About three years ago, my mom and I set out to trim a tree in our back yard. A Weeping Mulberry is an interesting tree. Instead of branches that grow upward, it has long, spindly branches that cascade toward the ground. It looks pretty from the outside, but when it is left unpruned it begins to conceal a precarious secret. As the branches die, they become sharp and knotted together making them very difficult and even dangerous to remove. In the spring, new growth appears and camouflages the ugly dead branches underneath. Year upon year of neglect results in a large, unattractive misshapen tree. The green leaves of spring try hard to cover up the tangled mess beneath but eventually they show.
As my mom and I looked at the poor, deteriorating state of our tree, we likened the dead branches to sin. We didn’t prune the tree for years, as a result it grew out of control. Sin is the same way. Sometimes we make a mistake. Instead of acknowledging our wrong, we push it out of our mind and pretend it never happened. We may even try to cover it up. In reality, it just keeps growing into something that twists and tangles our happiness and inner peace.
As we began the long process of pruning the tree, we were jabbed by the sharp, dead boughs. After a few cuts and scrapes, we decided to put on protective clothing, including helmets and ski goggles to safeguard our eyes. We also put a plan in place. Mom would cut down a branch, and I would pull it onto the grass and dissect it into smaller sticks that could be put in a garbage bag. One time my mom went to cut a branch and the shears got caught and came back at her. Luckily, she was okay, but we realized this was a serious task that should not be taken lightly. We worked the entire day cutting and a couple of hours the next day bagging it all up.
Our protective gear saved us. In our analogy, the clothing represented the importance of turning to the Lord for help. He has provided scriptures, prayer, and even a loving bishop to help us return back to live with Him again. These vital things can help us through the sometimes painful process of repentance.
The tools we used are like the Atonement. They help us and are the reason we could cut the tree down. The Savior is the reason we can remove sin from our lives and become clean again.
Repentance isn’t easy. It’s hard. But with the Lord’s help we can be forgiven and He can make that burden light. It is the only way we can make it back. None of us are perfect, but the Lord does not expect us to be. He understands that we are going to make mistakes. He stands lovingly, with open arms to help us. It is never too late to repent.
As we whittled all the dead parts off the tree, it seemed there wasn’t anything left. It looked like a lonely stump. Winter arrived and it withstood cold winds and heavy snow. We wondered if it had the strength to make it through. But one day, in late spring, a little green offshoot appeared. Soon others followed and a lovely, strong, healthy tree flourished. With regular pruning and care, our little tree has become the centerpiece of our flower garden.
Repentance heals. Repentance strengthens. Repentance lifts. Repentance cleanses. Repentance promises. Repentance is freedom. Repentance is confidence. Repentance is peace.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said, “The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and become better.”
I invite you to reflect. If you are feeling guilty, angry, or are unable to feel the Spirit, please, ask our Father in Heaven for forgiveness. Meet with your bishop. There is no shame is trying to make what is wrong right again, only commendation and a sign to God that you want to become better. I promise you that as we repent, we will feel the true happiness that comes from coming to know our Savior.