Discloser: I recently gave a talk in church and it was very well received. I think because of my unique perspective, multiple people asked for a copy so I thought I would make it a bit easier and share it here. My talk was on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and I couldn’t think of a topic I would like to write about more. So here it is, word for word…
Lately, I’ve had a lot conversations with friends going through difficult times and who have all similarly expressed, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to heal. I don’t know how apply the Atonement to my life.” With that in mind, my intention is to acknowledge those who, after living a lifetime in this church still feel a little lost when their feet get knocked out from under them, again and again. Hopefully, I’ll help by bringing to light some aspects of the Atonement that have made a huge difference in my life that I don’t think we talk about very often.
I personally believe the point of the of the Atonement is to heal enough to the point of consistent self-love and wholeness. For me, loving myself means knowing and operating out of a place of “I am worthy, I am enough, I am whole as I am” regardless of what happens around me or to me. When you know this and are operating out of this place, you are centered in everything that you are. And when you are centered, you are in closer alignment with God. See that? - I’m an artist, I’m a visual person. This helps me. - [I am pointing at my heart here, then God directly above me, creating that vertical line] So, for me the point of the Atonement is to get closer to that place so that I am operating out of love more than I am operating out of fear (which is out here). [pointing outside that vertical line that is between God and I] (You could also call it the Vertical vs the Horizontal, Spiritual vs Worldly, or the Cross.)
To introduce the first aspect, let me tell you about a recent experience.
I rashly picked up Crossfit recently. About my second class in I had a one-on-one with my trainer. She sat me on the bike and had me sprint for 10 seconds, rest for 20 and for 4 minutes. Which doesn’t seem like a very long time. I felt fine during the workout. I pushed myself as hard as I have in other workouts in the past. I say this because as soon as I jumped off the bike and started to catch my breath, I felt very lightheaded. I thought “No big deal, I feel this light headed after jumping out of bed in the morning. I’m fine,” HaHa. You know where I’m going with this. We moved on to a stretching exercise and of course it lingered, in fact got worse to the point where I was started to feel sick to my stomach and thought I was going to faint. I don’t remember ever having felt so sick in my life. I made my way to the nearest chair as quickly as I could without falling over. And just feeling like I’m either going to throw up or I’m going to die and I don’t know which I prefer. Eventually I made my way to the bathroom, then I made my way to the couch and laid there feeling the waves of nausea and pain move through my body. But as I laid there I started to become aware of how I was feeling about how I was feeling, HaHa. Of course, I was thinking, “This is terrible. This feels horrible. I can’t wait for this to be over. Please stop. Please stop. Please stop.” But then I had an idea that is not new to me; what if I allowed myself to be sick? So instead, as I laid there with nothing better to do, I let go and thought “Bring it on. Body, if you need to be sick, then be sick. I can feel this pain. It’s okay to feel this pain.” So the next wave of awfulness came around and went away just like it did before. And I waited for the next. It didn’t come. I took a few deep breaths, sat up, and started to really assess how I was feeling. I felt perfectly normal, if not better than before. Almost euphoric compared to how I was feeling seconds earlier. I felt well enough to continue the workout but knew my trainer didn’t want to push it so I didn’t bring it up. Instead I drove home early. On the ride home I just remember thinking what I had just experience confirmed what I already believed, which is when you fight something, you amplify the problem. That includes mental resistance. What we resist persists.
Don’t worry, I was reassured that this was common for Crossfit beginners. I’m fine. HaHa
With that in mind (what we resist persists), this is one of my favorite quotes by Eckhart Tolle. He says, “The ego says, ‘I shouldn’t have to suffer.’ and that thought makes us suffer so much more. It is a distortion of the truth which is always paradoxical. The truth is that you need to say yes to suffering before you can transcend it.” This quote is perfectly illustrated in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Even Christ, facing the worlds deepest pains and afflictions on top of his own said, “Whoa! Hey get me out of here! I can’t do this. This is too much for me.” “…remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Even Christ wanted to resist at one point in his life.
But quickly understanding God’s answer, Christ knew the path for him, so he let go of any resistance to that path, allowed what is to be, and surrendered to the intensely overwhelming pain that made him bleed from every pore. What would have happened in that garden if he so much as thought, “Okay, I know I need to do this but I still don’t want to be here and I can’t wait for this to be over. Please stop. Please stop. Please Stop.”? I don’t think he would have been able to fulfill his purpose as the Atoning son of God. Because Christ was able to be 100% present in the Garden of Gethsemane, both physically and mentally, and surrender entirely to the crippling despair of every single one of our own traumas and fears, He was able to literally hold each one of us in his heart and later in his hands, becoming the greatest archetype for suffering, empathy, and transcendence. This ultimate surrender led to the transcendence of not only his suffering, but of all mankind.
I believe the Atonement shows us how to confront our deepest limitations, fears, and vulnerabilities and shows us how to let go of control. One way to do this is by surrendering over and over and over again. We live in a world that we often find inferior to how we think it should be and therefore feel the need to judge it. This is a form of control. This is resistance. A judgement on the world, on others, on yourself, on your life, or your immediate life circumstances is resistance to what is and therefore, I believe, is not in alignment with God. To judge is to reveal an unhealed part of yourself. Being controlling is an attempt to secure a world outside of yourself that will validate you and will help you avoid your innermost wounds.
I don’t believe being “out of alignment (as I call it) with God" is wrong or bad. I think operating out of that place is normal for the natural men that we are. But our goal is to get closer to God, right? Or to get in better alignment with Him. So its just about that awareness.
Surrendering to what is is the ability to allow what is without judgement. Therefore, it is enabling yourself to operate out of “I am enough and the outside world does not need to confirm that.” The point is, when you surrender to what is, you enable yourself to approach life in a more effective and loving way. Life becomes easier. And you start to attract more of what you want because you are operating more out of that loving centered place. Simply put, the more you operate out of love, the more love and abundance you attract and the less reasons you attract to fear. However, this act of surrendering can hardly be done without some forgiveness as well.
“Forgiveness is central to the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” stated Elder Holland in this last General Conference. And he went on to say, ‘"Forgive and you shall be forgiven,” Christ taught on the Sermon on the Mount, “and in our day I Lord will forgive whom I will forgive but of you it is required to forgive all men.” It is however important for some of you living in anguish to know what he did not say. He did not say you’re not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you’ve had at the hand of another. Nor did he say in order to forgive fully, you have to enter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive destructive circumstance. But notwithstanding even the most terrible offenses that might come to us, we can rise above our pain only when we put our feet onto the path of true healing. That path is the forgiving one walked by Jesus of Nazareth, who calls out to each of us, “Come follow me.”’
True forgiveness and healing looks different for everyone and does not disregard boundaries nor invalidate pain. For some, forgiveness and healing looks like going out to lunch with their mom that abandoned them so long ago. For others, it looks like cutting her out completely.
Buying into the belief that God’s loving image of us could ever be tainted, we oftentimes feel shameful and unworthy of God’s forgiveness. I don’t think this belief about our relationship with God has anything to do with how God relates to us but everything to do with how we relate to ourselves. I personally believe receiving God’s forgiveness is the easy part. But what is hard is forgiving ourselves. Forgiving ourselves and the false beliefs we bought into about ourselves after having made certain mistakes or the beliefs that led us to making certain mistakes in the first place. And furthermore, forgiving the fears and beliefs about ourselves that are even triggered by another and their actions toward us.
I’m sure we've all heard the quote, holding onto anger or resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If that is true, then what can we do about it? Just let it go? Well that doesn’t always feel realistic or validating.
But consider that that person or that action might not be the reason for your suffering (not to justify what they did or to invalidate your pain). But rather that they might have served as a trigger that brings forth what was already inside you - a faulty core belief that you were buying into about yourself, that was looking for a chance to heal. But instead of facing that newly awoken bear, we tend to blame and resent. Because that feels easier than true forgiveness which requires acceptance of what is and complete surrender to the part of you that feels so betrayed. The process of self-forgiveness is awareness and acknowledgement of what you are buying into about yourself and again, surrendering to that pain. And only accomplished when recognizing that that pain and those beliefs have nothing to do with who you really are. And I believe who we really are are sons and daughters of God, already whole, lovable, and enough as perfectly imperfect as we are. That’s why we’re here. So allow yourself to be imperfect. Surrender.
Usually, the poison that we’re drinking is made up of one main thing which is “I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, worthy enough, lovable enough, good enough” whatever it may be. "I’m not enough and they just confirmed that.” But that is never the case, and therefore requires forgiveness for having bought into it. Your pain is valid and deserves acknowledgement. In fact, it demands it. Otherwise, life will most likely give you another chance to forgive it again and again until you are able to forgive it fully. I think that full forgiveness of others is very difficult if complete acceptance and self-forgiveness is not practiced first. Because at the bottom of that pain, you often find enough love that forgiveness of others and situations comes naturally.
"The wound is the place where the light enters.” - Gialal Al-din Rumi
In other words, it is through the wound that you will find your salvation.
To wrap it up; sin, trial, pain, affliction, suffering, etc. all mean the exact same thing to me: opportunity for growth. These opportunities are invitations for healing. So the next time you feel triggered, hopeless, angry, etc. take that opportunity to:
Stop fighting and resisting what is and surrender to what you are feeling. And be aware of any judgements. Look out for “should’s” or “shouldn’t’s".
Forgive yourself for buying into any misunderstandings about yourself. Anything outside of "I am worthy, lovable, and enough as I am” does not serve you. Learn to ask yourself, when resentment or shame is filling your heart, “What does this mean about me?” Acknowledge and allow what comes up, then forgive it.
These aspects of the Atonement when applied consistently and frequently, over time, have created a life full of more peace then I thought possible and has enabled me to operate less out of fear and more out of love. This process is what I call the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I believe self-love is the key to better alignment with God and in that centered place love for others comes naturally. In that place life becomes easier and more joyful. In that place, you are less triggered and easily forgiving if you are. In that place, the outside world has less of an effect on you and abundance is natural and continually flowing. In that place, service to others is automatic and is provided in your own unique way. In that place, you truly understand how it feels to be loved by our Heavenly Father. And in that place, you rest in the peace of God. Because love casteth out all fear, (1 John 4:18) the Atonement makes life a bit easier.
The Atonement continues to be the most real thing in my life. But not without effort.