I've been sick – a Lesson in the Atonement
It's been a bad week. A recurring sickness caught up with me again this week. When it comes, it's a few days of fever and chills, infection and soreness. There are trips to the doctor for injections of antibiotics as well as plenty of ibuprofen and oral antibiotics. And bed rest. And in the first day or two the inevitable feeling that I will never ever get well.
Of course I do get well. I have every time I have one of these bouts. Some have been worse than others (two hospitalizations for IV antibiotics in twenty five years; and one particularly unpleasant trip to an urgent care center a few years ago), and some better, meaning they pass by more quickly. But every time I get sick with one of these, I go through at least a little while where I assume I will not get better. Not ever.
I can't quite explain my reaction. In my head I know that antibiotics and bed rest will do the trick. But something in my fever-rattled brain doesn't believe it.
I think that straying from the straight and narrow has a similar effect. Those of us who try to do what is right, try to make good choices, try to live the gospel know that the atonement is there for all of us. We know (as someone in church today said) the atonement has already happened – it's not some future event that might happen. It's already taken place. So in our heads we know that forgiveness is possible and we can find our way back.
We know if we stray from the path, there are things to be done. First, stop. Second, turn around (that is, repent) and get back on the path.
Why then, is coming back to the path such a challenge? I think it's because of a few things. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. So once we've strayed it's hard to stop and turn around. Sometimes it feels like we're an ocean liner trying to turn around. But even more I think it's the adversary's plan compared with the Savior's.
The Savior tells us what we should and should not do in order to be happy (those commandments). The adversary, Satan, tells us that the commandments are silly and they restrict our freedom. When we break a commandment, the Savior still loves us (and that love is what prompted His ultimate sacrifice), and provides us a way to return. Satan (the great liar), however, tells us we are beyond forgiveness, we are what we are, and we can't change.
A friend says the Lord's plan is to bind us so we can be free (bind us by covenants and commandments), while Satan's plan is to free us so we can be bound (that is, he "allows" us to do whatever he wants, and thereby binds us to our sin, and even addictions).
In the end, our hearts need to believe that the atonement will work for us to try. I've been fortunate to be able to point to examples in my own life and in others' lives where the atonement has made a difference, where change has been possible, where improvement comes. The atonement is a startling gift to me sometimes. I really do stand all amazed at the love the Savior has shown us by his singular sacrifice.
But I also know to enjoy its blessings we must stop and turn to Him, we must forsake our sin and return to His path, the one He prescribed for us. And when we do, our hearts are light, for His burden is light, just as He promised.