A childhood friend posted on Facebook today the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”
Given the social turmoil in the last few weeks concerning the unjust police shootings of several unarmed men across the country, and of the violent and unjust retaliation that occurred in Dallas, TX, where 5 officers lost their lives at a #BlackLivesMatter rally from sniper fire — I believe it will do all of us good to turn inward and ask ourselves “Lord, is it I?”
Let me explain…
Over the years I have been in a place to observe many marriages that were on shaky ground. Inevitably, without fail, I saw that the difficulties and problems in the marriages were reduced down to each spouse blaming the other for all the problems in the marriage. No one wanted to take personal responsibility or accountability of their own thoughts, words, and actions. Everything each spouse did wrong was supposedly the consequence of the other spouse’s problems. The marriages that were saved, however, were where each spouse had taken that responsibility and accountability for themselves and had learned to serve selflessly.
When we see so many bad things going on in our families, our communities, our nation, or the world, the initial pull is for us to look externally to everything outside of ourselves and to find responsibility and accountability in “the other” — whatever and whoever “the other” is. We do not take the time to look inwardly to ask ourselves “Lord, is it I?” As such, we fail to experience one of the grand and exciting parts of this life: repentance.
My wife, as our kids were just barely old enough to comprehend what she was saying, immediately taught our children the sweet lessons of repentance. She defined and taught repentance as “learning and choosing to be better.” The Bible Dictionary defines repentance as as a
Change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and to a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation…
I love my wife’s simple and childlike definition of repentance, for it perfectly fits into the scriptures’ definition. We often think of repentance as drudgery and something that we must do with “sackcloth and ashes” after committing a grievous sin. But that view of repentance is so narrow as to almost lose any real meaning for our daily lives.
Instead, repentance is anything that we can do on a daily basis wherein we draw closer to God. Repentance is a song that we heard that made us want to be better. Repentance is that “Ah-Ha!” moment that we have when we read something new and wonderful in the scriptures and apply it in our life. Repentance is when we see the hand of God in the lives of ourselves or someone else and it changes our thoughts, perceptions, and natures in becoming more like our Heavenly Parents.
Repentance is not to be loathed, frowned upon, or come to with reluctant feelings. It is an empowering moment that we should experience on a daily basis. It is the utilization of our agency to choose to be better, as we draw nearer and closer to God.
These moments of personal or national sadness and uneasiness require repentance as a necessity for our peace and humanity. It is through repentance that we begin to more fully see the hand of God in all things.
In October’s General Conference, 2014, President Uchtdorf offered a wonderful discourse entitled “Lord, is it I?” In the talk, President Uchtdorf asked us to put away our pride. Pride is always a central feature in blaming the world around us and in prohibiting our own internal repentance process in taking accountability and responsibility for ourselves. Pride is the antithesis of repentance, as President Benson once observed,
The central feature of pride is enmity — enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, thy ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philip. 2:21)…
Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.
Pride is what keeps us turned outward in blaming our external world. It is what keeps us feeling justified in anger and in keeping hostility and hatred towards a group of people (whether it be a spouse, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or law enforcement in general). Whenever we have demonized another group, we know that we are dealing with our own pride. This pride, if left unchecked, will prohibit our ability of experiencing repentance. It takes a humble heart, in such situations, to ask ourselves “Lord, is it I?”
The Adversary, as cunning as he is, does not want us dwelling on this question “Lord, is it I?” He wants us to displace accountability and responsibility on the other — always the other — to justify our prideful hatred for, hostility towards, and opposition to someone or something else. He wants us to believe that it is not us that needs to change, but them. After all, I am not responsible for what happened to the unarmed black men who were killed by the law enforcement officers. After all, I am not responsible for what happened to the law enforcement officers by the retaliatory sniper de facto brigade. How do I need to repent in this situation?
The fact is, I did not pull the trigger in any of these circumstances. I do not share that isolated responsibility and accountability. However, that said, I am responsible and accountable for my own feelings, thoughts, words, peace, and actions that I take in response to these atrocities — whether privately or in public. As I turn inward in writing this, I am forced to ask myself what I can do to change this world so that this does not happen again. The tendency and temptation is for me to look externally and outward to vilify someone and something for all of this. However, as I ask “Lord, is it I?”, I am told that, for my own peace, I must repent and see the Lord and his gospel anew.
There are calls on both sides of this current national issue to “not judge until you have all of the facts.” This is hard to do, for we all have our natural man biases that pull us to justify and vilify something or someone. However, as President Uchtdorf said, we all have our spiritual blind spots. We all of our motes and our beams. The shaking of our peace comes from our own internal pride, not from any external factor.
We may never receive all of the information to make a perfect assessment and judgment, but we do not need to. Let us then turn inward and improve ourselves between us and the Lord. Then we are ready to turn outward to improve us and our fellowmen. We will affect the world around us somehow and in some way (as we always do). This series of atrocities across our nation will come and go, as we will likely see a surge of violence sweep over our nation, but what are we to do without all of the information?
Let our daily worship of God and our sphere of power, influence, and communication be done in the spirit of repentance, of humility, and of the love of God and of our fellowmen. Let us throw off the feelings of depression for how bad the world is outside of ourselves, and, in asking “Lord, is it I?”, let us follow the promptings of the Spirit that will inevitably come.
And if the Lord’s answer happens to be “Yes, my son, there are things you must improve, things I can help you to overcome,” I pray that we will accept this answer, humbly acknowledge our sins and shortcomings, and then change our ways by becoming better husbands, better fathers, better sons. May we from this time forward seek with all our might to walk steadfastly in the Savior’s blessed way – for seeing ourselves clearly is the beginning of wisdom (President Uchtdorf).
In the wake of so much external sorrow, grief, and anger, let us all take responsibility and accountability in learning and choosing to be better in our own personal lives — for this is the first and necessary step in making any substantive changes externally.