There are three women who have given me a sizable amount of strife over the last two years. I am not going to use their names, or even provide general details on the circumstances, in order to protect their identities and good names. I’ll just call them “she”.
SHE was rude.
SHE was passive aggressive.
SHE was dishonest.
SHE was frivolous.
SHE was out of touch with reality.
SHE had unfair expectations.
SHE was hypocritical.
Sometimes, SHE was even cruel.
I complained about her to my friends- those who knew her and those who didn’t- and boy oh boy did I feel vindicated in my anger. They told me that I was in the right, that I was the reasonable one, and that I didn’t deserve to be treated in such a way- facts that I was already entirely confident in and couldn’t be shaken from.
I wondered why she was the way she was, what it was she didn’t like about me, what I had ever done to her, and why all of my efforts to rectify the situation and make peace seemed fruitless. Actually, I thought I knew why they were fruitless- it was because she was a thankless bitch who was dead-set on hating me. Poor little me who was just trying to get along.
Nearly two years ago I stood in my stand-in closet (because let’s be honest, it wasn’t big enough for actual walking) hanging laundry while listening to the priesthood session of general conference. I hadn’t been to intent on paying close attention to the speakers (it was priesthood, after all), but had it on in the background as I did some chores. I mention my location because the moment I received the following teaching is seared into my brain. It was Dieter F. Uchtdorf giving a talk titled “Lord, is it I?“. These were the words he shared, emphasis mine:
It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the evening before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them.
The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?”
Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?”
How humble, and how aware of their weakness before God, these men must have been. They had given up their lives to follow Jesus- became a homeless wandered like He was in order learn of Him and do His work. Surely they had proven their devotion. Surely they would not betray him.
I know that if I sat at a table with Christ and those three women and He told us that one of us was out of line, I would have sat demurely, feigning humility, while thinking to myself, “Oh it’s obviously HER, and man oh man I’m glad He knows how wretched this lady is.”
It must have been difficult for the disciples to believe that THEY would be the ones who would betray our Savior, but they had such love and admiration for their brethren, and such a desire to be perfect in Christ, that they saw themselves a sinner before the man siting next to them.”
Now it would have been nice if that talk had brought me to an immediate knowledge of my unworthiness before God, and I never looked to blame others before myself ever again. But this isn’t the ensign after all, this is my honest and dirty chronicle.
I knew that we should always look for the beam in our own eye before noticing the mote in another’s, but I honestly thought I was 100% certified beam free.
I was the one who was honest and forthright. I was the one who was kind in spite of being treated poorly day after day. I was the one who worked hard to meet expectations. And SHE was everything horrible and foul. And I had it reconfirmed to me over and over that it really WAS her. My friends and acquaintances declared with certainty that nobody liked her and that she was jealous of me because I was smarter/prettier/younger/happier/morally superior/generally better.
“Lord, it’s not I. I’m the smarter/prettier/younger/happier/morally superior/generally better one, after all.” I really had myself convinced that I was blameless. If I were to recount to you every detail of these relationships, you would probably judge that I was, in fact, in the right (or at least not so much in the wrong as she was). My mom, my dad, my friends, my church leaders, internet strangers even- EVERYBODY told me it was NOT ME.
“Lord, I know we are supposed to look inward to find fault, but there’s really none there, so please get this awful woman out of my life.”
The circumstances surrounding the revelation escape me, but somehow I realized that it wasn’t her after all.
It was me.
After months of struggling and complaining and thinking about how wrong she was and how right I was it hit me.
It was me.
I saw my errors, the greatest of which being my pride in deciding so early on that SHE was the problem. I did do things to try to fix the situation and make peace, but it was because she needed the fixing. I was already in the right.
Well, I was in the wrong.
I was distant.
I was insincere.
I was inconsiderate.
I was gossipy.
I was the one “rejoicing in iniquity”.
I was filled to the brim with pride.
“Lord, it is I, isn’t it?”
I had fallen short of Christ’s charge to love my neighbor, and had therefore fallen short in my love for God.
I still think that even if you could watch a replay of everything happened, you would judge me “the bigger, better person”, but being better than other people, being more right than other people, is totally unimportant and irrelevant in our strive to find happiness in Christ.
What matters is how we compare to Jesus, and we know that we all fall short of His glory. Every day we fall short. And what does Jesus do for the billions of people who he is infinitely better than? He extends his hands and invites all people to come unto him and be perfect like him, through the power of His atonement. I do not possess in my vocabulary and adjective to describe the magnificence and miracle of that atonement.
Confronting our sins can be a bit paradoxical. We don’t want to do it because it’s uncomfortable, but having those sins remitted is the most comfortable thing in the world. In order to know Christ, love Christ, and live with joy in His reality, I have found that I need to know Him intimately in the way that He wants me to- as my Savior.
In the words of the hymn “I Stand All Amazed”, I marvel that he would descend form his throne divine, to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.
When I marvel in God’s goodness, judgement of others no longer even makes sense. How can I be the recipient of such a great gift of forgiveness and redemption, and simultaneously look to my sister and scorn her for being fallen, just like me?
So, was it all my fault? I don’t know. Was it all her fault? I don’t know. Equally at fault? I don’t know. And I don’t care! It doesn’t matter!
Being “righter” than others is only important when we forget how much “righter” God is than we are.
That is why it is always I. An acknowledgment of our weakness and sin before God is always the answer, as that his what brings about his ability to bring peace and resolution to our souls, regardless of how the world rages on around us.
And when that peace and resolution comes, I hope I will always remember to cast my eyes heavenward, and declare,
“Lord, it’s You.”