The original reason I started blogging was kind of selfish at first. I had given a talk on agency back in… 2013 I think? You know how it goes with talks — you often get more out of preparing it than perhaps the congregation gets out of your giving it. And that’s what happened for me, but I thought, “I don’t want this to stop. I need more of this influence from the Spirit.”
Obviously I couldn’t give a talk every week, so instead I just decided to write down whatever I felt inclined to dig into for my own spiritual well-being and put it out there for whoever cared to read it. After a while, it got to the point where I was writing more with a sincere desire to actually do some good for others: perhaps my words would brighten someone’s day, get people thinking about their own spiritual standing, or help them in finding ways to overcome major burdens.
My thoughts here veer back towards looking for… just… pure spirit food; a useful reminder for myself and perhaps a refresher or new perspective for others, and as I prayed to know which direction I should take for that purpose, a little voice in my head said, pure and simply, “talk about your Savior.” So this time my thoughts are based on this quote from Tad R. Callister’s book The Infinite Atonement.
“Those who have belittled the Savior’s sacrifice as no superhuman feat, because others have been so crucified and died so “nobly,” have forgotten the moments in the Garden. The physical pain of the cross alone, when compared to the accumulated pain of the Garden and the cross, was as a penlight to the sun. Perhaps the cross was chosen because the Savior wanted us to know he had endured man’s greatest form of inhumanity to man; but even then, such anguish was relatively insignificant when compared to the spiritual agony in the Garden, which was extended on the cross.” (The Infinite Atonement, p. 133)
A penlight to the sun! Wow!
I thought of that analogy and I realized, is not everything between us and our Savior as a penlight to the sun? Are not our actions, righteous desires, the Christlike love we feel for others, and our honest efforts to follow our Savior’s example but a penlight compared to the celestial “sun-like” brilliance of His merits and His love?
One beautiful irony behind this is that the scriptures teach that our mere penlight can become as a proverbial “sun” because of the Son Himself.
I could go on for hours about this idea, but here are three things about the Lord that fit this analogy really well and how they serve as a huge comfort and motivator for us.
1. His Love
This one probably seems obvious to most, but I believe that some of the more sacred experiences my wife and I (especially her) have had have given us an extra special understanding of just how overwhelmingly intense, unending, healing, and comforting His love really is. Obviously we are still nowhere anywhere close to understanding fully how powerful and pleasantly pervasive it is, but what we have felt, in dreams and other special experiences, have left us without mortal words to express the incredible, beautiful, lasting effect He has on us when we allow His love to play more of a role in our lives.
Faith becomes much easier for me to exercise the longer I dwell on how unquestionably and irrevocably unquenchable His love is — and taking decent time to just ponder and process things of God is a commandment, anyway (3 Nephi 17:3). The more we take time to even begin to wrap our heads and hearts around the things of God, the easier it becomes to put aside our fear and acknowledge that faith in and adherence to God is more important. We will understand and believe that there is no one more safe in whom to put your trust than the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. His Judgement
Something I was actually just reminded of today through a disagreement that was mostly my fault is that while truth — especially absolute truth — matters, context and edification matter just as much. So much of the time we mortals spend bickering about semantics, who is right (as opposed to what is right), and fairness could be easily avoided if we would just take the time to consider all aspects of the issue at hand. Considering context, having patience to ponder, scrutinizing the track record and veracity of the source of our information, and, most importantly, revelation and the gift of the discernment (Elder Bednar gave a fantastic talk about that!) are all crucial in coming to the proper conclusion about anything.
Considering each of these factors, our perspective and ability to make fair, kind judgments compared to Jesus is also as a penlight to the sun. How long will we continue to cling to hurt feelings, refuse to forgive, and hold grudges before we believe Christ (different from believing in Christ) and trust that He needs to be the one to decide when and how to execute justice?
3. His Faith
This may seem a little strange to some because most of the time we time we talk about us exercising faith in Jesus Christ, but quoting from Tad R. Callister again:
“In [Jesus’] moment of agony, he cried out, “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The Savior was facing his great trial [on the cross] with nothing to support him but his will and his faith. More faith was required of him than was ever exacted from any mortal. Mortals recognize their intellectual inferiority compared to God. In other words, they know they do not know all. They expect to have moments when faith is required. But here was a God whose knowledge reigned supreme, yet there was still a “why” – a gap between his cognitive powers and empirical senses. He had encountered a dark zone, an intellectual “out of bounds,” even for him. Perhaps he did not expect this. Perhaps he did not contemplate a total abandonment. Perhaps he did not comprehend in advance the totality of the aloneness he must endure. Perhaps his infinite mind knew and understood all that is possible to know in advance, but even this fell short of the hard-core reality that comes from actual experience.” (The Infinite Atonement, p. 113-114)
To me, His “sun” of faith to our “penlight” is one of the most comforting ideas because this incomprehensible amount of faith is placed in our potential! In His restored gospel, He teaches us that we can become as He is and He shows faith in our now-penlight faith, that it can turn into “sun” faith.
Considering the comparative magnitude of both of those things, it becomes staggeringly obvious how much more faith He has in us than we do in ourselves. How many times do we consider that the One who understands and sees our weaknesses and sins in a perfectly clear and glaringly painful lens of divine light still exercises and shows more faith in us and what we can become then we ever do? How often do we consider that He also shows that faith in those we perceive as most difficult to forgive, who do us wrong?
Whether it’s in love, judgement, faith, patience, kindness, or any number of other virtues, our Lord and Redeemer’s “sun” of influence can, if we let them, overwhelmingly overshadow any fears or hurt we feel in the trials of life, whether they are merely circumstantial or as the result of another’s actions. As with the actual sun, when we become distracted from or ignore His ever-pervading light, love and invitations to tune out our impure mortal impulses and embrace the sensation of the Spirit, we might as well be a dog endlessly running around in circles, mindlessly chasing our tails.
The only thing that’s ever worth our focus is the sun of His will and His love, ignoring all the meaningless penlights in the process.
About Paul Pulsipher
Paul served a mission in the then Canada Toronto West Mission and moved to Utah after living for ten years with his late wife, Lorraine, in Hamilton Ontario before her passing in 2019 and recently remarried in the Payson temple to his beloved Collette. He loves missionary work, piano, blogging (you can find his personal blog here!), deep spiritual conversations with friends, and hosting his podcast, Stepping Into Freedom. He can solve a 5x5x5 Rubik's cube, and puts a lot of time into gospel scholarship.