Our ward has grown to the point that a short sacrament hymn isn’t long enough for the priests to prepare enough trays of bread and water. Last Sunday, the organist ended with the last verse, and we all sat quietly for another minute or two. In the quiet (well, relatively speaking as our ward has more darling, busy babies than one can count), I pondered on the breaking of the bread and with a sudden freshness realized that the bread, though once whole, was now broken and in pieces. In a striking parallel, the sacrament is an appointed time to focus on our own broken-ness – be it from sins (of omission and commission), circumstances (both in and out of control) weakness, yielding to temptations, emotional fragility, bad habits, negative dependencies, etc. We are each, by the sheer nature of mortality and our Heavenly Father’s divine intent to prove us, just like the sacrament bread: we too are torn and broken.
The priests finally finished and the prayer on the bread was said. I thought of my own life and past week. The familiar and dear words were comforting and resonated in a new way.
While the deacons passed the trays, into my mind came a vivid picture of the Savior’s own challenging mortal journal and the terrible days of his last week on the earth. Broken-ness was part of his life too! First there was the physical suffering that is far beyond what we can conceive of or endure; the emotional toll for all our sins that he bore in the Garden of Gethsemane, the cruel betrayal from his dear friends and apostles, the prejudiced injustices of the prosecution and leaders at his mock trial, the emotional distress of leaving his beloved mother in the care of others and the depths of sorrow that He must have felt throughout his grueling, inconceivably horrible ordeal.
Though his legs and bones were not broken to fulfill the prophecy of being a perfect sacrifice, the mortal Christ surely experienced his own broken-ness: i.e. the broken heart as he viewed the hastened ending to his own life, and the broken circumstances of the lives around him. His skin was broken with the barbs (actually shards of broken pottery affixed to sharp leather straps) on the whips. Most heart-rending of all was the broken connection from his own Father, who required that He complete this task alone. “Father My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) he called in what was surely a broken voice.
Soon the sacramental water, clear and fresh was blessed and passed. Into my mind was no longer the suffering Savior, but Him redeemed and whole! The Atonement! Of course! That which makes the broken whole, and one again.
Although I had seen the word atonement simplified into the three words “at-one-ment” many times before, I realized that HERE is the divine miracle: The Savior of Miracles who could turn water into wine, walk upon the waters, heal the sick and bring forth the dead, could also turn the broken pieces of bread back into a whole loaf at his command.
With exactly the same love and power, He can transform the broken pieces of one’s life and spirit into a whole life so that it is also complete, whole, in one piece … literally at-one-ment with both God and oneself.
While I am quite sure that this symbolism is not original to me, it came unbidden and was a gift of personal understanding last Sunday that I will cherish for a lifetime. It left me headed for two volumes: the scriptures and a treasured and well-worn book by an LDS author.
From the scriptures: Isaiah 53: 4-5, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities … and with his stripes, we are healed!”
From the other book comes a marvelous way to become become “at one” with the Savior and “at one” with oneself in terms of creating a personal and single minded union between feelings, thoughts and actions for greater peace, wholeness and personal progress.
“Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” (first published in 1991 and still in print) is the fruit of an LDS woman’s search to fix her own “holes in the soul” as she calls the difficulties that come to each of us. She, like those of us who read this column, found herself often turning to food to fill in the holes and soothe the broken places. This resulted in extra pounds that created additional problems, both physical and emotional. As a wife, mother and intelligent woman, she knew that the overeating was symptomatic of much deeper issues, and that it was all a complex cycle of negativity on every level.
Open to learning and with a desire to make permanent changes, she took classes on behavior management (in the Provo, Utah area) and when a friend brought a simple method of self-talk and self-awareness to her attention, it made sense. Though not a prayer, it also acknowledged and invited the Savior’s power and presence. She tried it and in a remarkably short time, her feelings, thoughts and actions became much more “at one.” She was more whole than she had ever been in her life. Now able to address her food challenges , as well as other areas in her life in a respectful way she becmme healthy and more whole. It worked so well and so easily that she shared it with friends and family, even her youngest teenage son. When it worked for them, she knew she had a duty to share it.
And share she has. Her book, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die” was first self-published in 1991. Since then it has gone through multiple re-printings and has remained a top seller for both her LDS and non-LDS book distributors for well over 10 years. (It is available at Amazon, LDS Bookstores , Barnes & Noble, and Borders, along with her second book, “Healing Feelings From Your Heart.”
She defines her work as helping people take a journey to their true selves. Her simple, yet profound approach regarding how to guide feelings, thoughts and ensuing behavior provides greater personal understanding and self-awareness, There is also an easy to follow “self-talk” technique that addresses both simple and complex issues with a spiritual element that is both empowering and comforting. The book and this technique has become a favorite for many professional therapists as it is both easy (and enjoyable) to read and to implement.
(As a fun side note, Sister Truman, who is now in her 70’s, is an accomplished pianist. Her grandsons form the band, Truman, and were recently highlighted in a Meridian article.)
Are you in tune with the feelings that create behaviors that disappoint, confuse and hurt you? A questionnaire on Sister Truman’s website, (the link is below) has been been created to guide you as you begin evaluating your feelings and the impact feelings have in your life. Sister Truman says that becoming aware of your feelings is a necessary step to changing negative feelings to positive feelings.
Later that day, we were blessed to have the sacrament again as my husband provided it for my aging mother who had been unable to attend Church with us. As I shared my experience with them, the still small voice whispered again of the Atonement’s power to help health the broken spots and fill the holes in a way that food never can, and never will.
How great the wisdom and the love, indeed! It is comforting for me to know that although our own “holes of the soul” direct, detour and delay the progress we desire, they are ultimately what define us and help us progress, with the Lord’s aid, both in this life and to establish our place of rest in the next life, all of it an exciting journey to our true selves.
He marked the path and led the way
And every point defines,
To light and life and endless days,
Where God’s full presence shines. (Hymn 195)
Carolyn Allen has been providing weight loss inspiration since 1999 both online and in community venues in the Washington, D.C. area. Her book, 60 seconds to Weight Loss Success, is available at Amazon.com Her favorite food is steamed broccoli (lots of it!) with a little butter and lemon-pepper. Learn more about her herbal health tonic and colon cleanse at www.MyMiracleTea.com