Have you ever made a mistake?
Have you ever been in the wrong, mistreated someone, or judged someone unfairly? Have you said the most hurtful words to the ones you truly love? I have.
As much as it pains me to say, I have filled my life with moments when I have hurt, neglected, and disappointed the people who have counted on me the most. And not only them. I have withheld my gifts from strangers who could have been left feeling more love and comfort because of me. I have caused damage that I can never hope to repair. By all accounts, I am as far from perfect as anyone I know.
And I’m not alone. I am not the only one reaching out for help, trying to be more than I am. I am not the only one who asks the questions, “What would I do if I could go back? What painful words would I take back? What support would I give? What promises would I keep?”
“Whose heart could I spare a bruise, if only I could go back?”
I’ve been asking myself these questions today, wondering what hope I could give to another or what love I could share with a loved one, if I could only go back. I know I can’t be alone in this. With all that has gone wrong in the world, surely there are many who, like me, carry a heart full of remorse for the pain they have dealt a brother or a sister.
For me, the celebration of Easter could not have come on a better day. I was reminded today of a story. It is a parable of a boy who made a mistake, and the courage of the person whom he had wronged:
There was, once, “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them. Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’ ‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.
“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old. As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’ The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body.
“As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.
“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked. After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!” (James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 18)
This story reminded me of the debt that I have incurred through all of my life’s wrongs, and the terrible price that was paid by the One who stepped forward, willing to pay it. That terrible price, paid in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, “…caused (Him,) even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that (He) might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (Doctrine & Covenants 19:18) It was a price so exquisite and so profound, that it covered the mistakes of every man and woman who has ever or will ever live on this Earth, regardless of their willingness to accept His proxy.
Reflecting on this horrific and magnanimous act, I could only ask myself, “If you had to witness the Savior suffering for you, paying the debt you have incurred, would you stand idly by? Would you watch with indifference, or too afraid to step forward in his defense? Would you allow Him to take your sins upon Himself, and never know whether he had done so in vain?” The thought alone makes me shiver.
This Easter I celebrate the most amazing act ever accomplished on this Earth by the One who had the power and courage to perform it.
Thank you Jesus of Nazareth. And Happy Easter to all.