Monday, August 8, 2011

Rest in Peace Chieko Okazaki...

I was first introduced to the literary work of Chieko Okazaki when I was 14. She was "the first non-Caucasian woman to serve in an LDS general presidency" . A quote that particularly touched me came from pages 174-175 in her book Lighten Up!
How we pour guilt over ourselves!
This isn't the gospel! We know that on some level Jesus experiences the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It's our faith that He experienced everything — absolutely everything. Sometimes we don't think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don't experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means Jesus knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer — how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked, and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism . . .
There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands about pregnancy and giving birth. He know about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion.
His last recorded words to his disciples were, "And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). What does that mean? It means he understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down's syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children who ever come are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He's been there. He's been lower than all that.
He's been lower than all of that. Period. No matter what is going on... This is a quote I've gone back to numerous times over the years and each time it hits me with the power it did the first time. You're not alone.

Another part of the book states:
Be spiritually independent enough that your relationship with the Savior doesn’t depend on your circumstances of what other people say and do. Have the spiritual independence to be a Mormon–the best Mormon you can–in your own way. Not the bishop’s way. Not the Relief Society president’s way. Your way
She amazed me. She wasn't fake and didn't live in denial of the problems of the world. Her influence within the church has been felt. Not a loud or sudden shift but a careful push in the right direction. She passed away Monday at age 84. Rest in Peace Chieko Okazaki.

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