Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spiritual musing part 1: Grace

This month's Ensign article by Elder Bednar--The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality really made me think. In fact, I just keep thinking about it.

Here's parts of it (though you really should read it all!)

The grand objective of the Savior’s gospel was summarized succinctly by President David O. McKay (1873–1970): “The purpose of the gospel is…to make bad men good and good men better."

Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. We may mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves, through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities...

The gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. Help from the Savior is available for the entire journey of mortality—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature...

In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote enabling power:
“[Grace is] a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”2
Grace is the divine assistance or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity."

Which made me think of this great article on grace  a wonderful friend sent me a while back. Again here's some quotes, but really the whole thing is worth the read.

“Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”

"I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it . We are practicing for it.”

"The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can go home but that—amazingly—we can feel at home there."
 Elder Bruce C. Hafen has written, “The Savior’s gift of grace to us is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive his grace before, during, and after the time when we expend our own efforts” (The Broken Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989], p. 155). So grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now. It is not a finishing touch; it is the Finisher’s touch (see Heb. 12:2).

Finally I loved when he quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell: 

"Now may I speak . . . to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. . . .
 . . This feeling of inadequacy is . . . normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. . . .
 . . This is a gospel of grand expectations, but God’s grace is sufficient for each of us. [“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, pp. 12, 14]

I loved in the article, when Brother Wilcox repeats the phrase "they don't understand grace."
For me I think I forget.

When I get bogged down and overwhelmed and give into the feeling that I'll never be enough.
I've forgotten grace.

When I decide I'm gonna succeed today no matter what, and not give into my impatience or anger and then feel so weak when I dont get past breakfast...
I've forgotten grace.

When I fall in to the temptation to compare and look around me instead of up for validation and a sense of worth...
I have forgotten grace.

When I fail to see my fellow brothers and sisters as precious sons and daughters of God, and thus fail to grasp the depths of compassion and understanding I ought to have for them...
I have forgotten grace.

When I expect myself to never falter or tire or mess-up  and when I berate myself when I do...
I have forgotten grace.

And I can't forget. Because it is the ONLY way. 
There is NO OTHER WAY. 
His grace is sufficient, even when I am not. Which is everyday.

Because "all I can do" was never meant to be enough. It was only meant to make me need. 
To search. And to find. Him. Waiting. Willing. Full of grace. My all, but a meager requirement to access the infiniteness of His all. 
Which together, finally is enough. 

I'm grateful for the doctrine of grace, and pray not only to understand it better, but to not forget to use it, because I need it, every moment. 

Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be 
Let thy goodness as a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. 
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave that God I love. 
Here's my heart of take and seal it, 
seal it for Thy courts above.

I pray that as I use the grace of Christ to not only change my bad to good but my good to better, that I will let Him change me, until I shall become someone who will feel at home in those courts above, with Him.