A couple Sundays ago, it was “fast Sunday.” As Mormons, once a month (typically the first Sunday) we refrain from eating or drinking anything for two meals. We do this as an expression of sacrifice–showing the Lord that we are willing to control the appetites of our bodies so that our spirits can be more receptive. Generally, we approach fast Sundays with a purpose–blessings we are seeking (whether for ourselves or for someone else), direction, answers we are in need of, etc. In addition to the fast, we take the money saved from those two meals and give it as a “fast offering.” That money is then used to feed, clothe, and provide temporal welfare to those in need in our immediate geographical location.
Well, this last fast Sunday began and I “opened my fast” with prayer so as to present my purpose before the Lord, and then I headed to church. The sacrament and worship service began and I contentedly listened to the sermons of testimony from my fellow church-goers (As is also customary on fast Sunday, the pulpit is open to the general membership to share their witness of Christ as they feel inspired.). At one point, I wanted to write down something someone had said, so I reached in my bag to get a pen, but instead found a package of SweetTarts. Happy day! Without thinking, I opened it up and popped all three in my mouth, chewed, and swallowed.
That’s when it hit me. I’d just broken my fast. Why my brain couldn’t register that fact 10 seconds earlier is beyond me (and totally annoying). My first thought after that was, Welp. So much for that fast. I didn’t event make it two hours. What will I have for lunch?
But then I thought, Krista. Okay, you ate something. Yeah, you broke your fast. But don’t throw the whole thing away over three SweetTarts. Keep fasting. You can still offer this sacrifice, despite its imperfection. Just start again.
Maybe it’s only me, but I think we do this same thing with our lives. We make a mistake, we sin–and then we sin again, and then again. We miss a night or a week or a year of scripture study. We forget to say our morning prayers or maybe we stop talking to God altogether. We skip Church one week and then suddenly it’s been three months since we’ve found ourselves in a pew. There are a million other examples. And it’s easy to feel hopeless, there’s no point, why try?
But this is the beauty of Christ’s atonement–it’s the eternal reset button. You can always begin again. So what if you ate the SweetTart and broke your fast? So what if you missed a week of scripture study? So what if it’s been a while since you’ve been to church? Restart. I truly think that the only time Heavenly Father is really disappointed in us, is when we stop trying.
This point was reiterated to me tonight as I read my scriptures. I was studying the Book of Mormon where the prophet Nephi and his three brothers are commanded to go back to Jerusalem to get the scriptural record. (For a bit of context: He and his family have just been led into the wilderness by the hand of the Lord because of the impending destruction of the city.)
So. There is the commandment: Go back and get the record. To which they obey (albeit with a bit of complaining from two of the brothers). But once they get there, they’re faced with a quandary–how are we actually supposed to get the record? It’s locked up and guarded. We can’t just walk in and take it. And here begins their series of attempts.
On their first try, they send one brother in to simply ask for the record. He almost gets killed for making such a seemingly absurd request. At this point, the account says, “And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful” (emphasis added). All of them, Nephi included. They had tried to keep the commandment, but they had failed. Three SweetTarts down the hatch.
But in the very next line, we find the differentiating quality between Nephi and his brothers: “And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto … the wilderness. But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go … until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord.”
So they try again and attempt No. 2 goes about as well as attempt No. 1. To recap, they’re 0 for 2. At this point, to paraphrase, Nephi’s brothers are ticked and they start railing on him (with an actual rail). But then an angel appears and tells them to knock it off, the Lord will deliver. As soon as the angel leaves, the brothers question, “How?!”
But Nephi responds: “Let us go up again … and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord … let us go up; let us be strong … the Lord is able.” Nephi then goes alone, and, as he puts it, “was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. Nevertheless, [he] went forth.”
So. Nephi, twice unsuccessful in accomplishing the thing that the Lord asked him to do, doesn’t give up, he goes forward. He tried, again, totally uncertain about how attempt No. 3 would go. But his confidence wasn’t in himself or in his abilities. “The Lord is able,” he says (emphasis added).
All this to say: Don’t give up. So we mess up. Try again. Restart. Our imperfect and broken offerings are made perfect through Christ. We may not be able, but HE is.
Wherefore, let us be faithful.