My mind is exploding this week! I had a discussion with a dear friend on Monday and something she said sparked something in me that helped me see some things more clearly. I've also been studying and reading about God's love and what that really means. Trying to put my thoughts together in one succinct statement has been difficult, but I want to try!
So far this year, I have seen a theme in the new LDS Come, Follow Me curriculum. Beginning with the births of John and Jesus, we see their parents preparing themselves to be worthy of the call to raise them. Elisabeth and Zaracharias, in particular, seem to be creating a worthy place for his divine birth. We then explore the worshiping behaviors of the witnesses of Christ's birth.
Fast forward to Christ as an adult and we immediate watch as He then turns His devotion to God. His baptism is monumental in now only showing us the way to God, but in showing us that by baptism of fire we can be sanctified and have the capacity to be cleansed spiritually. Eventually, we get to His works and miracles, beginning with the changing of water to wine which signifies our own changing required to fully come unto Him. From Jesus's works and His teachings we learn how He loves and how to love.
What does it really mean to Love as God Loves?
In his talk this past General Conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained, "The love God speaks of is the kind that enters our hearts when we awake in the morning, stays with us throughout the day, and swellings in our hearts as we give voice to our prayers of gratitude at evening's end." Wow! What would that feel like to have that kind of love? How do we get to that point when love simply permeates our hearts the whole day?
This is what my friend and I have been chewing on the past few weeks and suddenly things became more clear for me. We've talked about the changing process and how we often feel like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other - - light to darkness and darkness to light. This week she described it a bit differently. She said, "What if we don't swing clear back to the darkness, but we simply swing to our natural state (kind of in the middle)? So when we experience the light, we catch a glimpse of where we can be, and yet we can't stay there forever because we are mortal, so we go back to our mortal state." In other words, it's not that we go from good to evil, per se, but that we are inherently good and simply can experience feelings of greatness every once in awhile to give us the motivation to keep on reaching.
As I have pondered on this analogy, this concept, I have been flooded with thoughts. I can see now what it really means to be "good enough" (for lack of a better term; *see note below for thoughts on this). I can feel the difference between discouragement and divine discontent. Ultimately, looking at changing, love and the gospel in this light we can take unrighteous judgment out of our hearts because the Lord sees His children as good who have the potential for greater light and love.
For example, all that is required of us is to follow the commandments (Mosiah 2:22) and to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven all that is required is baptism (Moses 6:57). Yet, if we desire more light or glory, the Lord makes it possible for us to obtain it. We can make more covenants (the temple), seek more diligently, and serve more readily. If we want to feel a deeper love for and from our Father in Heaven, we can seek it and He will grant us the true desires of our hearts.
Yes, God's love is "perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal. However, President Russell M. Nelson explains that the "full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional - predicated upon our obedience to eternal law." In his article he further notes, "...many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and Son feel for each of us are conditional." We are taught, "If ye keep my commandments, [then] ye shall abide in my love." The more committed we are to following the Savior, the more light and love we can feel.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us! It is evident in their greatest sacrifice, the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We have access to the greatest love God has to offer us. All that is required to obtain it is to reach for Him. The question for me is now longer, "Does God love me?" The questions that now burn in my heart are, "Do I love God and at what depth do I love Him?" With this thought we no longer need to worry about being good enough or doing enough, we can move forward knowing God is in our hearts and leading our steps.
- - - - - - -
In today's world trembling with terror and hatred, our knowledge of divine love is of utmost importance. We bear responsibility to understand and testify that Heavenly Father and Jesus the Christ are glorified, living and loving personages."
President Russell M. Nelson
**Note: I feel like we use the term "good enough" to imply that we don't need to improve, to stay settled where we are. And ironically, when we focus on being "good enough" we don't necessarily feel any better about ourselves. The gospel is one of change and growing. So, yes, God loves us as we are, but He also knows our potential to be so much more!