Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Parable of the Song

I learned about two parables in church today. The first was the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, found in Chapter 20 of St. Matthew. This is a parable that teaches us to be happy for others to come unto Christ, to accept the Atonement for others and to not think it unfair when someone receives the same wages from Christ as we do when, from the outside, they may not seem as "worthy" as us. Essentially, none of us are worthy of the mercy of Christ, and it's a great, unfathomable gift to all of us, no matter how long or how short we've been following Christ. In this parable Christ teaches that the man in charge of the vineyard hired laborers at the beginning of the day and they agreed upon a wage. Throughout the day he hired more workers, and they all agreed to work for him. Nearing the end of the day there were still others who were waiting to be hired, and the man gave them work as well, promising that "whatsoever is right, that shall [they] receive," for their wages. And when the work was done, each laborer received the same wage, a penny for their work (which was a good amount in that time)! Those who had worked all day and those who had just been hired for the last hour or so of work. The ones who had worked all day complained that they were all paid the same, even though they'd agreed to their penny when they took on the work.

This parable is all about the Atonement. Some people take advantage of Christ's great gift for them earlier in their lives, while others take longer to realize the power their Savior has. We shouldn't be jealous of others' wages. We are all unworthy to receive the wages we receive, yet they are offered freely to us anyway. All we must do is humble ourselves and follow Christ and allow His Atonement to change our lives.

I was taught another parable today. One that's not found in the Bible. Today my lovely roommate Sara and I, and a friend of ours named Amberly, performed "Abide With Me, 'Tis Eventide" in church. Sara sang, Amberly played the piano, and I played the oboe. It was beautiful. I get really nervous when I perform for others. Especially when I play the oboe, because if you don't know this, good oboe playing is pretty dependent on how good of an oboe reed you have, and I don't always have the best of luck in that area. Anyway, when I get nervous my throat goes dry, my hands first get sweaty while I'm waiting to perform, and then they start to shake (as do my legs usually) while I'm performing, which is kind of a deadly combination for playing the oboe. Anyway, I got up and was able to keep my nerves in check. However, in the middle of the song my brain stopped working (also one of my nervousness side effects) and I played a D-flat instead of the E-flat I was supposed to play. I was able to get back on and didn't mess up for the rest of the song, but it was still a nasty sound for that split second. And once the D-flat was out, there was no taking it back. Like I said, it didn't really mess me up too badly and I was able to play well for the rest of the song, but after I sat down, of course, my mind kept going back to that one mistake I made, hoping that people hadn't really noticed it or that at least it wasn't too distracting (which, it was nasty enough that I'm sure everyone did notice, except for maybe the people who were sleeping). And as I was thinking about it, hoping that the rest of my playing was enough to redeem that mistake in the eyes (or ears) or my listeners, I had this reassuring message come into my head (the Parable of the Song, if you will):

Our lives are a beautiful song. God hears the whole thing. I've been hung up recently on something in my life, and for each person there's a different "thing" to worry about: it may be a low point in life filled with depression, or guilt for a sin that you just can't get over, feelings of regret, feelings of envy or hatred or "why me?" because something unfair happened. I've been focusing on those couple of sour notes in the song of my life. But is my whole entire song ruined because of that? The music leading up to the mistakes in the song I played today was beautiful; sure, it wasn't perfect and there were a couple shaky parts due to nerves, but it was still beautiful. The music I played after I messed up was beautiful, and I even got the tricky ending that I've had troubles with as I was practicing. Really, it was great. Would the people listening to me judge the whole entire song as awful because I messed up two little notes in the middle of the song? Hopefully not. Hopefully they noticed the beauty in the rest of it and were able to overlook my mistakes. (And plus, Amberly and Sara were wonderful enough to more than doubly make up for me.)

The parable of the laborers found in Matthew is about accepting the Atonement for others and getting over envy. The parable of the song is about accepting the Atonement for myself. God won't judge my whole life as one big awful mistake because of the small or not-so-small mistakes I make throughout my life. If I use the Atonement and accept His gift, those things are taken away. My life is beautiful. It's a beautiful song. It's an oboe obligato with a few missed notes and a few shaky moments, but it's wonderful and I'm learning and growing and getting stronger. It's difficult to not dwell on mistakes or trials and unfair moments. It's hard to know if those things have really been made up for through the Atonement of Christ. Sometimes it's hard to trust. It would be really easy for me to look back at our musical number today and despair and think, "Oh no! I ruined the whole thing! It was going to be so good and I practiced so hard and then I blew it!" But that would be so unfair to myself, and untruthful. Two bad notes doesn't make the whole song bad. Poor choices or unfair circumstances doesn't make a whole life ruined.

This wonderful moment I had during church today, this tender mercy, helped me know that God loves me. He's accepted my song that I have to offer for Him. He knows I've made mistakes and that I'll likely make more, but He also knows where my desires lie. He hears the beautiful parts of my song, and He knows they are good and He lets me know through moments like this that He loves me, oh so much! And He offers me the gift of His Son, even though I may not deserve it. He offers it to me and He offers it to you. Take it! Use it!

We have the Atonement of Christ. And that is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rings and Things

I used to have a ring. A pretty ring that I'd wear on my left hand. Not on the ring finger, mind you, but on my middle finger. Nobody gave it to me, or anything. I bought it at J.C. Penney for like 12 bucks. 

At first glance, guys would always think I was wearing that ring on my wedding ring finger. I got tired of people asking, "Oooh, what finger is that ring on?! Who gave it to you? Is he cute?" No. No no. I gave it to myself! Because I saw it in the store and I liked it! So I bought it. Because I could.

I just remembered this ring because I was looking through old pictures and found this one:
See that pretty ring? Well, it's kinda hard to see in this picture. But I used to wear that ring all the time. I guess it could look like a wedding ring, it's nice and shiny and stuff. But you can tell it's pretty cheap if you look up close. Anyway, point of the story is, I loved that ring. But a year ago I thought, "You know, probably as long as I have this ring I'll never get married because guys will just see something shiny on my hand and lose interest." So at an institute activity I fake-proposed to a guy I didn't even know and put my ring on his finger, and wouldn't let him give it back. I'd finally found an opportunity to rid myself of this troublesome thing. I knew if I tried just taking it off and leaving it at home somewhere it would wind up back on my finger. 

I suppose life has been different since I ditched my ring. But I doubt I can attribute any differences to absence of ring. That would've happened anyway. I think.

Why am I telling this story? I don't remember. Sometimes I do weird things. Like Monday night I stayed up on campus 'til 3 in the morning working on a recording project. And another time I took a job as an early-morning custodian when I didn't even really need a job. Whoa, I just made a weird brain thingy. A thought. So, that thing I just said about me taking a custodial job? Well, waking up early is one of my very least-favorite things to do. Like sometimes I think I could commit murder in the mornings. So that's really weird I'd take a job that required me to wake up so early. And then, get this: my other least-favorite thing is talking on the telephone. And what's my current occupation? I work at a call center. A call center! Where I have to make calls. On the phone. Silly me. Why do I do these things to myself?! It's like how I get really bad side aches when I run, but I did Cross Country all 4 years of high school. 

Let's go back to this telephone hatred of mine. It's so much easier just talking to people in person. Or texting. I like texting. But talking on the phone is painful. There's always that awkward delay so you start talking when you think they're not talking, but then they're talking at the same time. Or you can't hear what they say so you have to say, "What?" four times before you finally just pretend like you understood them. I have fun leaving voice messages, though, even if I do usually sound ridiculous in them.

People should just do what they want to. Because they want to. Or do things they don't want to do, but not 'cause someone made them. Just for fun. I mean, sure, I hate waking up early and I hate phone calls, but no one forced me into those jobs. Why feel pressured into not doing things I want to (aka the ring!), and then just choosing on my own to do things I don't want to do (like mornings and phone calls)? Silly Jilli.

I miss my ring.