Save yourself some pain
On a Sunday afternoon I found myself in rare circumstances: alone. The sun was shining and after hours of church I was done sitting, so off I tromped to the woods. We’ve trekked the woodsy trails near our home many times, but it’s been a while – and everything looked different. The overgrown greenery crowded the path, the birds seemed louder, the trail quieter and the shade darker.
My thoughts grew deeper as I found myself further into the woods … and then an older gentleman came around a bend. He wore a wide-brimmed hat, cinched up khakis and a buttoned plaid shirt. Most notable to me was the pair of gardening shears in his right hand.
I gave him a, “Good day!” and nodded toward the snips. He smiled and pointed to the thorny vines creeping their way across the trail, then bent down and snip, snip, snipped. He asked if I’d felt the pain from those thorns yet – as they stretched forth to scratch and sting any ankles that brushed by. I hadn’t … yet … but I told him how much I appreciated his service in sparing me the pain.
And then we got to talking … we talked about our little town and our family. He told me he’s turning 83 years old this month, and that he looks forward to the family reunion he’ll have in heaven some day. I told him I’m looking forward to joining that sphere too … and then made an addendum that I’m not ready to go yet, since I have a lot to do and learn in order to prepare myself for that day.
That’s when he reached into his pocket and pulled out the topic of grace. He handed me a pass along cartoon comic with a serious message – and told me that it contained the only True way to get to heaven. He spoke of the indescribable mercy and love that is available, and how Christ can save us all. I agreed with him wholeheartedly, and then continued the conversation by saying we accept His grace and then we have to go and live good lives.
“We don’t ‘have to’ live good lives,” he corrected me. He went on to tell me that twice he had accepted Jesus in his life, but continued to do things he knew he shouldn’t. Then one day, when he was around 20 years old, he prayed for forgiveness and grace and no more desire to do evil … and that’s when he became a changed person. He let Christ take over … He was born again. He gave up his vices and began to live a good life because that’s simply who he was now. He was a Christian with a Christ-filled heart.
Somehow, sometimes, I forget that that is why I live the life I do. I must remember my true motivating factor … I must remember His love and His grace and His atoning example – that’s the why behind my choices.
“Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be ‘unprofitable servants.’ We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope,” said President Deiter F. Uchtdorf.
So why am I trying so diligently to be obedient? It’s not that I’m “doing this” or “not doing that” because I am afraid of God (though we’re told to fear God) … I’m not living this way because I’m supposed to – or because I need to follow the rules (though He gives us rules we’re supposed to follow) …
I choose to live this way because I have accepted Christ into my heart – and all that comes with Him. I trust and welcome His infinite grace, mercy, wisdom and love. And by welcoming Him to my heart, my heart is forever changed. My heart is filled with Him. I live this life because I wouldn’t want it any other way … and I wouldn’t want it any other way because He wouldn’t want it any other way.
President Uchtdorf explains it clearly:
“If grace is a gift of God, why then is obedience to god’s commandments so important? Why bother with God’s commandments – or repentance, for that matter? Why not just admit we’re sinful and let God save us? Or to put the question in Paul’s words, ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’ Paul’s answer is simple and clear: ‘God forbid.’ Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments of God – out of love for Him!” (Romans 6:1-2)
Those efforts of obedience and prayers of repentance aren’t just a one-time deal – they’re a lifetime of love. I need to accept Him and plead for His grace every day, every hour and in every way. As I do so, I’ll feel Him and follow Him. I’ll naturally live like Him, because I love Him. And ultimately, I hope to become like Him.
So, I thought about His grace all the way back home, clutching the pass along comic that gentleman generously gave me. And I noticed something … along with his name, phone number and message of grace, there were four words across the bottom: Save Yourself Some Pain.
The man spent his time snipping snares along the path – both physical and spiritual – allowing others to spare themselves some pain. What impactful service. And he did that service simply out of love – he wouldn’t know whose ankles had been spared or who would accept his handouts and message – he just wanted to do it out of love. What an example.
I’m thankful Heavenly Father placed us on the same path during my solo journey, so I would readjust my thought process and remember more clearly …. Remember that He is the why behind my choices in life. Remember that by focusing on His grace and having my heart set on loving Him, I can spare myself some pain and be eternally healed.
I know I need to study this topic more, so that it is engraved properly on my heart. If you’d like to read more about grace, I recommend “The Gift of Grace,” by President Uchtdorf.
Do you have any recommendations for me??