Monday, April 28, 2014

The Challenge to Become!

This past Easter season, even though it is already gone and forgotten by most people, has meant a lot to me. Even though I've experienced many Easters before, this one was extra special. It was sad, because it was the first Easter I spent away from my family. But it was also joyous, because more than ever before, I understood what it was all about.

One thing I thought a lot about this Easter was the difference between Easter and Christmas. At Christmas time, it seems to me, we celebrate the life of Christ, and the miraculous events surrounding His birth. It is a commemoration of a historical event. What a wonderful opportunity to think of the things He did on the earth! Easter, though, is different. To me, Easter is a celebration that Christ didn't just live (past tense), He lives. He LIVES!!

That message is an important one. It is a message of hope, of peace, and of excitement! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of Mankind, LIVES!
Before I go any further, I'd like to invite you all to watch this video produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was released a few weeks ago to celebrate the life of the Savior, and the message of hope that it brings.

Did you watch it? Good. What did you think? Were you, like me, inspired by it's message of hope? Were you, like me, inspired by the thought of new beginnings? Because that's what Easter is all about for me. New beginnings.

During the Savior's life, He made it clear that His message wasn't just an "FYI" that people could sample from. It wasn't just the things we needed to know, or even the things that we needed to do. His message is about who we need to be. Why did the Savior focus so much on the people we needed to become? It is because He understood our divine destiny and purpose in life. He knew that this life wasn't the end of our existence, but a stepping stone to become more like Him. It was a time to condition, teach, and test us. 

In October of 2000, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, one of our church leaders, gave an amazing speech called The Challenge to Become. In it, he shared the following parable:

"A wealthy father knew that if he were to bestow his wealth upon a child who had not yet developed the needed wisdom and stature, the inheritance would probably be wasted. The father said to his child:

"'All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.'”

God, like this father, could easily give us anything. He could grant us immortality and angel wings, then set us on a cloud to play harps for eternity. He could give us untold treasures of gold and silver, He could probably even alter our body chemistry to leave us in a paralyzed state of bliss and leave us there to ignorantly experience arbitrary pleasure. But that's not what He wants for us. He doesn't want us to have the things He has. He wants us to be the kind of person He is. What do I mean by that? He wants us, eventually, to be perfect. He wants us to be perfectly loving, perfectly kind, perfectly hard-working, perfectly knowledgeable. He wants us to be perfect in faith, hope, dedication, and virtue. And those are things He can't give us! He wants us to learn them, by following the example of His son.

Do you see how this ties back to Easter? God has great blessings in store for us, but most of those blessings have more to do with who we are than with what we have. And without the miracle of Christ's sacrifice, without His resurrection, without Easter.... there would be no way to get from where we are to where He wants us to be.

In the last night with His followers, Christ gave Peter a powerful instruction: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren". At that point, Peter had experienced some amazing things, and he had a testimony of the Savior. Yet Jesus spoke of Peter's conversion as if it were a thing of the future! How could that be? Because Peter knew the right things, and was doing the right things, but he was not yet the person that he needed to be.

It is the nature of life that we will constantly be fine-tuning ourselves and seeking to improve in little ways. That's okay, we're not meant to reach perfection in this life. The important part is that we know where we're trying to go. It doesn't matter how many steps we take if we are facing the wrong direction. Are we complacent with where we are at, or do we strive to be more like the Savior? Do we accept our weaknesses as unchangeable personal traits, or are we cultivating the Christlike attributes of love, obedience, faith, and virtue? Above all, are we satisfied with what we are doing, or even what we know, or are we truly trying to become someone?

After this life, we will stand before God and give an accounting. The wealth we obtained will mean nothing. The relationships we had won't matter to much either. We will be judged on the person we became. 

What are you doing to become?