I love watching my daughter grab new sheets of paper and draw and erase and re-draw. Why? Because with every page, she is getting better at drawing. She’s learned what she did wrong, and is trying it again. With each new artwork, she learns new skill, gains experience and is on her way to becoming an artist.
What does this have to do with repentance and forgiveness? Everything.
When we look at earth life as a time to practice and learn, then we allow ourselves to be involved in the process of becoming a better human, and hopefully, a better man or woman of Christ.
My Dad coined a phrase that he used when I was young. It was “fresh start.” Let me give you an example of it in action – “I know that you’ve just yelled at me because you were stressed out. Shall we have a fresh start to the conversation?”
That simple idea, led to something amazing – a feeling of safety with my parents. I knew that I could make mistakes, try again, and be better. I knew that I could mess up and still be loved. It gave me an extraordinary amount of self-confidence in my relationship with them.
Later, my Dad added to the idea by asking us (after an argument, etc.) if we were friends again, or friends still. The intent of this question was to elicit the answer – friends still, because if we said that we were friends again, it implied that there was a time in which we weren’t friends. He never wanted that. Even in difficult moments, he strove for our relationship to be one of love and closeness, and though at times we would hurt or anger each other, there was an underlying thread of friendship and love that held us together.
Today, I listened to a program on the Church’s radio station about forgiveness, that got me thinking about fresh starts. I wanted to paraphrase a section, but I recommend the entire episode to you. You can listen to it by following this link.
There was a man sharing an experience about the time when he was the bishop of a ward which had several priests (young men aged 16-18) in it. One particular evening, a young man from his ward came to his door in the middle of the night. This boy had committed a serious sin, and sought counsel and hep from the bishop. The loving bishop spent the night talking with and helping the young man (who was very concerned about his own future and the consequences of the mistake that he had made).
The young man made the necessary changes to find and receive full forgiveness and the bishop went on to talk about all of the priests from the ward, five in all, who went on to serve missions and marry in the temple. The bishop said that of all of the boys, he couldn’t remember which was the one who had committed the sin (the one who he had counseled with into the night). Years later, the bishop was visiting the old neighborhood and tried again to remember which young man it was. An impression came to his mind. A voice said, “My son, I’ve forgotten it, why should you remember it?”
Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. Doc. & Cov. 58:42
Is there anything better than that?
Here it is again –
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18
Here’s the Savior, inviting us to have a “fresh start.” Inviting us to be “friends still.” Inviting us to have a loving relationship with Him. To forge an underlying bond of friendship and love that will hold us together even in difficult times.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
If we can look at our mortality as a time to improve rather than a time for perfection, we can become perfect (Matthew 5:48) in time.
So, become better. Practice repentance. Practice forgiveness. Start fresh. Learn to have confidence in your relationship for the Savior, for He careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).