2. A substitute.
So I've been thinking. I've been thinking about spiritual stand-ins. During the past year I've experienced a lot of challenges. I've also had friends and family experience challenges. Its part of life. In attempting to understand the "why" of my own personal tragedies I came to learn that if allowed, the Lord has lessons to teach us through these challenges. I've come to realize that these challenges and adversities allow my Savior to take his teaching role in my life and help to mold me spiritually. Learning this has caused me to have more gratitude for challenges (I still have my moments of hating them of course, I'M HUMAN!). I seem to have more faith that I will be able to get through them with my Savior and that I can be a better person because of them. I'll admit that I would have loved to had someone come and sweep me away, out of those miserable moments, those times when I just couldn't take it anymore, when I just couldn't see the light ahead. Shoot I'd love to have all of my challenges taken away this very instant, but I know better--1. that will never happen; 2. I know its for my eternal good!
I'm sure you'll all agree with me, we all want that someone to make everything alright and for all the bad to just go away.
This got me thinking. Do we not as mothers do that for our children? Do we attempt to make all the bad stuff go away? Maybe its how its meant to be, but because of what I've learned about challenges and the Savior's ability to succor and to comfort and all that it has taught me about the atonement and turning to my Savior (because I didn't have someone there to make the bad stuff go away), it causes me to wonder. I wonder whether or not we can actually become stand-in's for the Savior when he is the only real source of peace, comfort, and the only one able to save. In our attempts to love and free our children and others from pain and suffering do we actually neglect and lose out on opportunities to teach them of the power of the atonement and to help them develop a relationship with their Savior? Do we attempt to make all of the bad go away and thus rid them of the need for the Savior? Do we prevent circumstances that would otherwise require bended knees and humility before the Lord?
Earlier this year our son received a priesthood blessing just prior to his ADOS evaluation to determine a diagnosis of Autism. In the blessing, the Lord blessed our son that he would be able to use the atonement to rise above challenges. I've thought a lot about that promise and realized my role in helping to teach Gavin the power of the atonement. It wasn't until my adult years that I began to understand the atonement as a source of peace and comfort to pains and sorrows. It had always been viewed as a mechanism for forgiveness of sin. I had never understood the underlying foundation of the atonement, perfect (complete) love.
At the age of 2, Gavin has already had to do many hard things. There have been countless moments when I've wanted to quit it all. I've wanted to just embrace the happy boy that our son is, avoid his challenges, and forget the therapies. He will have even harder things ahead. I sometimes think about the days ahead and fear when his autistic characteristics in his speech and social behavior will turn from cute now, to odd and different which will lead other children to tease him and not want to be his friend. I hope and pray that I fear the worst, but of course I want nothing more than to prevent those moments from ever happening. But, I can't. There will most likely always be noticeable differences and even typically developing children generally always experience social insecurities, bullying, and the likes. Shoot! I was nicknamed "Stacy O'Smell" my freshman year by the boys in biology class and was constantly teased by the girls on my sports teams through high school. Its inevitable. Looking back, I didn't have a parent rushing in to make things better, I didn't even tell my parents, but if I had understood the atonement more and the power of my Savior to help me through those moments, I could have grown from them, instead of becoming more and more insecure and hating high school when it came to social relationships.
Its as if our relationship with the Savior is built on experience after experience of turning to him so that he in turn can come to our aid--"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12). In this text succor means to "run to". So he has suffered that he might be able to run to us. I love the imagery those words invoke in my mind. I imagine the Savior dropping everything he is doing to attend personally to my needs and rushing to my side. And I know that he does the same for my son as we continually witness miracles in his life during the past year. Each small moment develops and adds to a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, in His atonement, and in His Gospel.
To realize that even Lehi, a prophet of God, couldn't prevent his sons from dissenting or from the problems they caused Nephi, gives me much perspective about my role as a parent. The Lord doesn't prevent much of life's heartache and sorrow because agency plays such a significant role in His plan of happiness. He understands that it is our agency that allows us to choose to turn to Him and to experience the bitter and the sweet. In electing ourselves stand-in's for the Savior in succoring our children (old and young), they miss out on vital spiritual life lessons.
We have to teach them to believe. They come to earth innocent and full of faith, but the world quickly pollutes that innocence and if we are not there to help them establish from a very young age a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement and help that childlike faith to blossom when they are young, our children will seek happiness in places other than the Savior and His gospel. He will not be their refuge from the storms of life. The prophets and apostles of our time have continuously been promising us that if we will do the "small and simple things" individually and as a family consistently and deliberately, then we will be greatly blessed! Our children will be more prepared to witness for themselves the power of atonement in their times of need and we will have more faith in our Savior and a greater ability to be sensitive to the Holy Ghost and those teaching moments and times when we need to hold off from jumping in to rescue our children and instead help them in opening their arms to the Savior, who will undoubtedly run to their side! Each experience adds to their reservoir of faith and testimony in the reality of the living Savior and prepares them for challenges ahead as they will undoubtedly come.
* Please realize I don't mean that you should allow your toddler child to touch a hot stove or run into a busy street, nor am I saying that we should not attempt to prevent our children from making big mistakes. This is merely a representation of some of my observations of life and relationships, as well as, food for thought and discussion on the significance of the Savior and His atonement in our lives and the lives of our family.