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There are many sacred words and phrases found within the document titled, “The Living Christ.” These include “matchless life” and “great vicarious gift.” Coming across these kinds of words cause many to tune out. The oft-repeated testimonies of the prophets regarding the Savior of the world are skimmed over with the subconscious thoughts of, “Oh yes…I know His life was wonderful.” It can be hard to truly feast upon these words when they are repeated so often.
Words can also fall so short. I can say Christ is the “best” but I also say chocolate is the “best” all the time. It has often made me stop writing about Christ before I even start because it’s too overwhelming to try and make it adequate.
But despite the frailty of our human languages, the words within this proclamation are true. Despite the frailty of our human languages, the Spirit has the power to help us feel how real our Savior is as we read about Him. There may be times when we skim over the words without too much feeling, but there may also be times in our lives when we may read “The Living Christ” (or words that are similar) and feel as though we know exactly how the author felt as they wrote about Him.
I think of some of the people who knew the Savior personally. I think of the Nephites who desperately wanted Him to stay after He visited them following His resurrection. I think of the people who were healed by Him. I think of the woman who cleaned his feet with her tears and hair. They loved and adored Him. Though we do not stand before Him, I sincerely believe we can feel the way they felt.
So how do we get to that point? How do we get to the point where we read those words and feel them? How do we come to know the Man behind the document?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a couple of answers that have worked to help me get to know Him. I hope they help you as you celebrate this coming Christmas.
Shedding misconceptions about Christ
Though we claim to be Christ’s true church upon the earth, and though we have been given doctrine directly from Him, we all hold misconceptions about Christ. Sometimes I think misconceptions are more dangerous than ignorance because they purposefully move us in a direction other than Christ. Shedding those misconceptions are freeing, and they help us know Him. Sometimes those misconceptions are as simple as an emphasis in the wrong direction.
Let me give an example to illustrate what I’m talking about.
One of the misconceptions I held onto for a long time surrounded Christ and how He judges us. To what extent do our actions matter and to what extent do our righteous desires matter?
For a long period of time, I placed far too much emphasis on my actions. I was trying to earn my way to heaven. I have learned (or at least I personally believe) that Christ simply judges our hearts. Our actions can be indications of how we feel, but actions are not sufficient markers of how we should be judged. He literally looks at the status of how we feel about Him and His commandments. There are many implications to this that made my life both easier and harder.
Realizing this made my life easier in the fact that Christ was no longer a task-master weighing the differences between my good and bad actions. He was no longer waiting to slap my wrists with a ruler, and He definitely didn’t want me doing that to myself. He didn’t glare down at me for sins of omission. He didn’t get mad when I got distracted during the sacrament or when I fell asleep in the Celestial Room at the temple. Though I have come to understand this logically, sometimes I still have to practice letting it fall into my heart. Even this week, I was feeling some major anxiety about underperforming. I had to remind myself that He wasn’t mad at me for not waking up at 5:45 am to study the scriptures in order to have quiet time without the kids. He wasn’t mad at me last week for taking naps when I was sick. He had no expectations for me to hold a break-neck pace when my body couldn’t handle it. In fact, He very pointedly wanted me to let go of those expectations I held for myself. Do you see how shedding these misconceptions can help me love my Savior more? It is so easy to love Someone who pushes me to be my best and also makes room for rest in order to facilitate my best. It is far easier to love Someone who helps me love myself versus this inaccurate Savior I had built up in my head for so long.
Realizing that He looks at my heart has also made my life harder (though in rewarding ways). My actions are no longer sufficient. Example. There are two types of people in the world; people who get mad outwardly and people who internalize it. I have always been the kind of person who internalizes it. I used to pat myself on the back for this, thinking I was some kind of peacemaker. This used to translate to an odd-looking cold shoulder in my marriage. When I was annoyed with Conner, I would still take care of him. In fact, sometimes I took care of him even more. I’d bring him breakfast in bed and clean the house until 10:00 pm. That all sounds nice and dandy, but at the end of the day, I would subconsciously be more mad at Conner for not serving me or helping me clean until 10:00 pm. Honestly, it’s a good thing he doesn’t read my blog because I still don’t think he knows I used to do this…anyway. I don’t get to do that anymore. I have to change my heart and love him. I have to open my eyes to the good man that he is when I’m mad over something stupid, and I have to have compassion for his bad days.
So like I said in the beginning of this section, shedding misconceptions helps us to love Christ. As I have personally shed my misconceptions, I have come to love my Savior more. It is so dang hard to always be loving all the time. As I have come to learn that He looks at our hearts, I have been able to more fully appreciate His perfect heart. His ability to always be in the right place at the right time pales in comparison to His ability to relentlessly love me all the time. His ability to control His actions is nothing compared to how He sees people all the time. He is never looking internally. He walks around and is just thinking about other people all the time. That is incredible perfection.
Misconceptions can hold us back from knowing and loving Him. As we shed those misconceptions, we more fully realize just how loving and perfect He is and it becomes easy to love Him.
Pondering is hard. It’s hard to keep your mind on track. I have strategies for pondering nowadays, but I think one of my best “ponderings” I ever had regarding the Savior actually happened when I was quite young. I haven’t shared this story often, but I think it’s a very powerful way of coming to know the Savior.
When I was a little girl, I learned that my mom had a miscarriage before she had me. It was a very early miscarriage; we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. However, in my young mind, I decided that this baby had been a brother, and I named him Jason. I also decided that this baby was going to hang out with me even though he was on the other side of the veil. Essentially, he became my imaginary friend. Whatever situations occurred, my brother was there to back me up. I imagined him saying the kindest things when I messed up, and I imagined him putting his arm around me. I imagined him protecting me. I wasn’t just imagining in general, but I was imagining very specific scenarios throughout the day. Eventually, I grew up and kinda left my imaginary friend behind.
I remember going through a rough spot as a teenager. I can’t tell you what the rough spot was, but I remember feeling extremely alone. During that moment of loneliness, I remembered Jason. I laughed at myself and felt a little embarrassed over my “imaginary” brother I had held onto as a little girl. It was in that moment that I felt a whisper say to me, “It wasn’t Jason; it was Jesus.” All of those scenarios I had imagined as a child, all those times I pictured a perfect older brother was exactly how Christ would have acted.
When we’re young, we’re taught to imagine Christ following us around. Perhaps you had a different experience, but when I pictured Christ, I pictured someone who was going to notice if I said the word, “dang.” And there’s a little bit of truth to that, right? If I were to imagine Christ in my home all the time, I would probably feel a little embarrassed when I yelled at my kids. However, if I picture Him accurately, I would also picture Him placing His arm around me just like He used to. I would picture Him asking me what was stressing me out, and then I would picture Him asking me to take care of that stressor so that I could be the best mom I was capable of being.
Pondering can be so powerful and so simple. When you’re in a fight with someone you love, when you have a problem and no one to turn to, when you’re enjoying a quiet moment, when you’re scared about something that’s coming…what are you deeply wishing for? How would a perfect person respond? How would they treat you while they responded? How would this perfect person ask you to respond?
When I picture Christ as real, the clouds part, and I receive much more revelation. When I picture how I think He would respond, my mind is often enlightened, and I feel how He would truly respond.
Christ is real. He is alive. Though He is perfect, He is like us in important ways. He responds and cares and wants connection with us. He is human in all the best ways, and He is also a God who has the power to take care of everything. He remembers you. He has favorite memories of you, and somewhere deep down, behind that veil of forgetfulness, your favorite memories include Him too. You already know Him, and you can remember Him.