I have written and rewritten this thing and I still don't know how I feel.
But, it's done and I have church in an hour so I have to walk away from it.
I'm posting it here early in case I get up to the pulpit and speak farsi or something. You can come here and see that I actually wrote a LONG FRIGGIN' TALK.
I plan to cut as needed, but now I am super prepared.
Here we go... please tell me what you think. If you hate it, I will accept that too.
Kimber's talk for Easter at church:
I am highly amused over the fact that I am standing here today. In fact, this opportunity to speak is quite a reminder to me that God has a sense of humor. Let me explain.
When we first joined this ward, we were asked to speak at church. Well, the bishopric asked Sam if we would speak at church. Sam graciously accepted… however, he forgot to tell me until 17 minutes before Sacrament meeting the day we had to speak. That was an exciting day. I’ve blacked out shortly after the panic set in, but, I hear I didn’t swear on the stand, so, I feel like it was a success.
That was about 5 years ago.
Now, about 4 weeks ago, Sam and I were listening to the speakers in church and we started chuckling to ourselves about that exciting time we had to speak, and how we will probably never have to speak again, unless we move. Right after sacrament meeting, Brother Stephenson approached both of us, and asked us to speak today, making sure I knew about it in advance this time. As Brother Stephenson was asking us, I kid you not, in the back of my head, I heard that still small voice giggling. God truly has a sense of humor… and impeccable timing.
Now, you would think with a month’s notice that I would have written this talk weeks ago.
Well, I tried. I have truly tried to write this talk nearly every day since then. But, the words just would not come. The topics we were asked to speak on were the Atonement and the Resurrection. I truly thought it would be easy to whip something out. I’m a bit of a writer, I can throw words together pretty easily. But, again, God has a sense of humor. He also doesn’t like it when I try to take the easy road.
With that in mind, this is a very personal talk. I’m not an expert on these topics, and I certainly don’t have these concepts mastered. All I can really do is speak to my own experience and my limited understanding, and hope something I say will resonate within you. So, here goes.
Most of us understand the atonement as it pertains to repentance, to making wrongs as right as we can. It is something we learn as little children (if we are raised in a family culture that attends church regularly), and that understanding carries us through our lives. For a very long time, it was the only part of the atonement I understood. I understood when I made a mistake and I felt bad, that Christ has suffered those pains from my mistakes too so I could repent and move forward. But, what about the moments when I didn’t make a mistake, I didn’t cause whatever what happening to me, but I was still the one face down on the ground reeling from the sorrow I felt?
Christ is still there.
Let me read this quote from Sister Chieko Okazaki regarding the universality of the atonement and Christ’s understanding of our pain:
“Well, my dear sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.
Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief. (from her book, Lighten Up)
This idea of the atonement was a game changer for me.
Now, I want to circle back to the scripture mentioned in that quote. Matthew 28:20: Lo, I am with you always. Even unto the end of the world.
Let’s translate that to a sentence I can understand a little better.
I’m on your team. I will be here until the end of the line and I’ll be on your side every single step of the way.
Let’s take that scripture from Matthew, and let’s also look at John 14:18
I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.
Now, this is where I’m going to lean heavily on my own personal experience. I read these scriptures and
I think of an advocate.
I have a little experience with advocacy.
I get excited when I talk about being an advocate. I believe it is something we are all called to do in one capacity or another… we just need to listen for the call and then follow.
But, even with my experience and my professional role as an advocate, I have had a limited understand to what being an advocate really meant in the scriptures and how that meaning applies to our lives.
In order for me to understand the deeper meaning of Advocate, I needed to do some research. I found the word ParaKlete in scriptures. It is greek… I think. There is a decent chance I’m mispronouncing it.
It means “one called along-side of another for comfort”.
As I read further into it, I noticed what it didn’t mean. It didn’t mean one is called along-side to redirect, or to correct. It didn’t mean called along-side to carry or push through. It is simply being called to comfort and be with someone.
It is simply walking with someone as they travel whatever road they are on. Sitting with them in the despair. Being a comfort in those moments.
I personally have felt that comfort before in moments when I was suffering through a trial that was placed upon me by another person. But, I still didn’t grasp what it really is to be along-side.
My work has given me that understanding. I have a lot of experiences I could share, but, there is one in particular that really changed my understanding of the atonement. I was sitting with someone who had been through what everyone in this room would quickly agree is the worst thing that could happen to a person. During this conversation, I was not working in the capacity of an advocate, but as the impartial interviewer who documents the crime that has been committed in order to assist law enforcement with a case. This means I cannot comfort this person as they are telling me what has happened to them. As this person was speaking, the emotional pain they were in was palpable. My heart was breaking for this person, and as they spoke, I was praying for comfort to come to this person so they could get through the interview. There was a clear shift in the room, and I could feel the presence of a comforter as this conversation continued. When this person finished speaking with me and left the room, I could feel that the burden they had been carrying with them had been left in that room for someone else to bear. It was one of the more sacred experiences I have had in my work.
Something I have learned about being an advocate is that we aren’t in charge of the road a person takes when we walk with them. We are not there to show them a better way, to tell them how to change or how to fix their problem. We aren’t there to put it in perspective or minimize the pain they felt. It isn’t our role to tell them how they are responsible for what they are feeling, or to judge the situation or the person.
It is simply our job to walk with them. To love them where they are. To pray and plead on their behalf. To see their heart and to seek to have eyes that understand whatever road they are on. It is hard to be an advocate sometimes. I have a personality that likes to see a problem and fix the problem or the person in the problem and then move on. That isn’t the point. That isn’t what Christ does for us. He walks with us and loves us every step of the way. He supports us while we learn lessons. He sits with us while we hurt and he doesn’t tell us how it was our fault or how we could have avoided the pain we are in. He just sits with us and loves us.
We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in. (Ernest Hemingway)
There is a song that I love and listen to often. It is called, “If We’re honest”.
I just want to share a little bit of the lyrics:
"If We're Honest"Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I'm a mess and so are you
We've built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy's waiting on the other side
If we're honest
If we're honest
Our brokenness is what gives us the ability to understand the pain of another. We were not in Gethsemane. We did not feel what our Savior felt there and frankly, I think most of us are okay with that. I mean, sometimes the hurt I feel for just me is almost too much to bear. I don’t know that I could handle the pain of every single person in this congregation, let alone the entire world.
But, we do have our own brokenness and it gives us a gift. Something beautiful. We understand another person when they suffer in a similar manner. That means, we can sit along-side that person in their moment of hurt and love them while they get through it.
There is a Japanese form of repairing pottery. It is called kintsugi. It is a way to repair broken pottery using gold or platinum. Instead of hiding the breaks, it highlights it.
As a philosophy kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese value marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.
Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identiﬁcation with, [things] outside oneself.
Just take a moment and think of yourself as that piece of pottery. Our savior takes our broken pieces and fills it in with gold and it highlights the beauty where we were once shattered pieces. Truly, our brokenness is a gift.
I read a story a few years ago that changed the way I looked at people and their broken places.
(Brave Girls Club “We Must Look Past What It Seems” just go read it really quick)
Brave Girls Club: http://bravegirlsclub.com/archives/2151
We are all wearing signs. Sometimes we can read each other’s signs, other times, not so much. But, Christ has not only read all of our signs, he has worn them all for us, with us. We are never and will never be left alone. We will always have an advocate walking our roads with us. I pray that we can remember to embrace our broken places and to use them to bless others and help each other to see our Savior, even in the darkest of times.