Decades ago, my wife, Shauna, received word from some of her friends from high school that her class would be holding a 20th-year reunion in August. She was excited to go and be a part of it. She asked me if I would be willing to go with her, so I dutifully smiled and agreed to accompany her.
The plans went forward, and the anticipated day came. The evening was much as I thought it would be. My wife is a very loving person and has been so forever, so she has boatloads of friends. She shook hands and hugged and greeted people with excitement for hours, most of whom she had not seen for twenty years. Once in a while she would say to me: “Bob, could you wait here for just a second? I’ll be right back. I want to go over and say something to Brenda (or Bill or Becky).” And so I would stand there, not so patiently, mentally wringing my hands, wondering why time seemed to stand still. During one of those occasions, at about nine o’clock, I began to feel some bitterness toward Shauna for leaving me alone so much. It simply didn’t seem right to me. Why couldn’t she be more sensitive? Don’t I matter as much as her high school friends?
And then something happened. Something unexpected. I began to be taught and chastened through the medium of memory. I began to sense things I had never sensed before, such as how very much my wife had given of herself to stand by me for so long, to bear and basically rear our children, and to move forward through terribly challenging years without complaint. I reflected with much pain about how often I had been the center of attention, how often I had been the one to win the accolades, while she quietly and in the background went about the task of supporting and sustaining. I pondered in much anguish of soul on the times when I had been insensitive or just plain uncaring.
I don’t think I am a mean and vicious person by nature, but I suddenly remembered all the times through the years when, in the name of physical exhaustion, I had failed to assume my part of the parental obligation; when I neglected to call home and indicate that I would be late for dinner; and, most painful of all, when I knew she needed to be alone, to rest, to have time to herself, but I elected to do something other than be thoughtful. I didn’t have much to say during the rest of the evening, though I tried to act interested in what was going on.
Perhaps worrying I was not having as enjoyable an evening as she was, Shauna eventually suggested that she was ready to go home. I nodded. As we drove away, few words were spoken. At a certain point on the way home, she turned to me and said sweetly, “I’m so grateful for my life. Thank you for marrying me.” I was moved to tears but refrained from saying anything. We arrived home about forty-five minutes later. Shauna has the capacity to sit down and go to sleep in one motion, and so we were only home for a brief time before she dropped off to sleep. I was not so fortunate.
▶You may also like: Ask a Latter-day Saint therapist: What is compatibility?
It was a restless night of facing up to who and what I had been through the years. After a relatively sleepless period of hours, with time spent on my knees begging for forgiveness and promising to be better, I awoke to a new view of things. Sparing the details, let me say simply that without warning I was endowed with a depth of love and caring and affection that was beyond anything I had ever experienced before. For a period of days I was consumed with the love of God. I loved my wife, my children, and, above all, the Lord and His work, with all my heart. For days I saw things with different eyes.
There is no way for me to describe the tenderness of feelings that accompanied what I can only label a rebirth. At church I sang the hymns of Zion with gusto and great emotion. I read the scriptures with different eyes and attended to “new writing” everywhere (see 1 Nephi 16:29). I prayed with real intent and with a sense of purpose that had seldom accompanied my petitions before. At the end of a glorious Sabbath day, as Shauna and I stood on our front porch on a breezy August evening, I turned to her, and from the depths of my heart I said: “For reasons that I do not understand, I have been given what I think is a foretaste of eternal life. If this is what it is like to dwell in the celestial kingdom with God, with you, with our family, and among the Saints, then I will give everything, even my own life, to feel this forever.”
I have come to believe that the Lord’s barometer of righteousness is the heart. No matter the depth of our knowledge, the efficiency of our administration, the charisma with which we influence and lead people—no matter how well we do what we do, of much greater significance in the eternal scheme of things is what we feel toward God and our fellow humans, what we are, and what we are becoming. It is so easy to be distracted from what matters most, to focus on things, when, in reality, it is people that matter most.
Sister Neill F. Marriott, formerly of the Young Women General Presidency, taught beautifully that “our Father’s infinite love reaches out to us, to bring us back into His glory and joy. He gave His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to repair the breach that gapes wide between us and Him. Reunion with Father in Heaven is the essence of lasting love and eternal purpose. We must make the connection with Him now to learn what really matters, to love as He loves, and to grow to be like Him. I testify that our faithful relationship with Heavenly Father and the Savior matters eternally to Them and to us.”
Forgiveness of sin, which comes from Christ the Lord, conveys His perfect love and, in process of time, empowers us to love in like manner. We must pray for forgiveness, for cleansing, for reconciliation with the Father through the Son. And we must pray for charity. We must plead for it. We must ask the Father, in the name of the Son, with all the energy of heart, to be so endowed (see Moroni 7:48). As we do so, there will come moments of surpassing import, sublime moments that matter, moments in which our whole souls seem to reach out to others with a kind of fellowship and affection that we would not otherwise know. New Testament scholar N. T. Wright offered this provocative insight: “Love is the language they speak in God’s world, and we are summoned to learn it against the day when God’s world and ours will be brought together forever. It is the music they make in God’s courts, and we are invited to learn it and practice it in advance. Love is not a ‘duty,’ even our highest duty. It is our destiny.”
Whole in Christ
This is a book about becoming better—much better—than we are. Though we may stumble at times, we can center our lives on the Son of God, stay on the gospel path, increase our service and love for one another, and find comfort and sanctification that comes from the pure love of Christ. This book illustrates how we can begin to emulate the Savior in mortality and how, through the power of His Holy Spirit, the Lord can help us develop a Christian character, thereby preparing us to dwell happily with Him forever. Available at Deseret Book and deseretbook.com.