“The choice to repent is a choice
to burn bridges in every direction
[having determined] to follow forever only one way,
the one path that leads to eternal life.”
-Professor Noel Reynolds
I have a strong testimony of the principle of repentance and the gift of the atonement. I am not sure when I gained that testimony – I am sure it came gradually over the years as I grew up. I am also sure that the strength of that testimony is helped by the strength of my testimony that God loves all of His children. When you know that God loves His children, it is easy to understand that He would give them a way to get back to live with Him. A loving God would not shun us at the first hint of sin.
As strong as my testimony of repentance has been, I think that my understanding as been somewhat superficial. This quote from Elder D. Todd Christofferson struck me, “Attempts to create a list of specific steps of repentance may be helpful to some, but it may also lead to a mechanical,check-off-the-boxes approach with no real feeling or change.” I want to be sure that I am not approaching repentance with “no real feeling or change.” I want to change. That is the glory of repentance.
I can remember when the first spark of real understanding of the atonement happened for me. When I was a young woman, a young man in our ward bore his testimony one Fast Sunday about the atonement. He talked about how it is the atonement that allows us to do better each day. He didn’t talk about repenting from grievous sins, he was talking about the “little” things – learning and growing each day. That has always been the foundation of my testimony of the atonement – it is the power by which we progress each day. When I get impatient with my children, it is the atonement that allows me to try again the next day (or the next minute!) and erases all the mistakes I make as I learn how to be a mother.
That’s a pretty comforting knowledge – that my mistakes are not lasting. If I partake of the atonement each day – even in each minute of each day – my mistakes can be washed away!
Having this “daily repentance” understanding of the atonement has probably been the foundation of my understanding of repentance.
The underlying principle in repentance is change. Elder Christofferson said, “Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome.” How often do we pray for forgiveness without praying for the strength and opportunity to change and do things differently?
The ability we have to repent comes from the plan of redemption. Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr said, “‘To redeem’ is to buy or to buy back…if we repent, we can be forgiven of our sins, the price having been paid by our Redeemer.” This redemption is provided, whether or not we partake of it. As President Packer said, “There is a Redeemer, a Mediator, who stands both willing and able to appease the demands of justice and extend mercy to those who are penitent.”
Ironically, the most beautiful part of the atonement to me is that there is nothing we can do to repay the Savior. Elder Curtis said, “[T]he plan of redemption calls for our best efforts to fully repent and do the will of God.”
His statement reminded me of a BYU Devotional by Brad Wilcox, in which Brother Wilcox compared the atonement to a parent paying for piano lessons for their child.
Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift. It is how he takes advantage of the amazing opportunity Mom is giving him to live his life at a higher level. Mom’s joy is found not in getting repaid but in seeing her gift used—seeing her child improve. And so she continues to call for practice, practice, practice.Elder Curtis quoted the hymn Savior, Redeemer of My Soul and I loved the line “Never can I repay thee, Lord, But I can love thee.”
How true! I hope that I can do my best to love the Lord and to repent daily of my weaknesses, making them strengths through His infinite atonement.
How do you partake of the atonement? What are your feelings about the plan of redemption? Are you sometimes discouraged when you have to repent over and over again? Do you recognize the growth that you have made in your repentance journey? What is the meaning of the atonement and repentance for you personally?