Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crying Babies and the Enabling Power of the Atonement

How do we use the enabling power of the atonement daily in our lives?  I had just challenged my Sunday school class to do this, but as the words escaped my lips, it occurred to me that in my 30 years of life I had not yet figured out how to do what I was asking of them.  As I pondered this query, I thought of how we access the redemptive power of the atonement: by making covenants through baptism.  It occurred to me that it was through the same process, covenant making, that we could also access the enabling power.  This is precisely what the anti-nephi-lehi’s did when they buried their weapons and covenanted never to shed blood again.  This covenant was so powerful that when the time came years later that the fathers were unable to defend their families and help the Nephites fight the attacking Lamanites, the Lord was able to strengthen and protect not only their sons who fought in their place, but the entire Nephite nation as well.  These young warriors were given help and strength beyond their own ability and probably beyond what the fathers could have done had they fought.  This was the enabling power of the atonement.  It helped them do more than they could have done on their own.  I realized that not only did I know how to use the enabling power in my life, but I already had.

*****

Is it possible to hear a sound so much that it engraves itself on the surface of your brain?  I swear that is what happened with my third baby’s cry.  It was so familiar I could hear it distinctly even in the rare moments that he wasn’t actually crying.  I thought I was going crazy.  Night time was no exception to this.  For five months my sleep was often broken up into minutes; I counted myself lucky to get 1 or 2 consecutive hours.  We could find no cause or cure for his incessant crying and apparent allergy to sleep. Being overtired caused more tantrums…in both of us.  With my house in shambles, my other two children mostly neglected, and me barely clinging to sanity, I realized that not only was I not enjoying motherhood, but I hated who I was as a mother.   Something had to change, but it seemed completely outside my control.

Somehow in this delirium, a covenant-making strategy came to me that I learned on my mission.  I realized I could offer a sacrifice before the Lord and ask for His help in those things beyond my personal control.  I spent a few days praying about what my covenant would be and pondering what it was I truly needed.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t sleep.  I realized that sleep was only a means to the end.  The goals worthy of a covenant with the Lord were to have a clear mind, energy to accomplish all my tasks at home and for church, and patience with my kids so I could enjoy motherhood again.  If this was to be accomplished by the baby sleeping, that would be great.  But if He were merely to give me the strength to endure like for Alma and his people (Mosiah 24:13-15), I would take that too.  I would offer my sacrifice, which was to get up early in the morning, regardless of how little I had slept, and do all I could in my power to achieve my goals by preparing myself for the day, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually.  I knew I would need no alarm clock, but would simply stay awake after one of the multiple times I would assuredly be up with the baby. I also knew this undertaking would be impossible without the Lord’s help due to my months of continued sleep deprivation.  I officially presented my plan to the Lord on a Sunday evening and went to bed ready to make my sacrifice, fully expecting to have to prove myself first.

The crying baby startled me awake. Again.  But something was different.  I felt a strange sensation, something familiar.  I felt rested!  I looked at the clock and did the math in my shockingly clear-ish mind.  6 hours.  The baby actually slept 6 consecutive hours!  I practically bounded up to his room for his morning feeding, my legs feeling slightly less lead-like.  Hope and gratitude flooded me that morning as I faithfully fulfilled my end of the bargain with the Lord.  I’m pretty sure He knew that I would not actually be able to do my part without His help first.  I eagerly did everything I promised and it was an amazing day!  But would it last?

The next night he slept 5 hours.  Two days of so many hours reminded my body how much it needed the sleep.  Tuesday I was a little more sluggish and while it was a good day, I knew it wasn’t enough.  I got on my knees and poured out my heart in gratitude for the miracle I was witnessing before my drooping eyes.  Then I proceeded to tell Him that it wasn’t enough.  I needed more.  Apparently the Lord understood my plight.  That night my baby slept 8 hours!! 

*****

From that first prayer, I was finally able to begin my sleep recovery and while the hours fluctuated for awhile, I received enough to keep my part of the deal and eventually he was consistently sleeping through the night.  I had always attributed it to the power of sacrifice and covenant making, but I had never realized that it was an example of the enabling power of the atonement in my life.  By making that covenant, I was drawing on the Savior’s atonement to enable me to do more than I was able on my own. 

When I remembered this miraculous experience, suddenly my mind ignited with understanding, filled with multiple examples in my life of times in which I had been enabled through the atonement and hadn’t even realized it.  The whole gospel started to come into focus and connected so perfectly with the Atonement at its center.  Nothing was really new in my epiphanies than what I’d been taught my whole life, it was simply that instead of having my face up close to each of the pieces of the puzzle, I had taken a step back and the picture began to make sense as a whole.  I began to see how everything connected with each other in relation to Christ and the atonement: prayer, commandments, blessings, covenants, obedience, faith, etc.  It became so much clearer that there really is only one thing for us to do, look to Christ (1 Nephi 17:41).  When we do that, everything else falls into place as he helps us make individual covenants and strengthens us to be more than we could on our own.

Sometimes we feel burdened and stretched with all the things we are supposed to be doing and being in our lives, but as we look to Christ in everything, everything else falls into place.  Alma counsels us to ask for help in everything…everything we do, everywhere we go, everything we think, and everything we feel, counseling with the Lord all day so that it is the last thing we do each night and the first thing in the morning.  We must look to Him constantly for everything and then obey the counsel we are given, just as Lehi’s family followed the Liahona (Alma 37:35-47).  “…do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us.  The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever…see that ye look to God and live” (Alma 37:46-47). 

The Lord wants to help us.  He wants to be a part of our daily lives.  All we have to do is look to Him and ask for His help and He will direct our paths to help us become more than we could be on our own.  This is the enabling power of the atonement and we have access to it in every moment of our lives.  Just as I covenanted with the Lord to commit to accomplishing important things in my life, we can all covenant with the Lord and partake daily of the miracles of the atonement.

5 comments:

Jennie said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!! In recommitting myself right now as I seem to have run out of patience and love already and it's only Monday morning ...

Anonymous said...

thank you Sherrie for reminding me I have so much to learn! How thankful I am for the Atonement of our Savior. How thankful I am for the strength we can gain from this great love He has offered us. Oh, the great importance that we quickly realize that we cannot co it on our own! Most of all thank you for opening up your heart that I could see and learn so much from your experience with sweet little Benjamin. I love you!

Anonymous said...

Love, Mom Anderson

Tara Schrock said...

I have been so bad at checking blogs, but I enjoyed your thoughts and really am moved by your experience with prayer. It's really easy to forget that there is somebody out there waiting for us to see his influence and light in our lives. Something so much bigger than we could ever imagine....

Brenna King said...

Thank you Sherrie for sharing that experience. What a great use of the atonement. I struggle so often it seems like on having the energy to be a good mom. It's always nice to remember that we have help, and we're capable of doing what seems like the impossible by relying on Christ's atonement. It's humbling and exciting :) love you!