Monday, April 21, 2014

Chocolate and the Atonement

Easter is kind of a strange holiday for me. Probably because I rely on the calendar to tell me when it's supposed to happen. When the date hops around every year, it's a little harder to find that holiday mode.

But Easter is starting to rise in the ranks of my "favorite holidays" list. I like that it sneaks up on me every year, because that means I don't put as much pressure on Easter to fulfill all of my holiday wishes. It comes, and it's a day slightly more special than normal.

There are other reasons to be a fan of Easter, of course.

1. Easter candy. Easter candy is the best of all holiday candies. Especially since it comes right after Valentine's Day, which mass-produces medicine-flavored hearts and tries to pass them off as candy, not to mention it also puts things in chocolate that have no business being there.

2. Spring. I've never had a gloomy Easter, at least not that I can remember. I think it's one of the laws of nature that the sun must be shining on Easter. And this year, spring seemed to blossom overnight, just in time for brand-new, pastel-colored Sunday clothes.

3. Time to reflect on the greatest gift we've ever been given without the commercialization that surrounds Christmas. Don't get me wrong—I love Christmas—but the religious significance of Easter is easier to appreciate.

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ, but this year my focus shifted slightly to the Atonement.

1995, the year I turned eight years old, was my baptism year. Most of my Primary lessons that year factored in baptism at some point, and I remember a couple baptism-themed family home evenings as well. But this was what stuck with me above all else: at seven years old, I wasn't accountable for my sins, but at eight years old I would be. In other words, I could commit murder if I wanted and still go to heaven, as long as I did it before my eighth birthday.

With my eighth birthday just a few weeks away, I hatched a plan. I was going to get all the sinning out of my system while I still could. Then, once I turned eight, I would be a perfect little angel. My teachers had explained the concept of the Atonement to me, but repentance sure sounded like a bother. It seemed much more reasonable to just skip that step altogether. Sure, the world hadn't seen a truly perfect person since Jesus, but I was convinced I would be the second.

That is, after I was baptized. No reason to be perfect until I absolutely had to be.

So I set to work. I didn't do the dishes when Mom told me to do them. I hit my little sister. I refused to go to bed on time. I didn't share my toys.

To my mom's relief, I'm sure, the morning of my baptism finally came. I said good-bye to my sinful past and put on my halo.

My moment of truth came a few days later. Mom was taking a nap, and I wanted a snack. I opened the fridge, thinking I'd maybe have a bowl of applesauce or something. But out of the corner of my eye, calling to me seductively, was the chocolate syrup. Mom had said over and over again that chocolate syrup was only for ice cream, but sometimes I secretly poured some into a baby bowl, heated it in the microwave, and ate it plain.

The timing was perfect. No one was around, and Mom's door was shut so she wouldn't even hear the microwave or smell its delightful contents. As long as I disposed of the evidence, no one would ever know that I had disobeyed.

I should have known that chocolate would be my downfall.

Halfway through my bowl of chocolate, I realized with a jolt that Jesus probably wouldn't sneak chocolate from the fridge while his mom was sleeping. And he probably only ate a respectable amount of chocolate syrup on his ice cream, not the entire river of chocolate I liked to dump on mine.

That sealed the deal—I was no longer perfect.

Rather than feel ashamed of myself, though, I actually felt a little relieved. The pressure was off. I could make mistakes just like a regular person now.

I quickly learned how silly it was to demand perfection of myself in everything, but it took me a lot longer to grasp the concept that I actually needed the Atonement in my life. I thought it was only for the major stuff, like breaking the law of chastity or overcoming addiction.

On top of that, I have this independent streak that makes it difficult to accept help. And suffering in silence for an eternity is usually a more inviting prospect than asking for help.

But even though I'm from the "you can do anything!" generation, the fact is, there are some things I simply cannot do. And I'm not talking about things I physically can't do like roll my r's or sit on the orange slide my nephews like to play on (and, as of yesterday, jump over). I'm talking about the trials I can't overcome on my own. The times when my best still isn't good enough. When the burdens of life are so heavy I have no choice but to pass them on to someone else.

Of all of God's creations, human beings are the most glorious. But we're still, well, human. We can do a lot, but we can't do it all.

That's why the Atonement is more than just a wonderful, selfless gift. It's an essential tool we all need, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. And it's already been paid for by love.


  1. :) besides being a really cool analogy that I love, this feels like a secret confessional. Did you ever tell your parents?