On Sunday, I was asked to present a special lesson in Priesthood Meeting. I gave a lot of thought and prayer to what I was to present.
I talked about how easy it is to love those who love us first, how eager we are to volunteer in priesthood assignments to help a fellow brother or sister who has been a model of love and a champion of righteous living in our lives as we feel an obligation of sorts, and rightfully so, to pay back in some small way, when that person is now in need of our assistance. It is easy to remember the obvious widow or widower at Christmastime - but what about during the rest of the year? It is easy to reach out to the recent young widow whose husband prematurely died of a sudden heart attack leaving her with eight children - but what about months from now when the flower displays from the funeral have wilted and faded away?
But then I led a discussion of how the Savior loved everyone unconditionally. I twisted the Parable of the Lost Sheep (hopefully within the intent of Christ's words) to not be focused solely on the ONE who has sinned and needs repentance and has left the fold, or is "less active" and has turned from the Gospel (and the Church family associations), but more so, as the ONE who is around us within the Church family who is in silent pain, who is suffering quietly, who has issues (even SSA) that keeps one from connecting with the fellowship of the Saints, who is lonely and all alone - even when surrounded by people. This is the ONE who most likely does not PUBLISH their pain or disconnectivity or his loneliness and puts on a facade that all is well in Zion, when in reality they are screaming for help.
When we address the Lost Sheep, we usually place ourselves within the group of the 90-and-9. We are still in the fold. We are faithful. We are the good ones. In Luke 15:7, the Savior states: "... joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." But, who doesn't need to repent? Aren't we all sinners? And thus, isn't it logical that in reality we are ALL the "ONE" referred to in the parable?
The conversation evolved to where we admitted that it was easy to love and assist, to reach out and touch the obvious, the more visible, the loved brother or sister with a health problem - but that it is much more difficult to remember to reach out to those who don't have such visible ailments, but who are suffering ever so much. CONNECTIVITY - reaching out, touching each other, giving hugs, being kind, saying hello, befriending the friendless, the lonely, the one on the fringe, lifting the spirits of the one that isn't so "popular" for our affection, risking our own feelings and comfort zones by being willing to offer our assistance and affection as the spirit dictates, especially to the "unpopular" among us, or the ones with issues we may not understand (such as depression, SSA etc.) That is what the Savior did. He sought out the "unpopular" among us, not just the obvious, and he made each of us feel as we were the "ONE".
In the end, after the lesson, many stiff High Priests came up to me and thanked me for touching their hearts and making them think in a new way. Then, an interesting phenomenon occurred... they lined up and gave me a hug! I didn't ask for these hugs, especially from older men who I never thought to hug before. Though these hugs were rigid and stiff - the good ol' priesthood quick embrace and three pats on the back (not two, not four - just three), they were still hugs and signs of affection for me - from men that I would not expect to demonstrate such sensitivities in such a public forum. It felt good. I felt blessed and humbled for having been there to be edified by the power of the spirit and the power of brotherhood. (Granted, I couldn't help but wonder why it is that as men get older we often become less open in our expressions of affection - we become more distant in our public expressions - why is that? I don't ever wnat to to do that. I never want to change! I wish with all my heart that I could truly connect with them as I do with my "younger" brethren who aren't afraid to truly be "connected" with me, and openly embrace me with the affectionate brotherly love of David and Jonathan - but that's for another day - for now I should be grateful that some level of connection was made with the seasoned members of the ward... But I couldn't help but wonder why it is that so many have such a problem with physical affection, with touching each other, with truly hugging without reservation - I guess there are those of us who are "touchy feely" and then there are those who are not - I'm just glad I'm a touchy-feely guy, and I love to encourage others to open themselves to the power of TOUCH!)
I hope to live up to my own lesson: Be not afraid to reach out with love and kindness to the ONE among us! (P.S. Remember that YOU are the "one"!)