“For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.” (Alma 33:16.)
And then, not so suddenly, it dawned on me that salvation is not about changing how God feels about me. It’s about changing how I feel about God and myself, which are synonymous. It’s discovering that loving God means loving myself.
Jesus claimed complete identity with God. (John 10:30-39; John 14:7-11.) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” said Jesus. (John 14:9.) He claimed that he and God were one and the same. (John 17:21-22.)
Can you imagine how your family, friends and neighbors would react if you made a similar claim? This is precisely why Jesus was labeled “demon-possessed and raving mad.” (John 10:20.)
Remarkably, Jesus saw you as an extension of himself. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” (John 15:5.) His great intercessory prayer was that we “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:20.) His greatest desire was “that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me.” (John 17:22-23.) The greatest yearning of Jesus is that you might stop seeing yourself as separated from him!
Jesus tries to communicate his oneness and solidarity with you through the ordinances. Hence, at baptism you were immersed in him, the living water. (John 7:37-39.) You eat his flesh and drink his blood each week, literally, chemically and biophysically having him become part of you. (John 6:53-56.) You are called by his name—again, merging your identity with his. (Mosiah 5:7-9; see also Alma 5:14; Alma 46:15; D&C 20:77, 79.)
Jesus also does this through his teachings. He tells you that whatever you do to others you do to him (and that whatever others do to you, they do to him). (Matthew 25:40, 45; Mosiah 2:17.) In countless scriptures which, for whatever reason, we tend to bury and never discuss, you are reminded that God can possess and dwell in your body. (John 6:56; Acts 7:48; 1 Corinthian 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 John 4:12-13; Alma 34:34-36; D&C 130:22.) How many ways can Christ say that he is with us … that he is part of us!!!
You are part of the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things.
As you move towards full acceptance of this reality, you discover you are part of the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. Your very spiritual DNA is the same as his, the light of Christ, which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.” It is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:12–13; see also D&C 88:6-11; Moroni 7:16, 18.). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:14.) You are an extension of this light and love, just like Jesus said. You, too, are the light of the world! (Matthew 5:14.)
Being awakened to your inherent light, feeling beloved, feeling worthy, feeling good enough, feeling hope, feeling adequate … that is atonement. That is salvation. Atonement is awakening to the knowledge that nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Romans 8:31-39.) It’s not about changing God’s mind about you. It’s about changing your mind about God. It’s about remembering who you are and accepting the reality that you are good enough for God.
Unfortunately, much of religion has become so toxic, beating in to you the idea that you’re never quite good enough, that you’re never fully worthy, that you can always do better. No wonder we have an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicide on our hands! What kind of parent would send such toxic messaging to her or his child? If you are stinging from the venom of shame and inadequacy can the antidote be found by casting your gaze in a different direction … by choosing to see things differently … by believing in a different message … by seeing the message or Messenger differently? It can’t be that easy … can it?
When the Israelites were bitten by “fiery flying serpents … he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.” (1 Nephi 17:41.) All they had to do was look to the brazen serpent—a type of Christ (John 3:14-15)—but they wouldn’t look because they thought that was just too easy. (Alma 33:19-20.) Surely the God they thought they knew wouldn’t make it so easy! The God they knew made things much more difficult. The God they thought they knew made everything complicated and expected more from them. Ironically, it was their toxic ideas about God that killed them, not the venom.
Likewise, your toxic ideas about God—not the inevitable venom of life or the toxicities you have absorbed—is what ultimately kills you!
So I ask, will you believe that by seeing things a different way you can be healed of your insecurities, your anger, your wounds, your toxicities, your hurts, the venomous ideas and toxic beliefs you have held inside of you? I ask, “if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief[?]” (Alma 33:21.)
Can you see that if Jesus is who he said he was, then you are who Jesus says you are? (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34.) You are one and the same, different aspects of the same reality! Branch to vine. Light inside of Light. You are the beloved son! You are the beloved daughter! You are good enough. When God said, “This is my beloved son [or daughter], hear him [or her]” he was talking about you! He was asking you to listen to your inner light … the Christ buried in the womb of your innermost self.
The discovery of your own true identity is synonymous with the discovery of God. This will come to you as the still, small voice of assurance from deep inside that trusting yourself is trusting God. That loving yourself is loving God. I love how John Philip Newell described it: “Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot. The deeper we move in our own being, the closer we come to Christ. And the closer we come to Christ’s soul, the nearer we move to the heart of one another. In Christ, we hear not foreign sounds but the deepest intimations of the human and the divine intertwined.”
As a father, my greatest heartache is seeing my children suffer needlessly because they simply aren’t aware of how wonderful, worthy, capable, and loved they really are. The greatest gift they could give me is to confidently love themselves. Our identities … our hearts … they are so intertwined that when they wound themselves, it wounds me deeply. When they are bruised, I am bruised. When they are broken, I am broken. But there is no greater hurt than when they can’t love themselves. Don’t you think your Heavenly Father feels the same way about you? Now can you see that loving God means loving yourself?
Deny not the gifts of God! (Moroni 10:8.) If the atonement is a gift, you shouldn’t have to earn it. In fact, you can’t and won’t. (See 2 Nephi 2:4 ; 2 Nephi 25:23; 2 Nephi 26:27 ; Mosiah 2:20-21) Believe that “ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ[.]” (Moroni 10:33.) Then live your days not to earn God’s love but to reveal it; not to merit God’s love but to share it. Show people who you really are and you’ll show them who God really is. If “come follow me” means anything, it should mean that.