I met with my hairstylist yesterday, who had a wealth of wisdom he imparted to me. He said,
"Whitney, we are beings of love. When your son was born and you held him in your arms, he didn't have to do anything--you immediately loved him. You loved him so purely and intensely because he was yours. That's how our Heavenly Father feels about each of us." It put things into a very real perspective for me because I can't tell you how much love I felt (and continue to feel) when I look at my little boy.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an exquisite talk this last Conference about that very same thought. He begins with a similar comparison to our Heavenly Father by first describing how the brethren of the Church feel about us, “Brothers and sisters, do you have any idea—do you have any notion or inkling whatsoever—of how much we love you? For 10 hours you watch, fixed on one face at this pulpit sequentially, but for those same 10 hours, we seated behind this pulpit watch, fixed on you. You thrill us to the center of our soul.”
If that doesn't make you feel all warm and tingly, maybe this greater truth will:
My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.
It is "the first great truth of all eternity." God loves us. It is so obvious when you consider His plan for each of us. He wants us to choose to come back to Him because that agency will shape us into who we need to become so that we can be worthy of all the responsibilities and joy that He experiences in His perfect state! In order to become as He is, we must choose to be like Him, but He also offers a Savior for when we do not always make the right choice. We can correct our course again and again so that we may eventually shape ourselves into who He is without lasting consequences for our foolish errors.
One of these foolish errors I hadn't yet considered was mentioned by my hairstylist. He brought up the concept of speculation. How often do we speculate others' intentions? How often do we speculate that someone must have meant to hurt us? How often do we speculate that we're not good enough? How often do we run away in fear, anger, and hurt because we speculate that someone has rejected us? This can be speculation in families, among spouses, friends, as well as coworkers and employers. "Whitney," my hairdresser said, "These speculations are lies. We make them up!
Guys. This is another great truth: our fears are MADE UP!
And yet! The pain we feel from these made up fears and speculations are very real. We feel rejected when we think someone must not like us. We feel offended when we think someone must have meant to hurt us. We feel spiteful when we think someone must want to do us harm. We feel crushed when we think someone thinks nothing of us.
These feelings are REAL! And because they are real, Christ suffered for them! Christ atoned for all our pains and sorrows.
Are you getting this?
Christ suffered for something we MADE UP in our heads!
That thought brought me to tears. It is an icy realization. How often have I caused the Lord, our perfect, merciful Lord, unnecessary pain? I am a very sensitive person; this can be a good thing, but I have often seen it manifest in ugly ways as being easily offended. How often have I avoided communicating with someone out of feelings of anger, frustration, or awkwardness and just assumed the worst? Too often. Too often for my perfect Brother to suffer.
Now, if I dwell upon this thought too long, it can be a heavy weight. I don't want this idea to burden you. That is how Satan gets you down. Elder Holland remarked on this:
Only the adversary, the enemy of us all, would try to convince us that the ideals outlined in general conference are depressing and unrealistic, that people don’t really improve, that no one really progresses. And why does Lucifer give that speech? Because he knows he can’t improve, he can’t progress, that worlds without end he will never have a bright tomorrow. He is a miserable man bound by eternal limitations, and he wants you to be miserable too. Well, don’t fall for that. With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ 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.
While I feel a heavy sorrow for these transgressions of mine, I am simultaneously in awe of the fact that Heavenly Father, who has a perfectly eternal perspective, does not speculate. He knows. And so, when He sees us speculating, when He sees His son suffer for our made up problems, He continues to love us. He continues to love us with a perfect, all consuming love. With this kind of love.
He continues to provide every means necessary to make us whole again. Do not dwell on feelings of unworthiness--God, who knows everything about you--deems you worthy of His salvation. As Elder Holland says,
Now, with that majestic devotion ringing from heaven as the great constant in our lives, manifested most purely and perfectly in the life, death, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape the consequences of both sin and stupidity—our own or that of others—in whatever form they may come to us in the course of daily living. If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent... He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth 'that all things work together for good to them that love God.' So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.2 Timothy 1:7).
Do not be discouraged. As Elder Holland attested, “May He bless us to strive with patience and persistence toward the ideals we have heard proclaimed this conference weekend, knowing that His divine love and unfailing help will be with us even when we struggle—no, will be with us especially when we struggle.”
My sweetest experiences of mortality have all occurred as I have brushed against the full weight of God's love for me. He loves me perfectly. He loves you perfectly. Infinitely. Not because of our talents, our passions, or our choices, but because we are His. And He cannot wait to hold us in His arms again.