During January the theme for sacrament meeting was forgiveness. For those of you who don't know, we don't have a preacher or minister who gives a sermon each week. Instead members of the congregation are asked to speak on a certain topic. Often it changes from week to week. Those of you who are familiar with this style of worship will recognize that during the past month I have heard approximately 9 talks about forgiveness.
You would think this might get old. Each time another speaker stood at the mic and said "I have also been asked to speak about forgiveness" I started to tune them out a little. I might have figuratively rolled my eyes and thought "Again?!"
But I dutifully listened as best I could while wrangling 7 children. And you know what? I learned something. A few somethings, actually.
I learned that after hearing the same message week after week it actually started to sink in. If it had just been the one week I might have forgotten but as the messages were drilled into my mind, they found their way into my hardened heart.
Which is another thing I learned. I have been hard-hearted lately. I have been proud and neglectful of my spiritual duties. I have made mistakes and arrogantly dismissed them as inconsequential. Hearing my peers share their personal experiences of repentance and forgiveness helped me see my own need to repent and seek forgiveness. It also helped me see my need to forgive others.
Another consequence of this repeated message is that I reflected on the subject more than I normally would. I pondered the relationship between repenting and forgiving. This led to another idea that has been percolating for some time.
A few years ago I watched movie about baseball. There was one player who was practicing some kind of idol worship in the hopes of winning the game. Another player was offended by this and they argued. At one point the offended player asks "Are you saying Jesus can't play baseball?" I wondered about this.
We often talk of Jesus as being perfect. But what does that really mean? Does it mean he is the perfect baseball player? Does sing with perfect pitch? How about cooking? Cleaning? Accounting? Does his perfection mean the same thing it means to us in the worldly sense?
I am not going to speculate further about what talents and abilities Jesus might have. However, this line of thinking has lead me to some pretty interesting conclusions. Let me explain further.
Around this same time, I was teaching a Sharing Time lesson in Primary. It was also about repentance and included a verse from Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." I had struggled with how to present the lesson to the children in a way that would be interesting and memorable.
Just as I was preparing to teach the lesson an idea occurred to me. I wrote the verse on the board and made some obvious mistakes. I then asked the children to point out the imperfections in my work. They were eager to do this. :)
As each flaw was discovered, we erased the mistake and made the correction. I explained that repentance was like an eraser. It helps us correct the mistakes we make so that we can become more acceptable to our Heavenly Father.
I don't know about the kids but I was impressed by this. I had long hated that verse. I had thought of "perfect" as I described before; the ability to do everything flawlessly. I felt ashamed of my seriously lacking athletic abilities and lamented the frailties of my mechanical skills. I would never be perfect! I would be cast off forever! Why even try?!
Okay, so that might be a little over dramatic... but not much. Anyway, as I was explaining this lesson to the children the light finally went on in my head. I understood, or at least caught a faint glimpse at understanding far down the road, what perfection means to God.
Perfection means trying not to make mistakes (i.e., breaking commandments) and fixing them when we do. Since none of us can write the story of our lives flawlessly, without any editing or spellcheck, we must revise in order to present an acceptable manuscript.
This understanding has given me great peace. I have also gained better perspective. Oh, sure, I might try to through a pity party from time to time (and usually fail miserably!) but I am much more likely to cut myself some slack than I used to. I also accept the imperfections of other more easily. Which means I am more forgiving of them when they make mistakes.