My brother is serving a mission in Japan. I wrote this today and feel like pondering it more. . .
Dear Elder Peterson,
My heart is brimming with hope this morning as I feast on the words of Isaiah. I’ve felt a drought in recent days, reading for reading’s sake but only feeling “fluffed”, not filled. This morning, like Nephi, I can say “my soul delighteth” in Isaiah’s words. Now don’t get me wrong, the historical, prophetic parts of Isaiah’s words are still a mystery to me, but I liken his words to my life, and I find deep parallels.
I’ve been reading in 1 Ne and am overwhelmed by how much God loves those who make covenants with Him. So much of my life I’ve felt an obligation to please God and serve Him so I can obtain blessings. I’ve also felt extreme guilt when I’ve disobeyed His laws, knowingly or otherwise. I remember saying family prayer one night while in high school. I must have said something in the prayer like “Please help us to be more worthy of the many blessings we enjoy.” After the prayer, Mom wrapped her arms around me and said something about how God ‘s love for us is not based on what we do but because we are His. That felt like a contradiction to me and my 16/17 year old mind couldn’t handle the paradox: so God loves us the same no matter what we do, but God can’t bless us unless we keep His commandments. Being blessed is the same as being loved, right? WRONG.
Isaiah speaks to all of us who have once covenanted with Him but then estrange ourselves from Him (doesn’t that include everyone?). If the Lord only loved the perfect, He’d have a pool of zero mortals to love. He says “oh, all ye that are broken off, and scattered abroad”; that’s exactly how I feel when I recognize my weakness and errors-broken off from the love, good for nothing but being burned up. But before I lose hope, Isaiah says “Listen” and “harken from afar”. . . Even when I stumble, I have made covenants (I have been WILLING), and that’s what He’s asking from me. There’s this beautiful dialogue between Isaiah and the Lord (and I’m likening it to me and the Lord”
The Lord: “Thou art my servant, oh Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” (1 Ne 21:3)
Sundy: “I have labored in vain. I have spent my strength for naught and in vain; surely my judgment is with the Lord” [I haven’t done it all, I haven’t been what I needed to be, so I know Thou will judge me harshly]. (1 Nephi 21:4)
The Lord: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee. . .and I will preserve thee.” (vs. 8).
He will preserve me!! In the chapter before the Lord says “I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (20:10). So even though sometimes I do chose to cut myself off from feeling the Lord’s love or cease to have His Spirit to be with me and feel like that limb that’s only good for being thrown into the fire to be burned. . . I will be preserved! I will be made finer than gold that perishes in fire (1 Peter 1:7); yes, all I will have is a pile of ashes; “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6); “I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping” (Ps. 102:9). And then our most merciful God, through His Son, the Redeemer, will take us in His arms to
“appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isa. 61: 3).
What a process! To be a part of Him, then be cut off, then be burned to ashes, then be restored, only this time gloried, solidly planted in the Lord.
I can’t speak a part of what I feel today. I love you in this journey of ashes and joy and mourning and praise! My prayers go up to our merciful Father every day in your behalf.