Easter had a very special meaning for me this year - probably more than it ever has before.
This year it meant so much to me because I feel like I finally, truly understood how much I need the Atonement. A desperate need. Because I was in the bottom of The Pit.
I've always been a "good girl." Read my scriptures. Went to church. Paid attention in Sunday School and seminary. I really tried hard to develop my testimony and do what was right. But for whatever reason, I always kind of knew I wasn't "converted." I knew I'd be a lifelong member - don't get me wrong - but I didn't feel like I was that bad of a person, didn't feel like I needed the church or repentance or anything like that. I prayed out of habit and never really expected anything in return.
Last Sunday, a week before Easter, I woke up feeling absolutely worthless, with no real cause. I can't really explain it, but I just had this tangible clarity. I saw myself as I really was. Every bad thing I've done. Every stupid thing I've said (and you could fill books longer and more numerous than the works of Tolkien with them). Even worse, all the embarrassing moments and things about me that just make me cringe.
I'm just not a good person. I'm simply not. Even when I'm trying to be, it seems fake and shallow, which is why so many people see through it. I'm so arrogant. Such a know-it-all. I think I'm invulnerable and perfect. I just try so hard to be liked and included. When I'm not, I just point the finger back at them while still striving to win their approval. No wonder they don't like me. Why would they? I'm nothing if not entirely self-serving.
To sum it all up, I felt worthless. Absolutely worthless. And the worst part? These terrible things about me aren't usually conscious choices, but ingrained facets of my personality and unhealthy habits. For the first time ever I saw myself as "The Natural Man." I have never felt so humbled and scared.
One of my favorite parables of the Atonement is the natural man who digs himself a hole with every bad decision, every mistake, always believing that he has the power, in and of himself, to save himself - to get out of that hole. Eventually, he realizes that his hole is now a pit, and he can't stop digging, let alone get out on his own. No ladder is tall enough. No man-made way out. After an impassioned plea, the only one who can save him, The Savior, appears and lifts him from his hopeless state.
That's where I was. Annoying Danica. Prideful, worldly, snarky, hypocritical Danica. At the bottom of that pit, hopeless. My mistakes span decades. I've squandered so many opportunities to be a good teammate, a righteous example, a faithful friend, an encouraging big sister, a helpful daughter and an optimistic social media user. I've been so fake and so really awful. My shortcomings so totally outweigh my righteous intentions.
"How can I fix those years of being the worst? Even if I could fix these awful mistakes, which I don't intentionally make and have no idea how to change, there's no way my family and friends can change their opinions of me now, not after years of me being so obnoxious. Where do I go from here? Burn everything and start over?" I asked to no one in particular, as I wiped away slow tears.
Then it came so soft and strong, not even from a voice or another person, other than perhaps the Holy Ghost drawing it out of me. It was MY voice, MY head, MY spirit that sat up, after much neglect and ambivalence.
"Obviously, Jesus Christ is your only option. THIS is what all your Sunday School teachers and General Conference talks were referencing. THIS is the Atonement. He is the only one that can erase those mistakes, those embarrassing moments and your every shortcoming. But it works. And it will work for you, too."
I've read about the Atonement. In detail. I've had the awesome EFY Atonement devotional experience. I've testified of my personal knowledge of the Atonement. But until that moment I didn't know that I knew. And I especially didn't know that I needed it so desperately.
But I do know. And I'm so grateful. This week has been so much lighter and better, not JUST because of Spring Break and our awesome vacation (post coming soon), but also because I was so humbled and recommitted to watch myself, repent, try harder, and just to be a better person. I was filled with hope, knowing that His sacrifice covers me and if I do what I need to, I can erase all the stupid stuff I've done.
Those of you who know me in real life - I've done a lot of this stupid stuff to you. You know how insufferable I can be. I know an internet apology really isn't anything at all, but I offer it nonetheless. I'm sorry for being such an obnoxious, hypocritical friend to you all. I do know now what a lame person I am and I'm really going to try to fix it.
Thank you so much for being so good to me anyways. I don't deserve such awesome friends and family, but I am certainly grateful every day for you. I know you are racking up the points in heaven just for being so cool to me when I'm the worst.
So here's to a new me - newer than any New Year, new school year, etc. I'm re-reading all of the October 2012 conference talks to prepare for conference this weekend and studying repentance, forgiveness, true conversion and charity like my life depends on it. Because, really, it does.
Thank goodness for my Savior, Jesus Christ, His magnificent Atonement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my amazing husband who loves me every day and for all of you.