Sunday, June 9, 2013

Understanding the Plan

I just got a new visiting teaching route. My old route wasn't working very well, and the Relief Society president put me with a new companion. I apologized to the Relief Society president today for being a horrible visiting teacher. I have been in a Relief Society presidency. I know, I understand, how important visiting teaching is, and I have beaten myself up about not being a very good visiting teacher since I moved into this ward. I told her this, and she said, "I don't think God would want  you to beat yourself up. You're being way harder on yourself than He would be on you right now. I think He understands your situation, and you are doing your best to serve in the ways you can." I love her.

I've been beating myself up about a lot of things lately. I started taking step 7 to an extreme, and I got really depressed about not being able to overcome my character weaknesses. It caused me to almost (not quite) hate step 7. When I went through the 12 steps for the first time, I didn't do that. I did my best and moved on. At that point in the game, I think I was struggling a little bit, but I was so excited. I was so excited to be making so much progress and seeing my progress. I don't know why I have beaten myself up about it this time through. I think it might be because I'm much more sensitive. And maybe I'm holding myself to a high standard because I think that I can at least control myself...? I'm not entirely sure.

 It's okay to have weaknesses. We're supposed to have weaknesses. Without our weaknesses, what would be the point of this life? What would we need to overcome to get back to Heavenly Father?

Our weaknesses allow us a choice: we can choose to humble ourselves before our Father and try to do His will, or we can choose to be swallowed up in the world. We can choose to sanctify ourselves and try to live as He wants us to, or we can choose to stray from Him.

I've gone back and forth on that. I want to choose Him, but choosing Him is hard. It's hard to put off our will and do His. It's hard to have a constant prayer. Sometimes it's hard to forget myself and serve, especially when my life feels so hard. It's hard to forgive. It's hard to apologize when I am hurting. It's hard to look outside myself when all I can think about are the things tearing me up inside.

I want to choose Him. But sometimes it just feels so hard.

It's even harder when I don't fully understand the Plan of Salvation or the Atonement. It's harder when I don't understand why I am here or why I need to rely on Christ. It's hard to want to turn to the Lord when I don't understand what He has given me or the eternal laws He abides by.

Today I started studying Enos.

Enos wrestled before God.

As he was out hunting, his thoughts were on words he had heard his father speak about about eternal life and the joy of the saints. His soul hungered for that, and he decided to kneel down and pray. He prayed for hours for the redemption of his soul.

After some time, God told him that his sins were forgiven, and he would be blessed.

"And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.

"And I said: Lord, how is it done?

"And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou has never before heard nor seen...wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole."

Because of his faith in Christ, his sins were forgiven and he was made whole.

Sometimes, I don't fully understand the Atonement. My understanding comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel like I totally get it, at least enough of it, to help me through what is going on. And sometimes, I get so clouded in darkness that I forget or just don't understand why I need the Atonement. The past couple of weeks have been kind of like that. I am independent. I like being independent. Independent is safe. I only have to rely on me and no one else.

I know that is dangerous territory. So, I have been stuck in this little hole of wanting independence, but knowing I need to be dependent on God, and basically going in weird little circles. My desire for dependence gets pushed out by my desire for independence...and so on.

After reading that about Enos, I decided I wanted to study the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement. I'm finally being a little more proactive about understanding these things that are giving me a hard time right now. I need to arm myself so I can fight Satan! He has been viciously attacking me since my last post. Urghhhhh. Seriously. I thought I had banished him, but he just laughed and said, "Okay, take this!" By the way, you should read about how my husband and I like to flip Satan off (his blog).

Alma 42 is a great reference for the Plan and Atonement. I read it during the sacrament and made a note to study it in more depth after church.

In this chapter, he talks about what happened after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They became as God, knowing good and evil. Because they ate that fruit, God had to protect the tree of life so they wouldn't eat its fruit and live forever.

Why? Why would it be a bad thing for Adam and Eve to be like God, knowing good and evil, and live forever? It sounds to me like that is what we want, right? Don't we want to know good and evil, and aren't we trying to gain eternal life?

That's something I have always struggled with. I have never fully understood why Adam and Eve were not supposed to live forever. Why would that make it so they couldn't repent? Why would that cause the plan to be "frustrated"?

What I am about to say is not necessarily doctrine. It's just what I came up with through my searching of the scriptures and prayers for understanding while I pondered this question today.

Here is what I came up with to answer those questions:

*If Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and lived forever, would they have need of the resurrection? No. If they didn't need the resurrection, that would mess up the Atonement. Part of the Atonement is overcoming temporal death and being resurrected. The Atonement and resurrection go hand-in-hand. Neither would apply to them if they were already able to live forever. It would frustrate the need for Atonement and the Plan.

*We need the resurrection. Without the resurrection (if there was no death to overcome), there would be no purpose of this life. We wouldn't have anything to prove. But we do need this life. We need death. And we need the Atonement. And repentance.

*If Adam and Eve were already able to live forever, where would be the motivation to repent? It could be continually procrastinated because they think they have forever. 

**If they partook of the fruit, there would really be no purpose to this life. We would no longer have this mortal state to be a probationary period. Agency wouldn't matter. We wouldn't be able to "perform (our) labors" or improve ourselves or prepare to meet God. We wouldn't even be able to leave this world because we wouldn't die. We would be forever separated from God.  

So, God, in His wisdom, and as what He knew to be the only way we could possibly live with Him, protected the tree of life from Adam and Eve. He protected it so we wouldn't be forever separated from Him.

Because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, man became "carnal, sensual, and devilish." Our natural state became an enemy to God, and they only way we could return to Him would be through His infinite mercy. Mercy was brought forth through the Atonement. The Atonement could only work if there were certain conditions of repentance set, so mercy wouldn't destroy the law of justice.

"And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

"And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

 "Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you."
     -Alma 34: 15-17

Finally, after much prayer and study, I got it! I understand why things are the way they are. I understand the significance of the protection God put around the tree of life so Adam and Eve would not partake. I better understand my path to eternal life. 

It's not any easier.

But I understand.

My husband has a sexual addiction. He is addicted to pornography and masturbation. He has considered leaving me and filling his life with this addiction. He has considered leaving me to live this addiction up to the fullest extent. He has considered suicide. I have experienced a lot of hurt. The thoughts of what he could do are painful.

I have forgiven. 

I have forgiven. 

I have forgiven.

I have been weak. I have been mean. I have been rude. I have acted out in anger. I have manipulated him so I can get my way and my anger across. I have hurt him because he has hurt me.

And I have come a long way. I have seen the healing power of the Atonement in both of our lives. My sins and acting out in pain or anger are not as bad as they have been in the past. But I still struggle with them. I still have progress to make. I still have to depend on the Lord. My healing is about me. It's not about him. It's not about comparing me to anyone else or rationalizing. My healing is about my coming to Christ.  As I draw nearer to Christ, I will become more perfect. I will learn and grow. I will receive revelation for my life. The Spirit will dwell in my home.

So I need to repent. I need to change my attitude and seek out the power of the Atonement.

I need to seek forgiveness. And I need to keep forgiving.

I will mess up. Of course. But it's expected because it's part of the plan. 

I have weaknesses. Of course. But it's expected because it's part of the plan. 

You know what else is part of the plan? Repentance. Forgiveness. Redemption.
I feel like I can finally get over the negativity I have been experiencing because I understand the plan better. I was reminded today of things I already knew, and my knowledge was expanded upon.

Today, in Relief Society, someone posed the question, "Why would God trust me with His eternal blessings if I won't submit to His will?"

Good question. 


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