Sunday, February 1, 2015

The love of God, and the Savior - Charity

The lesson today in gospel principles was on charity. There were great comments regarding charity, what it means, and the difficulty in gaining this attribute of Christ for ourselves. A comment was made suggesting that charity can be gained by acting out of love, care, and compassion for, and towards someone else, rather than feeling obligated to do so. If acting out of love, care, and compassion for someone else, then we will have desires and energy to serve those who could use the help we can offer. It is the idea of feeling compassion towards someone, recognizing that there IS something I CAN do to improve a situation, wanting to do so (out of that compassion), and acting accordingly, that allow charity to sprout within us. The conversation then went the route of putting others needs before our own. Then, it went the route of how much easier it is to love others than it is to love ourselves because we know ourselves better than anyone. We know our flaws, our weaknesses, our shortcomings, and our sins, so it’s easier to love others than it is to love ourselves. It was at this point in the discussion that I started to feel some dis-harmony with what was being said, and truths that I have learned for myself over the past couple years. I speak from my own experience, as there was a time I cared for, and served others more than I cared for, and took care of myself. Over the course of years, I was emptied. I was more than emptied. I reached a point where I was giving something that I did not have. I had not been taking care of myself mentally and emotionally while giving mental, and emotional support to others. I realized I could not continue to maintain certain relationships as they currently were, and be ok myself. My experience is not an example of what it means to put other’s needs before our own. Why had I not been taking care of myself? Because I cared about others more than I cared about myself, I didn’t know how to take care of myself. My life experience has shown that I care for the things/people I care about, and I wasn’t high on my own list. My more recent life experience shows that I am better able to care about others, and help others, when I have first taken care of myself. When I take care of myself, I have that which I can give to others, love, which in my experience, is the foundation on which charity is built. Even the definition of charity says so, being, the pure love of Christ. I believe that Christ acts out of his love for each of us in charitable ways we can describe as, merciful, gracious, patient, consistent, kind, caring, forgiving, gentle, compassionate, encouraging, understanding – ALL UNDERSTANDING, and infinitely present, to name a few. When I am taking care of myself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and socially, I can act out of love (charity), and present some of those same adjectives in my daily interaction with others, AND I can be those adjectives to myself because I am very high on my list these days.
How did I manage to move my name to “very high” on my list? When I realized that God’s love for me, and The Savior’s love for me were independent of anything, and UNCHANGING, my own view of myself changed. My love for myself was less than desirable, in fact, I didn’t know how to love myself, and somehow, I assumed that God’s love for me was similar to my love for me. I didn’t know how to let love in, from me or anybody really. God did, however, miraculously show me that His love is completely independent from how I feel about myself, as is my Savior’s love for me. Even how I was, in that very moment, God, and His son, loved me, and I could feel it! I felt it like I never had before. I thought, “If God loves me, and my Savior loves me, which I know they do because of the way I feel it, then why can’t I love and accept myself in a similar way? If they love me, then I can love me.” I had been holding myself up to a standard in order to “be” accepted by God, and good enough for Him to love me, hoping that someday it would be worth it, and that He would see that I AM good. Two things: 1. I don’t have to put a standard above what God does in order to “prove” that I am good enough, even for His love. He loves His children, period. He is our Father, and we are created in His image. He sent his Only Begotten Son to live, and die for us so we can live with Him (God) again. Is that not love!!! 2. Throughout the creation, God “saw that it was good.” It’s not until the last verse in Genesis 1, after the creation of man, that “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God creates only “good things”, even, “very good” things, and people. We are each good enough for His love. He loves each of us independent of how we feel about ourselves. If you don’t love yourself, or think you are not good enough for God’s love, let go of it. Let go of ALL the reasons why you don’t love yourself, or why you think you are not good enough, and ask God to replace those reasons with His love. He already loves you; I don’t know that He can love you more than He already does.
When we let God’s love into our hearts and lives, and when we allow His love for us to define how we feel about ourselves, it is then that we can truly obtain charity, because God’s love is sustaining. It allows us to expand. It multiplies as we act from it, divides as we share it in charitable ways with those whom we interact, and it is ever increasing in its reach.
4 Challenges:
1.                   Believe that God loves you, because you already are “good”.
2.                   Let go of the reasons you don’t like, or love yourself, make a list.
3.                   Let God’s love fill the space where those reasons have been residing.

4.                   Find ways to be charitable to yourself (remember the adjectives).

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