It was Good Friday. I was sitting with friends I love and trust as we sang the opening songs of the evening’s program. I’d never attended a Good Friday Worship Service before and had been anticipating it ever since I learned there would be one. As I slipped into the seat saved for me by the friend who has held my hand through this transition, I had no idea what to expect. But it didn’t matter. We were there to remember the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. And I finally understood the significance of the Cross! Oh, to know the truth that it was on the Cross that the Savior of the world atoned for my sins and paid redemption’s ransom! I was grateful for this new insight, and humbled that He would call me His own.
One event of the evening I hadn’t anticipated, though it should have been utmost in my mind, was the opportunity to participate in His Holy Communion. I’d talked with a pastor previously about the differences between the Christian Communion and the Mormon Sacrament, but suddenly found myself conflicted as to whether I really understood the meaning of communion. I desperately wanted to partake of the bread and wine on this most significant day of Christ’s mission, but was haunted by the deeply ingrained theology of Mormonism which considers the sacrament to be a renewing of covenants.
I turned to my friend and whispered, “What does this mean again? This isn’t a covenant, right? What am I committing to?” She gently reminded me that it was simply an opportunity to reflect and remember Jesus’ sacrifice…nothing more, nothing less. “But I’m not worthy of His sacrifice. Who is going to determine if I’m worthy to take communion?” I needed someone in “authority” to tell me I wouldn’t be condemned for partaking of these sacred symbols. And it better happen quickly before this opportunity passed! Luckily, I consider my sweet friend to be “authority” enough for me when it comes to answering my questions regarding Christian practices. With her unfailing patience, she repeated again, “None of us are worthy. That’s the point! Only Jesus was worthy to pay the price. This is a remembrance of that price.” With that confirmation, I participated in my first communion. But not without trepidation as to what it really meant for me to do so since I was still in the throes of finding my way from Mormonism to Christianity.
The following month, while attending a Christian Women’s Retreat, I found myself sitting in front of a table of grace once again. I watched as two women I’d recently come to know and love, reverently prepared the symbols of Christ’s body and blood. My eyes were riveted on the hands that carefully tore the unleavened bread as my heart hurt over the cost of salvation. The anxiety that had plagued my body for the last several days was making itself visible again. And once again, I was troubled by thoughts of my unworthiness. What would it take for me to understand and accept Communion as God intended? Well, as it turns out, God was prepared to answer that question and enlighten me through the message of the Retreat’s guest speaker.
As the speaker talked of the significance and intimacy of being invited to dine at a table in Israel, my body relaxed somewhat as my mind seized on the message I needed to hear. The invitation to come to the table was not based on worthiness, but on love! And hadn’t I just learned the day before that I was “the Beloved, Abba’s child, in whom Christ dwells and delights?” Why are some of the simple truths so hard for my mind to grasp? I finally felt comfortable with participating in this tender and glorious event, but still sat glued to my chair as I watched the other women in the room approach the table one by one. I listened as each one was called by name, and offered the emblems of Christ. I heard the words over and over again. “This is the body of Christ that was broken for you. This is the blood of Christ that was shed for you.” Each woman, individually and collectively, received the gift with gratitude and reverence. It was a beautiful and spiritual experience that made 50 years of LDS sacrament services pale in comparison. As the line of women diminished, I leaned over to my new friend who was on the same path to Christianity as me, and whispered, “I think it’s our turn.” To which she quietly replied, “I think you’re right.” And together we stood in front of Christ’s table.
Again, I heard those amazing and heartbreaking words spoken to me, personally. “Vicki, this is the body of Christ that was broken for you, and this is the blood that He shed for you.” I knew I was standing in the right place at the right time to absorb and believe those words spoken by women I loved. Women! Not young boys who held a non-existent “priesthood.” But women who knew God personally and loved Him. Women I admire and want to emulate as I learn to hear God’s voice and follow Him.
Through the trials and challenges of my life, I’d come to realize that God was near me more often than I recognized. Sometimes I thought of Him standing beside me, or guarding my back, or blazing a trail before me. On occasion, I’d felt He was looking over my shoulder and I’d better tread carefully if I wished to have Him continue walking with me. I knew He was near now and then, but usually sensed that I was really on my own much of the time. As I held the symbols of His body and blood and returned to my seat, I contemplated the significance of the sacrifice made on the Cross for me. Then, in reverence and gratitude, I consumed those emblems of love. And in that very instant, the trembling in my body ceased as I felt what seemed to be a literal expansion of my heart. The phrase, “in whom God dwells” repeated in my head and flooded my heart. And for the first time in my life, I felt God WITHIN me! There are no words to describe the abundance of warmth, peace, and completeness that filled my soul at that very moment in time. No more shaking. No more anxiety. No more fear. Only a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
More than once that weekend, we had sung a song with the phrase, “I am new.” Now, for me, it was a true statement. God had stood by me at the microphone the night before as I confessed who I had been. Now He was within, and I was made new.
I realize life is a journey, a process, and there will still be challenges. But now I know that I will never be alone.