned so grievously:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. [Psalms 51:1; emphasis added]
This trait is the defining trait of Christ. It is the reason He descended below all things. It is the reason He volunteered so humbly to save all of us.

There are other traits as well. Elder Maxwell lines them out for us. We are to be:
  1. Meek and humble--not self-concerned, dismissive, proud, seeking ascendancy. Blessed are the meek because they are not easily offended. Besides, those who "shine as lights in the world" have no need to seek the spotlight! (See Philippians 2:15.) The world's spotlights are not only fleeting, but they employ inferior light!
  2. Patient--not hectic, hurried, pushy.
  3. Full of love--not demanding, dominating, manipulative, condescending, or harsh.
  4. Gentle--not coarse, brusque, and vindictive.
  5. Easily entreated--not unapproachable, inaccessible, and nonlistening.
  6. Long-suffering--not impatient, disinterested, curt, easily offended. There are so many people in the Church, brothers and sisters, waiting to be offended. And it doesn't take long. If one has a chip on his or her shoulder, you can't make it through the foyer, so to speak, without getting it knocked off.
  7. Submissive to God--not resistant to the Spirit, counsel, and life's lessons.
  8. Temperate (self-restrained)--not egoistic, eager for attention and recognition, or too talkative. In your life and mine, the great moments of commendation and correction have come usually in one-liners.
  9. Merciful--not judgmental and unforgiving. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall know the caress of causality as their forgiving mercy restores others to wholeness! Though God is perfected in the attributes of justice and mercy, we read that, finally, "Mercy overpowereth justice" (Alma 34:15).
  10. Gracious--not tactless, easily irritated, ungenerous.
  11. Holy--not worldly.

Whew! What a list, eh? But also, what a wonderful outline of our Savior. What a beautifully compact description of our mortal journey.

For me, I've realized that loving-kindness is something I need. I've been motivated not by the overwhelming feeling of lack or insufficiency, but by the tiny glimpses of loving-kindness I've seen in me that I know have the potential to become a strength if I refine and sharpen these tiny, almost invisible traits. God does not motivate us by discouragement, but rather, encouragement and showing us the potential people we can become. Thus, I know I have some homework ahead of me. In my scripture study, in my daily interactions, in my attitude towards service or towards people I don't know or understand very well, and most importantly, towards people I know very well. So well, that loving-kindness has slipped between the cracks of our aging associations.

As Maxwell says, even though our traits are so far from being as developed as Christ's, “he of fullness clearly and kindly beckons us to develop that greater likeness in our lives which precedes fullness. It is that likeness that will give us the light in our lives so that we might, as Paul says, 'shine as lights in the world.'... And as we emulate him, by developing likeness in these attributes, he will bless us and magnify us for his purposes.”

How wonderful is that? “How marvelous it is, even given the great distance of the trek... that he beckons us to develop this likeness so that one day we may have fullness with him. It is the journey of journeys. Nothing else is even remotely comparable to it in its importance” (Maxwell). Again, Maxwell says, “[Christ] has said to us, 'What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am' (3 Nephi 27:27). What an invitation! And implicit in that invitation verifies the possibility of its realization.”

Gah! I'm so overcome with gratitude and ambition at the same time. We are to become perfect. This is not a fuzzy guideline, it is a requirement. We can't dwell with a Heavenly Father who is perfect if we ourselves are imperfect. It literally would not work. We must become as Christ is. But Christ invites us to do this, so we can do it!

So, while I have a lot of work to do, I am inspired and motivated to press forward. Elder Maxwell says at the end of his talk, “I salute you for who you are, but, more important, for what you have the possibilities to become.” I don't know what will happen to me, or what I'll end up doing in this life, but I do know who I want to become, and that's all I have control over.

Brothers and sisters, I know we have the potential to become even as Christ is. We have the potential to bless each other's lives. We have the potential to be loving, humble, meek, submissive, patient, long-suffering. But it is we who must make this journey. Thank goodness we don't have to do it alone, because Christ has already overcome our journeys on His own.

Look for revelation every day. I was on the plane ride home from Israel when I was struck with the realization that I hadn't been seeking for my Heavenly Father's guidance every day for a long time, and I realized that I'd missed some opportunities for further refining and guidance. It was then on the plane that I re-remembered how imperative it is to search the scriptures, plead in our prayers, and ACT in our daily routines to become more like Christ.

We can do this! It will be a long journey, but stay focused. Look to other examples in your own life. And develop a relationship with Christ. You will start to see characteristics arising out of you that you had not thought possible. You will begin to see the transforming power of the Atonement as you gradually become more like our Savior. Use these as guides along your journey. It is how each of us can measure our progress to becoming even as He is.

Love you all,
Whit

1 comment:

Noah said...

One of my favorite parts of Elder Maxwell's address is this passage where he sheds a little light on the notion of being "perfect":

The Greek rendering for "perfect" is, by the way, "complete, finished, fully developed." After his atonement and resurrection, Jesus included himself as our pattern. "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect" (3 Nephi 12:48). One of the problems we have in the Church is that we consider perfection in abstraction, and it becomes too intimidating. But when we think of it in terms of the specific, cardinal attributes, and we strive to develop these in a steady process of self-improvement, it is quite a different matter.

Knowing that the "perfection" that is spoken of by the Savior isn't about doing everything 100% correct, but rather in collecting and exhibiting all the "cardinal attributes", it feels less like a losing battle and something a little more achievable (with the help of the Lord...).

Elder Maxwell also mentions certain skills in another address that I think would go a long way in helping us in our journey to be like Him:

Built, therefore, into the seemingly ordinary experiences of life are opportunities for us to acquire such eternal attributes as love, mercy, meekness, patience, and submissiveness and to develop and sharpen such skills as how to communicate, motivate, delegate, and manage our time and talents and our thoughts in accordance with eternal priorities. These attributes and skills are portable; they are never obsolete and will be much needed in the next world.

I also ran across another address by Elder Dallin H. Oaks where he help to show the difference between our sins and our mistakes. This also helped me to understand that even though I make a lot of mistakes, they don't really mean that I am losing my battle to be "perfect", and rather can be a opportunity to learn and grow without distancing myself from the Savior as much as sin does.