by ldsbishop (bio)
To me, the most emotive symbol of our faith is that of Jesus, alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding from every pore. While I understand why the process to take upon Himself the "pains and sicknesses of his people" needed to happen, I will never understand how He did it, since it is physically impossible for me to do so. What I do know is that some of that blood was for me, personally. By doing this for me, He knows exactly what it is like to be me at my worst.
One of the most gratifying experiences as a bishop is when you are the part of the process to help someone apply the atonement of the Saviour to their lives. There have been many times in my service when someone has come to me in some kind of pain, either caused by their own perceived sin, some kind of action by another or just caused by the general crappiness of life. Even if they just hope to believe it, to teach someone that the Saviour has also suffered exactly what they are going through and knows what it feels like, can be a crumb of comfort at a dark time.
I've come to understand that we all go through our own small, personal Gethsemane's; the times when we feel alone, abandoned and hopeless. These times are different to everybody: for some the worst time in their life might be when their TV breaks down and they are upset they can't watch whatever is on that night; for others it can be the most awful, calamitous situation that I can't even begin to understand. No two situations are ever exactly the same, that's why Christ is our "advocate with the Father" and nobody else, since nobody else knows what it feels like to be you and me.
My mother-in-law mentioned in passing to me the other day that bishops had to be good actors since they have to pretend to care about people. I objected strongly to that accusation since, not only is it the responsibility of a bishop to care for those under his stewardship, it the responsibility of all members to fulfill their baptismal covenants to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort." I don't see how you can fake doing that. However, while I can extend compassion, empathy and love, that only comes from my limited understanding of an individuals predicament. Only Jesus has felt exactly what they are feeling at that time, so only He has the ultimate compassion. I've just got to try and extend some of that compassion as His agent here.
As I mentioned, being a small part of the process where someone uses the atonement to improve their life in some way is wonderful. It can be a beautiful thing and it takes little effort from me. Alas, many other situations I find myself in as a bishop can only be described as ... how can I put this delicately ... the leavings of a bull.
So, many, many times there arises some kind of pettiness that has to be dealt with. I have wasted so many hours in bishopric and ward council meetings on nonsense, it's ridiculous. If I allowed it, I could let these experiences consume me to the point where I miss the beauty of the situations I have described above. I can't go into too much detail, but you know the situations - the petty arguments, the judging, the institutional unrighteous dominion, the "holier than thou" attitudes that members of the church can adopt sometimes. These situations have nothing at all to do with the gospel but everything to do with people thinking the church is their club. It's shockingly easy for people I thought were established members to fall into this trap. It's almost as if they think once they've been members for long enough, their opinion counts more than others and their way of running a church programme is much better than someone else's.
All this anger and upset is sometimes so needless it makes me want to bang my head against the wall. In fact, after one particular frustrating situation, when I was alone in the building, I banged my head against the door to the bishops office. It was harder than it looked.
In my office at church I have the well known painting of the Saviour in Gethsemane (above) behind my desk. When I am dealing with the petty nonsense situations I turn around to that painting and ask the parties involved how many drops of the Saviour's blood they are willing to make their situation create. Even long established members can sometimes lose perspective and forget why they are members in the first place.
Some of the drops of blood Christ bled, he needed to bleed for us because we are going though circumstances somewhat beyond our control. Other drops, needn't have been bled in the first place - we cause them to happen. Nevertheless, the Saviour has bled them anyway and no one drop is more important than another. Unlike me, I doubt He ranked the drops on a scale from "very important" to "bullpoo." He felt them all and He knows better than anyone what it feels like for everyone involved.
All the drops came willingly, I just hope I'm not too many of them.