I've given this a lot of thought over the past few days, and I feel confident that I can do this. So here we go: the 3 most important changes of my life as a result of joining the Church. I even feel confident that I can put them in order too.
I’m a woman, Phenomenally
The third most important change to my life is the ongoing process of learning to appreciate the fact that I'm a woman. In a world that has never treated women with the dignity and respect that she deserves, and in a culture that looks at the liberated woman so differently than the Church, finding joy in the fact that I'm a young woman has not been easy. And if I can be frank, yet still maintain a certain propriety, I've come to a sense that being a woman is probably the most physically and emotionally exhausting thing I could possibly be. If my body isn't going out of my way to make me anemic, it's pounding my brain with enough hormones to incapacitate me to tears for no apparent reason. There are some days when I do not see how being a girl is anything more than painful.
But now that I'm actually taking Relief Society to heart and allowing it to reveal the femininity I've so deliberately tucked away, I see that there is a crucial difference between being meek and being weak. There is no lasting strength in headlocks and roaring fits of angry rage; nor is there anything weak about a woman who willingly chooses to be gentle and docile in the ugly face of aggression. Choosing to be meek, in fact, is probably the hardest transition I've had to make because so much of what it requires is so different from my nature. My independence has allowed me to be bold in the face of great opposition, to speak firmly for what I know to be the truth in many instances where it was not the easy thing to do. However, there is more to be being a servant of God than preaching powerful words of deep testimony--it's also having the inner stillness and serenity to believe what you say, and to dwell comfortably in that holiest of kindly spirits.
It has been no small task for me to trade my Feminine Mystique for kitchen gloves, to cover my feminism with the apron of my calling and go to work. But the more I learned about the temple, what it means to truly honor those covenants, and the blessings that would be mine if I would be exact in my obedience and devotion, the more I knew what needed to be done. I gave up what I believed in exchange for what I truly wanted.
How many drops of blood were spilled for me?Which brings me to the second most important change. Understanding and exercising the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the means by which every change in my life has been possible. He paid for my mortality that I might come here and get a body. He paid for me to have agency, that I might learn to use that body and make choices regarding my own destiny. He paid for the mistakes that I would certainly make because I am mortal. He paid an incredible price of ultimate pain and suffering that He might have perfect compassion for me at every moment in my life. In every sickness and despair, every longing and every loneliness, I have the comfort of heaven to be with me because Jesus Christ made the choice that would make it possible. And most amazing of all, He paid the price for our ability to rise from our graves and to become as gods; exalted beings in our Heavenly Father's kingdom.
Nothing less than a perfect sacrifice could have done all of that. And even though I know all of these things and I've spent the last 3 years of my life trying to understand and appreciate them, I just have to ask: How do you thank someone who has saved your life like that, even though it would cost Him everything in life and in death to do so? The idea that anyone could love ME that much is staggering to me. It will take me more than a lifetime to understand the fullest implications of what Christ did for everyone I know and love when He died to save us all.
When you bring these truths into your heart, you begin to see how true they are in your own life and it changes you. You're willing to take more things on faith, even things that don't exactly make sense because showing your gratitude to Him is more important to you than understanding every little detail about His plan.
I have a lot of work to do when it comes to relying on His perfect grace to truly change me, even though I know that what He offers will bring inexpressable joy to my life. If getting results in the way of recognizably becoming a better person was as easy as wanting it, I'd have made it ten times over. But a reputation is a hard thing to outrun, I can tell you that much.
I Know He LivesWhich is why the most important thing I've learned is the most important thing on my list. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is the most important thing I possess. He is my greatest treasure and my joy, my Father and my friend, the one who loves me more than I will ever understand. And in return I try to love Him more than anything on earth and even heaven itself, more than anything that dwells in either place. What He has given me is a deep and abiding assurance that He loves me perfectly, and I will spend the rest of eternity learning what that really means. Tongue or pen have no words to express how much I love Him. All I can do to show Him is to live as He tells me so I can continue to be as close to Him as I possibly can until I see Him again.
Nothing less than that will ever satisfy the yearning that is in me, and nothing in this life is worth having that would take me away from that truth.
I'd like to bear my testimony that I know these things are true. I know that my God and my care for His Church is the reason for my every happiness, that God lives and heaven smiles upon those who treasure what matters most in life. In the name of Jesus Christ, whose truth this is.