“Let it wash over you” — Shame vs. God’s love and mercy

Jul 12, 2011 by

~by Michelle

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?

– – – – – – –

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.

Alma 42:30

 

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13 Comments

  1. Wow, Michelle. Once again I totally identify with what you have written.

    I recently wrote a bit of my struggle in my blog. I’m finally starting to be able to admit I’ve been angry, depressed, and bitter as I’ve struggled through these last few years. I’m a *really* slow learner.

    I wish I could call out specific experiences that have helped me get back on track, and where I’ve felt it “wash all over me”. I still am struggling to learn so much. Yet, I’m still here.

    At least, for me, the biggest thing has just been striving to understand the great sacrifices many others have made on my behalf, especially the wonderful woman who donated one of her kidneys to me. I can scare comprehend that, and so I’m far from comprehending what the Savior has done for me.

  2. janelle

    Yes! This post is wonderful Michelle.

    Love, love, love this. And you!

  3. Travis,

    Thank you for your comment. I am grateful that our paths have crossed…it helps me a lot to hear others’ experiences as they work through the challenge of chronic illness.

    I think the grief cycle is something that people with chronic illness struggle with on a repeated basis. At least understanding that reality is helping me take a step back and understand when I get in that anger mode.

    This friend who extended this invitation to me (which brings a lump to my throat pretty much every time I think about it) also invited me to diligently search for and remember those times when I have felt God’s love.

    I think you are onto something in seeing God’s love in the sacrifices and love of others. It reminds me of Pres. Kimball’s quote: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” In fact, you’ve crystallized the reality of what happened to me these days. He let me know of His love through the love of others.

    As for still being here…I think that is so significant. Enduring to the end means trying to still be here.

    On a lighter note, my husband and I actually use that phrase a lot, calling to mind this little ditty that Pres. Hinckley once quoted. He said:

    My life reminds me of a sign that hung by a rusty staple to a run-down barbed-wire fence in Texas. It read:
    Burned out by drought,
    Drowned out by flud waters,
    Et out by jackrabbits,
    Sold out by sheriff,
    Still here!

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. We are all struggling to learn. I’m still sometimes shocked, though, at how much I still have to learn!

    ~Michelle

  4. Janelle, thank you. I love you, too. Mucho.
    ~Michelle

  5. Michelle,

    Your response also brought to mind something else. Last night I attended a support group for patients pre- and post- transplant. Unfortunately, in the 2 years since my transplant, this was only my 2nd time.

    But I learned in many ways my experience was not unique. The anger, the bitterness, the fear. The intense emotions as you ponder the person who has sacrificed for you. All of these are very real and most go through these at one time or another, or even repeatedly.

    Some people have smooth sailing health-wise after their transplant. For others, it takes a few years to get stable (that’s the process I’m still in). But there is still a common experience.

    I also have started studying grief lately because it is so intertwined with all of the issues I’ve faced in the last few years.

    Thank *you* for the example of faith. Yes, I’m still here, but I know I must increase my faith.

  6. God has the kindest way of showing us his love and mercy in our darkest hours. At the exact moment we think all is lost that’s when he embraces us and let’s us know that all is not lost, light is around the corner. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  7. In my experience this truth is one of the most powerful. If we can let it wash over us it changes everything. Most often when I kneel to pray I need to do it just to feel his love. Our relationship with God is unlike any earthly relationship – so much better, loving, merciful, and celestial.

    My heart goes out to you Michelle. You might be one of the first people I seek out on Resurrection Morning. Your joy at a perfected body will be lovely to behold. <3

  8. That was a heart felt message. I can relate in many ways. I have had migraines for years and only in the last few years the migraines have decreased. I would say that what you have learned is blessing many woman right now that read the messages you write.
    The struggles we have usually end up as blessings in disguise. You do have an awesome husband and great friends that have helped; they are your angels.
    My favorite scriptures is proverbs 3:5-6.
    Blessings to you!

  9. This was a lovel present for me today. I had great hopes for my day… my mom was coming to take me to lunch for my birthday, my sisters were gathering to have a playdate and bake me brownies, love was pouring to me, and you KNOW we all need that when we are drained, emotionally, physically, spiritually. And then, out of nowhere, the baby started in with the fever and puking thing. And added to all that I’ve been fighting physically lately as well… well, I’ve been hiding and overwhelmed. But a few things have been refilling my soul… and you are one of them. Thank you for having the courage to share with us, those who have this experience and those who do not. I have had friends talk of not having the “luxury” to lie down when they have a “headache.” I knew then that they were not those who could understand the debilitation of migraines, Lyme, the other neurological and physical adventures going on in my family’s life. It was not that they didn’t have their own, valid and important burdens to bear, many of which I could not fully empathize with, but just that they were still at a place where not being able to get out of bed because something hurts was probably thirty or more years down the road for them. Each burden offers it own lessons and opportunities for courage. Thank you for sharing yours with us…

  10. Sistas, jendoop, LeAnn,

    Thanks so much for adding your testimonies. And jendoop, your comment about the resurrection made me smile.

    Heather, I’m sorry things have been hard for you. It would be nice if we could at least block off birthdays as a day free of hard things! I’m grateful that something here could be a positive in the midst of it all. Thanks for your support and empathy through my hard times.

  11. Michelle,
    You are wonderful! I woke up this morning struggling with the strength and willpower to face the day. I needed to have that reconfirmation that the Lord is aware of me and that He knows and loves me.

    Knowing that I’ve drawn strength in the past from reading inspired words that have been shared by those contributing to this website, I once again found myself here.

    Sometimes it is through small and simple ways that we receive the confirmation that God knows and loves each one of us personally. Reading your inspired words today has served as a powerful reminder of Gods love and has given to me additional strength to face the day.

    Although I’ve never personally met you, I have benefited from your testimony and strength on many occasions. Thank you for being a light in my life today!

  12. Ariane,
    Wow. If this post was what you needed, then all I think we can say is that God knew what you needed today and where you needed to be reading. It’s so wonderful to know that God is aware of us individually.
    Sorry that you were having one of those days, though!
    Michelle

  13. desde venezuela soy mienbro de la iglesia bautista en coro estado falcom deseo conocer personas de el estado de utha para ver costumbres y formas de vida soy soltero y deseo amistad com mis hermanos en crito gracias

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