Have you ever wondered what the abundance is that the Savior is talking about in this scripture? I am sure that most of us realize the Savior didn’t come to earth to suffer excruciating agony in the Garden and on the Cross for no other reason than to offer us material abundance. On the other hand, does this scripture refer only to eternal life in worlds to come? From my own experience, I can bear strong witness that there is a large portion of this abundance that we can possess in this life.
I have renamed my website/blog “Embracing Abundance.” It does talk about my writing, but that is because for me, writing is one of the chief ways that I embrace abundance. Eighty-eight percent of our minds are our subconscious. In there are stored all our memories and physical/psychological reactions to them. Whether positive or negative, this is part of our “abundance.” The understanding out of my subconscious mind, integrating the two parts of my brain, using the experiences of my life, fictionalized, to take others through my stories as though they are experiencing them for themselves. My goal is to follow Tolstoy’s (unfortunately I have very ambitious goals) definition of art as a way to help others experience life in a way that will lead them to true submission and emulation of their Savior.
In order to truly understand our Redeemer’s above-stated mission, I believe we must go back to the beginning of this earth, shortly after its creation. Let’s study Adam and Eve’s experience with the Savior, where there lies an important prototype for our lives.
One day, it occurred to me during meditation what an enormous void must have been created in our first parents’ lives when they were cast out of the Garden. Surely, their prior existence had been a life of great abundance. They had lived in the presence of the Father and the Son, and all of their most beautiful creations. With Eve by his side, Adam had been Lord of this Earth and everything in it. And how could anything possibly replace the easy discourse and direct love of their Creator and their Father in Heaven?
I realized as never before, how they endeavored the rest of their lives to regain that intimacy and companionship again. They understood much better than we do the divine void in their lives that resulted from being cast out of the Father’s presence. We know that they worked hard to obey every commandment, learning line upon line, then having their faith and obedience tested by Satan who was always there. And they were victorious. Adam is called a “perfect” man, and I believe that Eve became a perfect woman. We know that they eventually passed the sometimes brutal test of mortality and were worthy of the bestowal of power and knowledge that they would need to live with their heavenly parents once again. Through the restoration of the Gospel, this power and knowledge has been passed down to us, endowed upon us in the temple.
In pondering on our pre-existence, I believe that we once lived in the circle of our Father’s arms. He knew us more intimately than a loving earthly father knows a child, for He is omniscient. Do we miss that celestial caring on some level, as Adam and Eve did?
Through Joseph Smith’s modern-day revelation, we know that even in this life, with the veil lowered between our conscious minds and our pre-existence, we still possess the Light of Christ (Doctrine & Covenants 88:6-7). Just think! A slice of the love and light that forged the universe is there inside of each of us. That light can provide a little spark of memory of what it was like to live in the warmth of God’s presence.
On one unforgettable occasion, in the Dallas Temple, I was completely and unexpectedly flooded with that love to the point where I had to sob, because it was so great I couldn’t contain it inside me. The experience lasted hours, and I could not be brought to leave the temple. I know now that it was in preparation for trials to come, to provide a taste of what was waiting for me in the hereafter.
Love is the one thing that all humans hunger for, so when we recognize this slice of love, we yearn to feel it all the time, in greater abundance. We are naturally drawn to people who possess an abundance of love. We feel it from the Brethren at Conference, from friends who hold us when we cry, and if we are lucky, from family members who love us no matter what. I, as I have written in this column repeatedly felt it among the wonderful people of Italy. Sometimes filled with uncertainty and faced with failures, each of us longs to be loved for who we really are with the warm, nurturing love of a perfect Father. Because of this natural yearning for a deeper, richer, fuller love, it is but a step to the supposition that we, like Adam and Eve, harbor a divine void within us, where our relationship with our Father and Elder Brother used to be. Regardless of how much or how little love we receive from mortal sources, it cannot fill the place where immortal and eternal love once dwelt.
Yes, we are away at school. Yes, we have a hope of a future reunion. But as wonderful as those promises are, we cannot sit down beside our Heavenly Father and see into His face and hear His voice tell us of His love for us.
However, it is possible for us to have more of that love in our lives than we commonly do. Think: when do you magnify and enlarge this warmth, or Light of Christ within you? Can this void be filled? Think about the times when you have sacrificed. When you have performed your duties and responsibilities with a heart full of love. Picture yourself, kneeling humbly in prayer, or sitting quietly pouring your heart out in the Celestial Room. What did it feel like when you have been at your most Christlike? When you were full of the divine gift of charity? Didn’t it fill you with a delicious wholeness, almost like you were home from a long and successful journey?
As I watched my daughter holding her firstborn to her, less than twenty-four hours after his delivery, I could see that that love had come to her in a rush she was completely unprepared for.
In happy families, this type of charity continues through a child’s life and is taught in the home.
My husband’s parents were tremendous examples of charity and pure love although they were far from wealthy. They served many humanitarian missions to help those who had less than they did. My father-in-law always worked at the local food pantry, did charity service in the community, and would even weed and plant flowers on the grounds of the assisted-living center where he lived, without being asked to help or receiving any pay. He died while shoveling the church sidewalk, concerned that someone might fall going into Bible Study. My mother-in-law is a lay preacher for many churches in her community, leads several Bible study groups, and supported my sons on their missions with frequent letters and boxes of homemade cookies.
Though their means have never been great, they served the unfortunate and needy all their lives. I know they prepared my husband, through their charity, to recognize the restored church of Jesus Christ.
My home was different. I grew up lonely, with a dark well of wrenching sadness that I couldn’t fill or understand. Until I learned the truth of the gospel in college, I was a lost soul living in what is sometimes called the “existential void.” I choose to call it the divine void. Philosophers have been trying to understand it since the beginning of recorded thought. In a secular society, the desire to fill that void which is endemic to mortality leads people to many different coping mechanisms. Many good people do succeed in filling it with love and service to their fellow men. But others use alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behavior to try to fill their emptiness. Of course, these reactions only enslave. They are the adversary’s counterfeit “fillers.” Addicts can never get enough.
With that in mind, surely, it is one of life’s great ironies that the more we give, the more we are filled. And with what are we filled? Could it be the Living Water that makes us thirst no more? Or the love of Jesus Christ that never fails or is exhausted? Is this the true abundance of which He speaks in John? Yes, I believe it is.
One night, not too long ago, I was awash with terrible emotional pain that no earthly person could take away. I am ashamed to say that I bore it several hours, before I remembered the Savior. I prayed for His healing comfort, and it filled me. For hours, late into the night, I lay in my bed and felt that sacred, holy spirit work on my heart with understanding, obviating the pain, and filling my heart instead with the love that my Savior and Heavenly Father feel for me. It was more than just a “tender mercy.” It was another turning point in my life. Now I know for sure that I am never alone.
The void that was once filled with divine and limitless love can be refilled only from the same source. During this mortal separation from our Heavenly Parents and our Savior, we commence and continue feeling divine love by magnifying our mortal ability to love. Serving in love, as the Savior did, is the key to “embracing abundance.”
Visit my blog and share your experiences as you consciously strive to embrace abundance!
G.G. Vandagriff has been a columnist for Meridian since its inception. She is also the award-winning author of twelve books, the most recent being The Only Way to Paradise.