Sunday, April 8, 2012

To Be Perfectly Understood


A few days ago someone gave me some advice on how I should feel about moving.  Unsolicited, with no real understanding of what I’m going through.  I was furious.

It did make me think though.  Last year when my brother in law finally found a new job and my wonderful sister in law was so sad to leave her home of 20+ years I might have thought the same kind of thing that this person just said to me.  Because the truth was, I had no real understanding at that point of what it was like to leave a life that you love so deeply—not like the understanding I am developing now.


When I was a senior in high school, another member of the band was absent for several weeks.  At some point the band director told us that her father had been ill and died, and that she would be coming back in a couple of days.  I felt terrible for her, but because I didn’t know her well and because I felt so incredibly awkward, I never said anything to her about her father’s death. 

I have always regretted that, especially after my mom died.  I never understood before going through that experience myself how much every expression of caring could mean, and I resolved that I would never miss an opportunity to extend compassion and understanding to someone going through a similar experience.  In the years after my mom died several of my good friends experienced the death of a parent, and I felt like I was able to understand and offer love in a way I would not have been able to before.


I was thinking about all of these things as I drove home the other day.  Thinking how how angry I was that someone with no personal understanding of my experience would tell me how I should feel.  Thinking about how I myself had been in a similar situation of not truly understanding when my brother and sister in law were moving last year.  Thinking about the dramatic shift in my understanding and feelings of compassion towards them as I am now in the midst of a similar situation.  Thinking about how I never could have understood the depth of grief involved in the death of a parent before I experienced it myself.


Suddenly I had a flash of understanding.  My mind was drawn to one of my favorite scriptures that describes the Savior’s atonement, found in Alma 7:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.


I have been aware of and loved this scripture for many year since I first heard Elder Holland read it and talk about it.  But as I was thinking about it that day it had new and deeper meaning to me.  In a new way I realized that Christ does understand, because he has felt my pain.  This pain, this exact pain.  My sorrow in this moment of grief.  My exhaustion with all that is left to do.  My missing Russ and my dread of missing our dear friends.  All of it he experienced so that he would know how to run to and comfort me. 


Next my thoughts were lead to the story of Lazarus’ death.  I remember as a child being somewhat puzzled over the account in the New Testament.  Jesus arrives and the distraught sisters told him that their brother had died because Jesus was not there.  Jesus cried with them.  And then He raised their brother from the dead.  Why on earth would Jesus have stopped to cry, knowing what He was just about to do?

It is only as I have grown older that I have come to appreciate this message.  That Jesus cared about their sorrow, even as He knew they joy they were just about to experience. Their grief mattered to him. 

Surely He knows that there are joys ahead for us to experience.  Maybe He knows that we will fall in love with the Oregon coast in a whole new way.  Maybe He knows that there will be a new house to welcome us, new flowers to photograph, new friends to love.  But it is comforting to me in a deep and profound way to know that for now, He weeps with us.  That He understands our desire to follow Heavenly Father’s plan and at the same time how much this plan is breaking our hearts.  That He would never tell me that I should feel differently, but would instead comfort me until I do feel differently.

And that, I believe, is the message for me this Easter day.  That He lives, that He loves me, and that He understands me.  Perfectly. 


Oh sweet the joy, indeed.


  1. I field those lovely comments all the time. ;) I'm really trying to be better about recognizing that they typically do come from a place of love and concern, and that I probably make equally insensitive comments to people experiencing things I have not. One thing I've realized is that when somebody is going through a trial, you feel like you have to say SOMETHING, and usually end up saying something that isn't helpful. Plus, it's always so much easier to have perspective when you're not the one in the situation!!!

    Anyway - beautiful post, and beautiful to think about today.

  2. What a sweet and poignant post. Perfect for Easter and for every other day too. Love you my friend! (Susan)

  3. This is so beautiful, I have no words to add... just a happy spirit in my heart. Thanks for touching my day.