One day, I was out near one of my flower beds with my niece Jesse. Being excited over the flowers to be seen, Jesse wanted to pick some flowers to give to her mommy. She began skipping along and picking a bouquet. Normally, I don’t like it when people pick my flowers but since it was my niece I had a little soft spot. When Jesse presented her flowers to her mother, her mother knew I didn’t like people to pick them and she said “Jesse, what have you done? You should go say you’re sorry to your Aunt Jane.” I tried to say that it was no big deal, but her mother gave me a look and said “No Jane, this is a teaching moment.” I quickly saw Jesse’s countenance change. Her excitement was suddenly dashed into fear. She feared coming to me because she thought I would be angry with her. She hid behind her mother and didn’t want to look at me. I was heartbroken; I love this little girl and it broke my heart to see her suddenly become afraid of me. At this moment, I realized that this must be how Heavenly Father feels about each one of us. When we realize that we have sinned (intentional or not), there often seems to be an element of shame that sets in. We want to hide ourselves from our Heavenly Father; this is the exact opposite of what He wants us to do. The effects of sin, truly only affect us, His feelings towards us have not changed. Heavenly Father still loves us unconditionally and pleads with us to repent and come back (just as I began to plead with my niece to come and say you’re sorry and give me a hug so you’ll feel better inside). I realized that no matter what, Heavenly Father’s feelings for us don’t change, even if we make the worst of mistakes, it’s only our feelings about ourselves that change. Satan is the one that instills fear within us that our Heavenly Father will be disappointed or displeased with us.
In Step 8, it talks about becoming willing to make amends in our lives. This experience with my niece taught me so much about how I need to cast off the fear of coming to my Heavenly Father to ask for His forgiveness. His love is truly unconditional. In the end of Step 8, Pres. James E. Faust is quoted “Forgiveness is a liberating gift that people can give to themselves.” And how true that is, forgiveness is all about us. It’s about finding peace once again in our lives, as Elder David E. Sorensen beautifully states: “Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies.” Gaining this perspective on how Heavenly Father feels about each one of His children helped prepare me to go before my ecclesiastical leader to seek the forgiveness from my Heavenly Father for past experiences that bothered me. I now knew how He truly felt about me and knew I had nothing to fear, Satan was no longer going to bully this girl!