I was recently touched after reading a blog post from Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box and many other best-selling novels. He poured his heart out about a time in his life when his marriage was failing and he confessed what he did to save it. I was impressed on so many levels—his honesty and openness to reveal such inner heartache, his humility to accept the answer from Heaven, and his diligence to put his marriage above petty differences. The post came at a time when I was deeply contemplating the gospel principle of greatest value—the Atonement of Christ. As I read about the miracle that saved his marriage, I saw how this miracle fed my deepest desire to know Christ better. Truly, our Savior has the power to work miracles, in ways we cannot always see, but in ways that are powerful beyond comprehension.
In Quiet Desperation the Answer Comes
In summary, his post read somewhat like this. Richard and his wife had been struggling for years to get along. His daughter used to pray they would stop fighting, then as she grew older she would pray they would simply get a divorce. After a particularly heated argument that preceded a book tour, he found himself alone in his hotel room with no one else to turn to but Heavenly Father. He was desperate to find an answer that would save the marriage. As it often happens when a person is at the brink of despair, the answer came. He felt the quiet caress of the spirit encircle him with love and he was told what to do.
After the tour, he returned home to a cold wife. Before an argument could ensue, he asked her, “What can I do to make you happy today?” She didn’t take him seriously at all. After he asked again, she skeptically told him to do some odd job around the house. He did it without argument. The next day he approached her again. “What can I do to make you happy today?” Her face still showed signs of bitterness and contempt. Her reaction was that of suspicion and disbelief. She told him to clean the garage, a job he suspected she picked out of spite, given the size and scope of the mess. But he did it anyway, without complaint.
Richard asked the same question every day and he did what his wife requested of him every day. Her suspicion began to change to annoyance, (“Why do you keep asking me that?”), and then to humility, (“Please don’t ask me that. I don’t deserve it”). Soon her heart began to soften and change as well, (“I should be asking you that question.”). When she realized his desire to serve her came from genuine love for her, she began to treat him differently too, and her genuine love for him rose to the surface again. Eventually they were able to discuss their differences, work things out, and ultimately save the marriage.
The Savior Wants to Make Us Happy
Sometimes we find ourselves in the same relationship with our Savior—at odds with Him because of the unequal nature of our statuses. He is perfect we are not. This can create a barrier that puts us at odds with Him. When the barrier between our realm and His becomes immeasurably vast, we feel alone, frustrated, and undeserving of a relationship with Him at all. We are unwilling to accept His help. And so the unhealthy relationship worsens—unless we listen to the question He continues to ask us.
Christ begins each day as if asking us a similar question to what Richard asked his wife, “What can I do to make you happy today?” It is asked with the same unconditional love. Our Savior truly wants to make us happy every day, even if we are at odds with him, even if we don’t think we deserve it. Our fallen nature blocks our ability at times to see the genuine love behind this offer. We question His sincerity; we doubt our worthiness. But our fallen nature does not undermine the integrity of the question. No matter how often we may answer the Savior by saying, “Stop asking me that,” or “I don’t deserve your help,” He persists. Every day Christ asks, “What can I do to save you today?”
The Atonement of Christ – Infinite in Nature
The Atonement really began in Heaven before we were born, and has been an ongoing act—infinite in nature. When Heavenly Father asked who would go down and be the savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ said, “Here am I. Send me.” He was the only one perfect enough, strong enough, divine enough to follow the plan according to Heavenly Father’s will. The moment Heavenly Father accepted His commitment, Christ’s part of the covenant began. He promised to save us all, from Adam on down to the last.
The Atonement has the power to heal us every day, if we let it. If we allow Christ to ask us His daily question, “What can I do to save you today?” we allow Him to fulfill his end of the covenant. But we fight our end, because it seems so unfair.
How could Christ want to save us every day, when we make giant mistakes, many of them multiple times? We lose patience with ourselves, but He is tireless when it comes to forgiving us. Think of the example with Richard and his marriage. His simple question was directed toward making his wife happy—not because she earned it, but because he loved her. He wanted her to see the depth of unconditional love they had both known once before.
Christ does the same for us. He forgives us, not because we earned it, but because He loves us. He wants us to believe He has the same unconditional love for us too. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be clean. When we do finally partake of His offer, when we answer the question by saying, “Please forgive me today,” we feel a divine spirit wash over us that is indescribable. We feel the Holy Ghost testify to us that we are clean again. We feel the gift of the Atonement working in our heart, bringing us closer to Heaven. And like Richard’s wife, our heart humbles, we have the desire to change, and we wish there was something we could do to repay the debt.
In the case of Christ, we cannot repay Him, but we can make Him happy. We can be more like Him in our treatment of others. We can look at the people in our lives and say “What can I do to make you happy today?” In our small way, this simple question and the desire to act upon it might be the answer to a prayer uttered out of desperation by someone who you may not have even realized was in need. That is the ultimate way we can give back to Him who gave all. We can love our family, our friends, and our neighbors. We can make them happy, today.
Today is Palm Sunday. As you approach your celebration during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, remember Christ’s desire to save you today, to forgive you today, to make you happy today. This is what He offers every day, not just during the most sacred week of Christianity. Find it in your heart to believe you are worth saving, and allow Him to be your Savior, again and again.
About Nanette ONeal
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.