Monday, September 3, 2007

is there anything your child could do that would make you stop loving them?

I recently taught a lesson in RS. (I'm currently the 4th Sunday teacher in our ward.) The topic this time was the Point of Safe Return. The talk is about repentance - no matter what you do, God loves you and will never stop loving you. It is never too late to fix things in your life that need some tweeking. My 'starter thought question' was the above - 'Is there anything your child/parents could do that would make you stop loving them?' Certainly they (children/parents/loved ones) are quite capable of doing things that we're not excited about. Actions that might make us really not LIKE them particularly at the time. This was really in my brain since the death of a friend's older brother. He had, shall we say, some rough patches in his life. Even physically threatened his parents at times. Yet at his funeral, his mother talked about how 1) at the end of his life, the two of them at the least talked on the phone every day and always closed with 'I love you' and 2) the day she found out that they would be able to adopt him was truly one of the happiest days of her life. It just made me think about how, if an imperfect mortal person can be so forgiving of the pain that someone - their child even - had caused them, how much more real God's forgiveness is.

I hesitated to ask that question, however, well, mostly because I tend to over-think things. I mean, does Hitler's (or Stalin's or whichever other mass murderer comes to mind) mother still love him? Does she see him as the small child learning to walk and talk, or as the man he became? No, I did not include this in the lesson. Just something I was thinking about. It's certainly possible to imagine lesser circumstances where the answer to that question would be something other than 'no.'

But there is something about the parent-child relationship. Replacing 'child/parent' with 'loved one' just doesn't have the same power. There is a unique bond between parents and children. With loved ones, maintaining that loving relationship seems to be more of a choice, it takes more of an effort. Perhaps we should put the same effort into our familial relationships, but that's a discussion for another time.

Anyways, I received two interesting responses to that lesson. Right after church, a woman came up to me and said that indeed, there was a time when she did stop loving her daughter. Apparently for awhile her daughter really put her through the ringer. She did eventually straighten up and their relationship is now o.k. again. This is exactly what I had feared when posing the question - that it could bring up painful memories for someone. However, that very question was actually a big help for someone else. The week after that lesson a woman called me and said that thinking about that question made her realize that she wasn't too broken to make things right again. It was time to come back to church and fix the things she needed to fix, and she needed to stop putting it off.

The power of words just continues to amaze me. The same words often cause such completely different impacts/bring up such totally different feelings in different people. Duh, right? But this example really impressed upon me anew the power of words. The same phrase, seemingly simple on the surface, brought up memories of heartache for one woman, while providing hope for another. Crazy. All because of the differences in their experiences, and the difference in perspective those experiences gave these women.

Small wonder then that when I say something as simple as 'the fishtank is dirty,' the reaction is sometimes greater than I expect.

Another note from the discussion - we ended up talking about what 'forgetting your sin' means. In the talk, Elder Uchtdorf desribes that while God forgets our trespasses, we don't, in part to keep us from committing them again. He quotes Alma 36:21 about the joy he felt when he had been forgiven. Earlier in the chapter, (v. 19) Alma said he remembered his PAINS no more. One woman said that she and her husband have completely opposite interpretations of this: He believes that when you're really repented you have no memory of the act anymore. She's of the camp that you remember the guilt and pain you felt to keep you from repeating yourself. I think I lie somewhere in the middle - the MEMORY of feeling pain and sorrow remains with us, but the actual feelings are removed.

So what do you think - do we ever really get over the pain of what we've done? There's no reason to beat ourselves up forever over mistakes of the past, but does getting over the pain somehow mean that we are taking it lightly? That somehow we aren't truly sincere in correcting our flaws?

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