Monday, August 8, 2011

In pursuit of perfection, through the daily grace of Christ!

 “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father, who is in heaven is perfect.” -3 Nephi 12:38, the Book of Mormon
                This verse has often perplexed me. It is a command we cannot ignore; it comes straight from Our Savior’s mouth as He is teaching the Nephites in America after His resurrection. We know through revelation that the word “perfect” in this sense means “complete, finished, and fully developed.” (See footnote Matt. 5:48).  When I read that I think, “Oh, this is Christ’s command to us to make it back to Him. It doesn’t have to happen now.”
                So then I tend to put aside that commandment and think that it is something that will happen through time and eventually at judgment day I will know if I followed this command well enough.
                It’s like the bicycle story. The little girl in the story works as hard as she can to earn money for the perfect bike. Yet, being young she can only scrounge up a few measly dollars, which pale in comparison to the huge price of the bike. Her father then steps in, takes her dollars, and pays the rest of the price for her, at the end (see Believing Christ).
                For a long time this is how I viewed grace. We work our tails off trying to become perfect and be the best we can, coming up short all throughout life. Then finally, when it comes down to being judged, Christ’s grace will come through and justify us. It will raise us up from where we are and if we’ve done our best to save a few measly dollars, so to speak, His grace will take the rest of the price and we will be saved.
                I believe this is a true concept of grace, to a point. However, something is missing here. It makes His grace seem like something that won’t come until down the road. It makes the command to be perfect seem the same way.  It all seems like such a far away concept and until we reach salvation we are here trying our best, trudging through life the best we can.
                I think I started to think of perfection differently when a friend of mine brought it up. He mentioned to me that he thought we could be perfect every day of our lives. Why would God give us a commandment we couldn’t complete? (1 Nephi 3:7). At the time, I blew him off thinking he was thinking too deeply. Being perfect everyday was an impossible venture in my head at that time.
                However, the deeper I study the doctrine of grace, I realize my friend was on to something. Grace, according to the bible dictionary is “enabling power.” This not only means enabling power in the sense that at the end of our lives, it will enable us to be saved. It is enabling power that is meant for you and me every single day of our lives! It is enabling power to be perfected, not on our own, but through Christ, not just at the end of this life but every single day of our lives! This does not mean that we have to stress out about being perfect. In fact, it means that we CAN be perfect and we DON’T have to stress because His grace is sufficient! What a beautiful doctrine! It makes the Atonement so much more meaningful to me to know that His grace is available to me to help me in EVERYTHING, from helping my tired body wake up in the morning to giving me the desire to read my scriptures daily, to giving me the energy I need to serve in the capacities I need to serve.  His grace is available to me to help me raise the child that soon will be born to us, to strengthen my body in the time of labor, in every single aspect of my life.
                This is so empowering to me. For someone like me, who wants so desperately to be perfect and do the right things, to realize that I can be everything he wants be to be even now. Granted, the standard he holds for me will be different today than from tomorrow, than from ten years down the road. However, I am not alone. Each and every day he can enable me to live the life he knows I am made for.
                This should not be something that is stressful. I know some might think “wait, what? I have to be perfect every day?” And yes that is a stressful thought if you are thinking you have to do it alone. But you don’t. His grace is for you every day to help enable you in every aspect of your life to make it. To be completed each day.   
                The doctrine of Grace is the doctrine of hope. We don’t have to struggle through life only to come up short every single day until the end, when finally the grace takes over. When you feel overwhelmed by the challenges that daily life brings to your door, you can remember that His graces is sufficient. His grace is enough. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). You can feel completed and whole every day as you access His powerful grace.
                This thought has helped me as I am in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Alone, I am tired, weak, moody, and afraid of what labor may bring. But with the grace of Christ I can find peace because I know He can give me the energy I need in the morning to get up, exercise and read my scriptures. His grace can enable my body to be strong and handle whatever this pregnancy and labor may bring. His grace can help me be the mother He wants me to be for this child. And it doesn’t come at the end of my life after I’ve tried so hard. It comes every single day in every aspect of my life.
His grace is sufficient.  For me. For you. For all of us.