Thursday, January 22, 2009

Understanding

"And He shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions of every kind...and he will take upon him their sicknesses...their infirmities...that he may know according the the flesh how to succor his people..." Alma 7:11-12 (page 225 of the Book of Mormon)

I have always been taught by my parents, leaders, and scriptures such as this that Christ's atonement is powerful enough to not only pay the price for sin, but mighty enough to heal every pain and sickness we experience...emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual. Yet, in the days, weeks, and months after Branson's death I found myself asking, "If I have to feel this heartache and pain so intensely, why too did Christ have to feel it?" I just couldn't bare the thought of both of us going through such darkness, loneliness, and pain.

I wanted the atonement to "fix" things immediately, to take it all away...and it wasn't. So, as I've done with so many other principles lately, I began to read, to search, and to find out for myself the answer to my questions. In so doing, my relationship and perception of the Savior has changed…and my life has changed because of it. Until six months ago I felt that I knew the Savior and appreciated his sacrifice on my behalf…little did I know that my knowledge of him, and my love for him was incomplete and lacking in so many ways.

I certainly haven’t been perfect in life, and I've tried my best to use the atonement to make up where I've fallen short. However as I felt the most intense heartache and pain of my life, I wondered if it was really true that Jesus took some of this pain for me as he suffered in Gethsemane and eventually died for me on the cross. If he had suffered this already “for” me, then why did I too have to feel the heart-wrenching grief that seemed to be consuming my life?

One night this question was weighing particularly heavy upon my mind. As Rob and I laid in bed, I posed this exact question to him…his reply is what has changed me the most. He said, “Nat, think about it. It’s all about perspective. There are so many people in our ward, our neighborhoods, our families that don’t have a proper perspective on our trial. They’ve never experienced anything like this before. Therefore, try hard as they may to “fix” this for us, they just don’t know what to do or say that will completely heal us. Even people who have gone through a similar trial can’t perfectly help us carry this pain, or heal our hearts. Although they understand in a very real way some of what lies ahead in our journey, even their grief and healing process is different from ours. Grieving is so personal and unique. However, there is one person that has a PERFECT perspective on this trial because he has walked every mile of OUR situation, and that is the Savior.”

I began to mull that over in my head that night, the next day, and every day since and these are the things I’ve come to appreciate about the atonement.

Christ knows perfectly how to heal us because he felt every piece of this cross that we would be asked to carry. He knows what I will personally need that even Rob might not because the atonement is that personal…that real.

He knows how to answer my prayers in my moments of grief because he has a perfect perspective on what I need and how that need can be met. There have been very specific ways in which I have seen this happen in the past few months. He has sent the right people when I’ve needed them, I have opened the right book to answer a question I’m pondering, I have been touched by the spirit to act on promptings he’s sent. Because of these and many more, through the atonement, he has begun to heal me.

The atonement provided him a perfect perspective on every emotion, thought, and feeling that I have because he’s felt them too. He doesn’t judge me because I have moments full of anger, he doesn’t think less of me because I question things I shouldn’t question, and he doesn’t make me feel guilty for being me. He’s continually patient and lovingly waits for me to “see” what he’s put before me to partake of.

Because of the knowledge that God has, and the love that he feels for me, he won't take this trial away from me...even though he could. Instead, he sent his son thousands of years before me to experience my personal pain so that I might have a friend, a Savior who could truly understand it, help me through it, and then through mercy make up where I fall short.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks helped me understand more when he said:
"Healing blessings come in many ways, each is suited to our individual needs. Sometimes a "healing" cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are "healed" by being given strength, understanding, or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us."

And it hit me... Christ didn’t suffer in Gethsemane to take away my pain…he suffered so he’d understand my pain and understand how to heal me in a very real, personal way.

I'm sure in future years I'll look back and be able to see just how much Christ has truly carried me and so much my burdens as I've walked this journey. I hope too that someday I may be able to fully comprehend and appreciate all that the atonement has done for me. I am grateful that Christ doesn't walk in front of me impatiently waiting for me to "catch up", that he doesn't walk behind me watching me step into the darkness ahead alone, but that he walks beside me...teaching me, leading me by the hand, and lighting my way.

I have never been more grateful for Christ’s sacrifice of life on the cross so that he could be resurrected. I now see that it is through this that I will be able to be reunited with Branson and spend eternity with him as a family. I am thankful for the blessings and power of the temple covenants that make this possible for me, and I am eternally grateful that Christ has made it certain, through his atonement, that Branson will be there waiting if I can but make it back.

13 comments:

Vest Family said...

Nat- This might be my favorite post of yours yet. You have been blessed with great insight. Absolutely beautiful. I will continue to pray that more moments of truth and understanding come your way. Christ is certainly the giver of great and needed peace when we need it most.
Lots of love,
Heather

Gordon and Jackie said...

Dearest Natalie;
Once again I am left speechless and full of awe as you have again surpassed anything that I could have imagined in your perspectives and sharing. This is the most beautiful expression of love and understanding of the Atonement that I have ever read. Just another reason that you need to make this all into a book someday. Thank you for your willingness to share this with us, it has changed my life. Love Eternally, Mom

Gordon said...

Dearest Natalie,
How grateful I was to check for your blog update and find that you had made one. I have read and reread your "Christmas testimony" to me and now to find it on your blog site with even more depth and understanding. I now see clearly that indeed my prayers are being answered, I know that you are being led and "carried" when it is needed and that you are being blessed with understanding.
It is like building a temple, the first thing with any structure is to select a site with a "rock" upon which to build and not on "sand" and then to build a strong foundation which will support the weight of the structure. Then you can proceed to build the rest of the "temple" with confidence and assurance that it will stand. I am reminded of the visit we made recently to the New Draper temple. When we walked in the first thing I saw was the finished product....and it was the most beautiful temple I have ever seen. I stood in awe of its beauty...but...none of that beauty would have been possible if not for the fact that the foundation had been carefully selected and prepared for all that would come thereafter.
In my mind I see a great parallel to the journey that you are now in the process of undertaking and the construction of a beautiful temple. You have selected the proper site.. which is knowledge that you are a daughter of God and the Great Plan of Happiness and now you are constructing your foundation which is The Atonement of Jesus Christ. It will be a long and difficult process...line upon line, precept upon precept here a little and there a little...but the finished
"Temple" will be beautiful beyond description with Branson at the door to welcome you and Rob.
When viewed from that perspective at that time ALL the sacrifice, sorrow and heartache which has been required to build the beautiful temple that you then will behold will pale and you will feel grateful for the opportunity you had to offer that sacrifice in order that you might then behold and feast your eyes on the "finished product" with Branson at your side.
So dear Natalie and Rob hang on with all you are worth for in the end you will have great joy and rejoicing and it will be so worth it. I love you with all my heart and I am so proud of both of you.
With Love Dad

Candi said...

Natalie,
You don't know me, I was directed to your blog by my bishop. He believed that somehow your words would help me to understand my own trials. He was so right. Our situations are similar in many ways but so different in many ways too.
Your feelings of sadness, and grief from having to say goodbye to your beautiful son; those feelings I feel too because of having to say goodbye to my beautiful daughter. It is something I never thought I would have to live through and when I was faced with it I never thought I would live through it.
It is only since my Avery went to heaven that I have tried to build a relationship with my Savior and I regret that. I believe that if I had done so before I would have been able to handle the trials of infertility and the knowledge that my daughter would leave us much too soon, with more peace and understanding than I did. I regret that it took the death of my sweet little girl to make me realize that I want more for myself and for my family.

Natalie, thank you so much for sharing your journey and your testimony. It has given me so much strength. I hope that soon I will feel as close to my Savior as you do. Your words have helped me more than you know. I never thought that I would find anyone out there who could understand my pain... now I know that He has always been there. Branson looks upon you with pride and love, this I know. You are an amazing mother and he is lucky to have you for eternity.

Thank you again for sharing.
Yours,
Candi Houston

Tyler and JoAnna Hamilton said...

Nat- I loved reading this. In the face of this terribly difficult time you are finding ways to improve yourself and better understand the Gospel. I look to you as an example and hope that I can face the trials in my life as you do. I truly cannot imagine what you are going through each day, but know that I love you and also Branson for everything he has taught you and in turn all of us.

Loretta Valenta said...

Natalie,
I cry almost as much reading the comments left as I do your beautiful writings. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I don't know that you can truly appreiciate what it is you offer to us when you open your heart and share your thoughts. They are profound and beautiful and very much needed by me. The trial that our family now faces is very different from yours and Robs but the lessons are the same. Thank you for sharing them. I love you!

P.S. I love your dad's writing too -- like father like daughter. :) Thank you Natalie's Dad!

Jed & Kimberly Anderson said...

Hey Natalie,

I am spending some time catching up on your posts this morning before church and as you have been told by everyone who reads what you post - you amaze me! I can feel the spirit testify to me of everything that you write and I know that you have been given a special gift to write and to share light and truth with others in this way.

We have spoken before of struggles and you know I have my own as I'm sure all mortals do of one kind or another and although your words and experience speak in a very special way to someone who has lost a child, they are very powerful also for the rest of us who have other trials and struggles. I am fed spiritually by your perspectives.

Thank you for being humble enough to keep searching for light, truth and understanding. I am so glad that you have a testimony of the Atonement, your insight on it has enlightened my mind and helped me this morning. I as you have come to believe that Christ loves me and accepts and even experiences with me the good and the bad, the triumphs over the natural man, and the moments of weakness. He loves us as no other can because of the personal atonement made for each of us.

Thanks again, I love you and am honored to be your big brother.

Jed

Michelle said...

Oh, my goodness. Natalie, I had this EXACT question in my heart for months. I asked members of my family and friends this question. I searched the scriptures and prayed about it. The answer was probably before me many times, but I didn't grasp it until months later when the SPIRIT taught it directly to my spirit. And then I could feel the answer and I will never forget it. It hurts when people on whom you have relied in the past just don't understand. Sometimes it feels like you're completely alone in the agony you are feeling. But how amazing it is to think that there is always Someone who loves you and on Whom you can always rely to understand!
I get it now!
I love the words you used to express your answer. You are a beautiful writer!

Sarah Garner said...

Natalie,

You don't know me, someone mentioned your blog on baby Macs blog so I linked on from there.

These are the most inspiring words I've read in a long time. You and your husband are amazing parents. To not only live through this experience and move forward, but to find such inspiration is truly the most beautiful tribute to the Lords atonement and your pure testimony of that atonement. I can think of no better tribute to your beautiful little boy!

My daughter Savannah was born still on February 9, 2008 at 35 weeks. I set up a blog to connect other angel mommies to each other and was wondering if you would mind me adding your link to it? I think that others could gather so much strength and comfort from your inspiring words. The blog is:
http://latterdaykeepsakesangelbabies.blogspot.com/
if you want to check it out first.

I know every situation in completely different, but if you ever need to talk I understand a little bit of what you are going through, please feel free to email me: zeeneye@gmail.com

What a lucky little guy Branson is (and beautiful too!) to have parents like you. I KNOW you'll have the opportunity to raise him. In the mean time Branson, my daughter Savannah, and all the other little angel babies are doing the Lords work and helping prepare our mansion there where we can one day be together forever.. never to be parted.

Love,

Sarah Garner
Savannah's Mommy

Deb M said...

Natalie,
Thanks so much for your work in maintaining this blog, especially for such a hard topic!

I have been so sad about losing my son, Matthew lately and reading your words feels like a life line. It is something that soothes me and gives me peace. That is a gift you share with me and many others.

I'm hear to listen if you want to talk.

Debie
Mother of Matthew

Lindsay said...

Thank you for your sweet comment on our blog. I have read through your story as well, and I know the hurt and fears - the joy and peace you are feeling. I am so sorry for everything you have had to do and feel. I wish there was something I could do or say to make things better for you. Please know that our Heavenly Father loves you so much - He has trusted you with one of his most precious sons. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Hope is a beautiful thing.

Daisy said...

Hi Natalie,
Thanks for the message and for your prayers. I do appreciate it. I may not know you personally but I want you to know I gained strength and comfort from your inspiring words. Thank you so much!
love,
Daisy

Kim Call said...

If there was an adequate way to express gratitude, awe and reverence to a most merciful and loving Heavenly Father, I would try. It is truly humbling to see how He has comforted you and strengthened you both and how you are sharing this understanding with so many. Who could have known how all the events of last year would be the inspiration for the growth of so many of His children, except Him? It strengthens my testimony of His all-knowing power, love, and consolation. He is truly the source of our strength. I pray His spirit will continue to be with you and all of us who love you so much. Forever, mom