“Let it wash over you” — Shame vs. God’s love and mercy
I have mentioned before that I struggle with chronic health issues. As hard as it is to deal with this, I am grateful for the lessons I’m learning and for experiences that are helping me understand more about God’s love.
For example, a couple of years ago, I was getting more frequent migraines, and was at my wits’ end. One day during spring break, I had specifically prayed that I could be migraine-less so I could be there for my children.
When the migraine aura hit, I was mad. Hopping mad — in that sort of shake-your-fist-at-heaven kind of way. (I’m ashamed to write that, but maybe you’ve been there.)
I got my meds in me and went promptly to my bed, where I pouted, and “vented” to my husband and to others (and to God), sobbing until I could cry no more. (That probably isn’t the best thing to do with a migraine, but it did provide its own kind of relief.)
I felt stuck. Stumped.
And I also felt guilty for being angry.
But as I was getting ready for bed that day, when my heart was a little more still, I could look back and see the miracles.
-Hubby was home, and was well able to help, and to listen. (Even though my “venting” probably gave him a headache.)
-A good friend also listened, and sobbed with me, and told me she wished she could take it away, and helped me try to look at my life and think about what I could be learning.
-Another friend “happened” to send me a message just letting me know I was on her mind. As did my Relief Society president, whom I hadn’t seen for a while.
– My sister called, and we talked for quite a while in a way-that-is-really-good-for-my-spirit kind of way. She’s one of my greatest cheerleaders and counselors.
-And to finish the day, another friend posted one of my favorite quotes:
“Each of us will have our own Fridays – those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
“But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death – Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
“No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or in the next, Sunday will come.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Sunday Will Come,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, page 30 )
As I mulled over all of the blessings of the day, the thought came loud and clear: God wasn’t mad at me, even though I got mad, and even though I pouted, and even though I doubted, and even though I vented. He sent many miracles that day, through the love and simple efforts of numerous people, and by so doing, reminded me of this pure and perfect and powerful truth: He loves me.
The next week, another migraine hit, and I had another day of struggling. (You can see I’m a slow learner.) Once again, as the week before, I found myself in my bed, crying and praying. I needed help and guidance. I didn’t even know where to start. I wasn’t even sure what to ask (a favorite scripture comes to mind). I shared all of this with Heavenly Father.
My dear husband came up and listened for a while. He counseled with me, and I with him.
“I feel like everything I do is wrong!” I cried.
“Is that really what you are feeling?” my husband asked.
No. I knew that the Spirit wasn’t saying I was doing everything wrong. But that seems to be where my brain goes when things are hard.
My husband kept listening while I sorted things out, out loud. (I am a very verbal sorter-outer, as those who know me know.)
After a while, I started to talk about things I could do to make some changes. A peace settled over the conversation, and my husband identified it. He could sense the change in my demeanor, my voice, my emotion level.
And he helped me realize I was getting answers. I was getting answers!
Once again, a phone conversation with a friend ended up being a blessing from heaven, confirming the answers I was receiving.
Again, God heard me, and again, He answered. I was in the dark, and He gave me some light. He loves me!
When I shared all of this with another friend (yes, I am blessed with some amazing friends), she wisely noted, “But you don’t fully believe it, do you? You don’t really believe God loves you.”
And then she said something that has stuck with me.
“Let it wash over you, Michelle.”
I know intellectually that God loves me, loves us, loves His children. But for so much of my life, when things have gone wrong, when I have goofed, I have gone to a place in my mind, a dark place of shame and personal criticism. I am coming to recognize more fully and quickly that this isn’t truth, but I know I need the Lord’s help to change my mind and heart, to let the truth of His love and mercy wash over me.
Of course, the truth of His love and mercy doesn’t absolve me of responsibility, doesn’t give me permission to slack off and sin. But I think I am at the extreme end, trying still to earn my salvation alone, on my own merits, with my own spiritual résumé … which, of course, is the wrong way to look at my spiritual journey — after all, we can only be saved through the merits and mercy of Jesus Christ.
What experiences have you had that have helped you understand God’s love and mercy?
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Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God [after all, I shouldn’t justify sins; that said, I’m still mulling over the difference between sins and mistakes]; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.