Relief Society Lesson — Christ: The Light that Shines in Darkness by Sharon Eubank

Intro:  

Sharon Eubank is 1st counselor in RS General Presidency and also the director of LDS charities. She begins her talk by saying that one day she was in her office in the RS building and for the first time she can remember, the temple lights didn’t go on at dusk. She uses that as a guiding metaphor for this talk: Sometimes we see dark where we expect to see light. Sometimes our lights get dim. Exhaustion, grief, feeling isolated take away our light. For Eubank, when our lights get dim, Christ can give us his light to be our best, most grounded, most authentic selves.

I thought this metaphor of darkness and light was great. Have you had experiences of seeing dark when you expected to see light? How did you cope? Were you able to overcome the dark?

Sometimes We are So Tired:

Eubank mentions that sometimes we’re just really tired. Exhaustion can dim our lights.

Read quote: “Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said: “It is not intended that we run faster than we have strength. … But [in spite of] that, I know … many of you run [very,] very fast and that [the] energy and emotional supply sometimes registers close to empty.” When expectations overwhelm us, we can step back and ask Heavenly Father what to let go of. Part of our life experience is learning what not to do. But even so, sometimes life can be exhausting. Jesus assures us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Exhaustion is real. There have been times I’ve felt so unexcited by life, so unenthused. When I had young kids the constant never-ending labor was so hard. The day my first kid stopped napping, he was 2. My husband was a clerk at church, and he had long meetings. This Sunday I had been trying to put him down and then this utter horror overcame me as I realized he wasn’t going to go down and I wasn’t going to get a break from him. Just started crying for half an hour and couldn’t stop. Mike got home and had to take me on a car ride to get me to stop crying.

So sometimes we’re just tired and it is hard to do what we need to do. Holland and Eubank mention that Christ gives us rest. 1) Do you have experience in finding rest in Christ?  What was that process like? 2) What else have you learned to do to give yourself the energy to get up and do what you need to do? How do you replenish yourself? 

Some of us Feel we don’t Fit the Traditional Mold

Read quote: “For various reasons, we don’t feel accepted or acceptable. The New Testament shows the great efforts Jesus made to reach out to all kinds of people: lepers, tax collectors, children, Galileans, harlots, women, Pharisees, sinners, Samaritans, widows, Roman soldiers, adulterers, the ritually unclean. In almost every story, he is reaching someone who wasn’t traditionally accepted in society.”

This is the part of Christianity that I love best and that I find most inspiring — that Jesus was this wonderful model of reaching beyond social tiers and categories, of finding goodness and acceptability in all these people and identities that were traditionally considered impure or less than. He was a man who would violate purity laws of the time by eating with, touching, talking to those considered less pure.

What are your thoughts about this example Jesus has set, of reaching out to those not generally accepted. Is this something that resonates with you? What are your experiences with reaching out to people who aren’t traditionally accepted? Thoughts? Fears? Worthwhile experience?

When I was the humanitarian person in this ward, I got us involved in Family Promise, an organization that helps feed and house homeless families. It involved our ward eating with and hanging out with people who are homeless. I’m not an extrovert, so it takes some emotional energy for me to do small talk with people I don’t know in big groups. I love having great intimate conversations with friends in small groups – my favorite thing in the world. But it’s harder for me to do with strangers. But that was a really worthwhile experience for me. It stretched me and opened up my eyes to the struggles the working poor in our community are facing.

Eubank tells the New Testament story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.

Read quote: “He climbed a tree in order to see Jesus walk by. Zacchaeus was employed by the Roman government and viewed as corrupt and a sinner. Jesus saw him up in the tree and called to him, saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”5 And when Jesus saw the goodness of Zacchaeus’s heart and the things he did for others, He accepted his offering, saying, “This day is salvation come to this house, [for] he also is a son of Abraham.”

I liked this story because it’s a story of Jesus being there for people no matter where they are at. He’s not saying. “Zacchaeus, I’m only coming to your house if you give up your nasty profession.” No he’s coming anyway, even though Z was seen as impure, traitorous, unholy. And he’s saying to everyone, “This guy’s going to get salvation. I’m claiming him.” So for me, this is a story not only of reaching out beyond the barriers but also Jesus working with us where we are at. Wherever that is.  We may not be perfect, we may not be doing things that are not all that great, maybe even we’re participating in systems that are really quite abusive and messed up. But Jesus is still here to claim us. It reminds me of that famous quote by Abby (Dear Abby): “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

What are your thoughts about this idea? Do you feel like Jesus is willing to reach out to you where you are at?  Or do you feel like you have to be a certain level of good before Jesus does. What can we do to get to a place where we can believe that Jesus is there for us where we’re at, no matter our weaknesses and faults and bad decisions?

Turn to person next to you and tell her your favorite Jesus story and why it’s your favorite. Share with the class.

Some of us Are Splintering With Questions

As someone who has a lot of questions, I really appreciated the vulnerability and honesty it took for Eubank to admit to millions of people that she’s had big, heavy religious questions and that she’s struggled with and weighed down by.

Read quote: “Not many years ago, I was weighed down and irritated with questions I could not find answers to. Early one Saturday morning, I had a little dream. In the dream I could see a gazebo, and I understood that I should go stand in it. It had five arches encircling it, but the windows were made of stone. I complained in the dream, not wanting to go inside because it was so claustrophobic. Then the thought came into my mind that the brother of Jared had patiently melted stones into clear glass. Glass is stone that has undergone a state change. When the Lord touched the stones for the brother of Jared, they glowed with light in the dark ships. Suddenly I was filled with a desire to be in that gazebo more than any other place. It was the very place—the only place—for me to truly “see.” The questions that were bothering me didn’t go away, but brighter in my mind was the question after I woke up: “How are you going to increase your faith, like the brother of Jared, so your stones can be turned into light?””

I like this on a few levels.

  •  I like that she had personal revelation and that helped her to reframe things. This is a story of a woman’s revelation.
  • I like that admitted that her questions didn’t get resolved (very realistic).  And she didn’t beat herself up for having the questions. Uchtdorf said, “In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth.”
  • I like that this was a story about learning to reframe things, a valuable skill in life. There were these stone walls not allowing her to see. But she realized she had the power to change those stones into glass. This was a dream about one’s potential for new vision and new understanding.

How have you dealt with your questions? Have you learned to live graciously with your questions? Have you been able to change stones to windows? What has been your reframing process?

My reframing process has involved becoming more of a pragmatist as I’ve aged. Of course there are problems. Of course people/church leaders/prophets aren’t perfect. Of course our systems and programs aren’t always ideal. There are no perfect people or organizations on earth anywhere. For example, I used to be really bothered by things Paul said about women in the New Testament. Now I think, “Of course he said that. How could I expect anything else from a man in a first century context who was socialized into oppressive patriarchy and probably couldn’t even begin to envision things differently?”

Conclusion

I wanted to end with this nice quote by Eubank:

“I testify you are beloved. The Lord knows how hard you are trying. You are making progress. Keep going. He sees all your hidden sacrifices and counts them to your good and the good of those you love. Your work is not in vain. You are not alone.”

My hope is that, echoing Eubank, we can come to understand that we’re not alone, that we are seen, that we matter, that perfection isn’t the focus, progress and learning is.  I hope that Jesus and his example of love that meets us where we’re at can bring us hope and peace. Grateful to you for your stories and insights.

 

 

 

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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