(Continued from last week…)
This week, as a follow-up to last week’s post, I choose to share a few more of Elane Durham’s words about her experience while she was in the presence of Christ. What she learned from the Savior feels very useful to me in how I view myself and others, and I hope it will therefore be useful to you.
ELANE DURHAM (part 2)
“In [the] context [of being completely forgiven by the Lord] I was made aware that Christ knew and understood every single aspect of the incestuous abuse perpetrated upon me by my father. Yet I not only felt my Redeemer’s complete love and acceptance of me in spite of this, for I could finally see absolutely that it had not been my fault—but I was also allowed to feel His unconditional love for my father, which gave me great peace.
“I do not mean to imply that my father’s actions toward me were excused, for I knew they were not. In fact they were terrible sins for which he was absolutely accountable, and which he will one day need to acknowledge and deal with before he can have any sort of eternal peace such as I was then experiencing. But still Christ loved him perfectly, and I knew that through the power of that love my dad, if he chose, could one day be redeemed.
“In connection with that, for years I had felt tremendous guilt over my inability to get along with my mother. But now Christ allowed me to see how the estrangement between us had never been of my making, or by my choice. I was shown how my mother had been raised under the firm, Victorian hand of my grandmother, who had never taught her how to show or give love. I also saw how Mom, who had been two years old when her own father had died, had been pretty much fed and clothed and ‘cared for’ by her older siblings, and that two of them—brothers—had molested her. Thus she, like myself, had gone through abuse that was not of her own making, and had carried great shame and guilt through her own life. And oh, how my heart went out to her when I was given the knowledge of that.
“Again, however, accountability entered into this, for although Mother was in no way accountable for what had been done to her, she nevertheless carried the burden of her own choices, her own actions, just as I had done. In other words, she was accountable for what she had done to me. And like my father, to experience the peace I was then experiencing she would need to turn to Christ and work through her sins and mistakes.
“I had also felt like a failure because of the breakup of my marriage to my abusive first husband. But now, encircled in Christ’s love, I saw this man in a whole new light, and my guilt was erased as I came to realize that nothing I could have done would have saved that marriage. The man himself, I saw, had been severely abused by his alcoholic father. Thus, in his adulthood he was re-enacting the same sorts of things his father had done to him, seeking always [to have] the control that had been denied him as a child. And no matter what I would have done, or how I might have behaved, it would not have stopped his own headlong rush toward destruction.
“Seeing these things and events gave me understanding, and they also healed my pain by allowing me to forgive those who had been unjust with me. Here I had been feeling shame and guilt for things that I had no control over. But when Christ spoke to me telling me that these events I had felt so heavy-hearted over were not of my own making, but were instead the results of how I had been raised and the society that I had lived in, I was able to understand His words completely. And though by no means had I lived a perfect life, I knew that my sins and mistakes had been forgiven, and could not, therefore, keep me away from God’s love.
“[In fact,] He loved me regardless of them, and beyond that, regardless of what I had ever hoped to be or do….
“’What have you done for your fellow man?’ Christ asked again….
“I knew then that the Savior wanted me to understand that His question had to do, not with worldly things, but with how much honest and sincere love I had given to others, especially when it was hard for me to love them….
“…I knew of His desire that I become as Him. That was why He had asked twice, ‘What have you done for your fellow man?’ He showed me through His own life and atonement that everything about our lives, on earth as well as in the premortal realms…had to do with our relationships with others….
“[And] if I have assisted others in any way by making their lives better, even for a moment…then I will be rewarded with…spiritual power and…become more Christ-like.
“…I realized that I learn to love others through serving them….[Christ] had served me perfectly by willingly suffering and even joyfully giving His own life in my behalf, with no one but God to reward Him for it….
“…we are all children of our Father in Heaven, sisters and brothers, and because of that relationship [we each] hold a responsibility for everyone else. Individuals who understand this use their spiritual and physical gifts to bless and give comfort to the lives of everyone around them” (I Stand All Amazed, [Granite Publishing, 1998], pp. 33-46).
(to be continued…)