Monday, March 18, 2013

What I Learned from Being Mary

When Martha and her sister Mary, of Bethany, were pleading for Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother, they did so in great faith.  They knew Him and loved Him.  They had been witnesses to many miraculous events and knew that if there was a way to save the life of Lazarus, their beloved brother, Jesus Christ was the way.  They believed in Him without question.

But He didn't come.  At least not when they wanted Him to come.

Their sorrow arose from their grief; knowing that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. 

I know what it is like to place all my faith in Jesus Christ, whom I know can do all things, and plead for His help, only to experience the same grief and sorrow when it seems He has not come.  Most of us do.  It is difficult not to wonder and question, why?

As I've pondered this story over and over again the past couple of months, I have learned so much.  One lesson in particular is that when Jesus actually does come and He sees what has happened to Lazarus and sees the sisters' pain and suffering, He weeps.

Now I used to think he wept because He was sad Lazarus had died.  He saw the women were sad, too, and I thought the lesson here was that Jesus Christ can comfort us in our time of need because He feels our pains.  Although, I believe this to be true, I do not believe it is the lesson to be learned.  At least not for me the past several weeks.

Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient to His Father.  Perfectly.  Mary, Martha, the people of Bethany, and all the world needed to see that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead.  We needed to know what He meant when He said "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he that believeth in me shall never die." If He had come when they called, that lesson would have been missed by all.  I believe that He had the power to come sooner and heal Lazarus, but that He was exercising His perfect obedience, and in doing so, His own heart couldn't stand that those He loved were suffering.  And so the tears came.  And eventually, so did the miracle.

My experience in participating in Rob Gardner's Lamb of God production as Mary of Bethany has taught me so many beautiful things. I was taught in much the same way as Mary was taught.  As I sought much needed help, it didn't come when I wanted it to come.  Even though I believed with all of my heart that the only way I could perform was through His help, I felt that the help was withheld from me for some time.  It caused me to question my abilities, my motives, and I often asked myself, why am I doing this?  I became discouraged and felt similar to how Mary must have felt as I sought the Lord's help in prayer.  I knew that He could help me and strengthen me; I never once doubted His ability to help me; but I questioned where that help was.

Well, it also eventually came.  Not when I wanted it to, but when it was going to teach me the most.  Days leading up to the performance,  many miracles took place.  My confidence grew; not in myself, but my confidence in my God.  Through an inspired Director, I was given opportunities that made a huge difference in my performance.  He gave me his confidence.  Through a kind and gifted mentor and teacher, I was given professional suggestions on how to manage nerves and anxiety on stage.  She, too, gave me her confidence.  Through a loving and supportive husband, I was given constant assurance that I could do this, that I needed to do this.  And through a perfectly obedient Savior, I was given peace and strength.  I was given His confidence.  I can't say I wasn't nervous, but I knew He had not left me to myself.  I gave it my all, and pray that it was enough.

Because I am LDS, I believe in Jesus Christ's power to heal us not only in our time of need, but in His time.  He is our Advocate with the Father.  It isn't that He wants us to suffer, but that He is obedient to His Father who knows what is best for us.  Though it seems at times He is far from us, He will always come in the moment that is necessary to best teach us.  And just like Mary, we will understand as we realize that if He had come sooner, the lessons would never have been learned.  We must hold on until help comes.

As hard as that can be, it is always worth the wait.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why Jesus Christ Matters to Me

Jesus Christ was born over 2,000 years ago.  Someone once asked me why He still matters when He lived so long ago.  To paraphrase, this is what they were saying: "I get it, he was a good man, but as time has passed, the Bible stories have been blown out of proportion through exaggeration and ideals--the Bible is a record of the ideal, not reality. And that all happened so long ago.  Things are so different now." 

I want to share why Jesus Christ matters to me, in 2013.

He did live thousands of years ago.  But He lived long before then.  He was the creator of this earth; He lived before the earth was formed. (John 1:3)  And He lives today, and tomorrow and forever.  Things are different now.  But He still lives--and that matters very much.

When He was on the earth, He lived a perfect, exemplary life we ought to follow.  All of life's problems can be solved when we ask ourselves, What would Jesus do?  I teach my children stories from the scriptures because Jesus Christ's life is the perfect pattern.  If you are going to sew a dress, it hardly makes sense to make your own pattern if you want your dress to turn out the same as the original.  There are so many philosophies out there, so many different opinions, but when we follow God's path, we can be assured we are on the same path that will bring happiness to our families.

He is our Savior.  It is through Him that we can return to live with our Father in Heaven after this life.  He saves us, literally.

I do not understand how Grace works.  Sometimes things cannot be explained.  But I know because we are mortal, that we are destined to error, to make mistakes.  Without someone who can redeem us from those errors, we would be forever lost.  Every day, I pray that through the power of His Atonement, I will be made whole and will be worthy to appear before my Maker after this life is said and done.  Without a Savior, I am nothing. It is through Him I can do anything.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13).  I recognize that any ability I am given is because of Him.

There are millions of people walking this earth who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or feel His influence is still present.  And yet, I believe His life is central to every single soul.  Every breath we take, and every good thing testifies to me of His reality.  Without Him, we would not be.  Without Him, there would be no goodness.  Without Him, there would be no hope. 

Jesus Christ matters to me.  Because I am a Mormon, I believe that He will someday return to earth and He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords...every knee will bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him.  Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts. (Proclamation to the World on the Family).

He will matter to each of us.