Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Everything I learn from 3 Nephi 17-19 is beautiful to the point of wonder. And there is one discovery that is stunning. That is, my Savior's emotional reaction to being reconciled with people like me. It shouldn't be stunning. Logically, I know he cares for us infinitely; cares enough to first suffer incomprehensibly and then to die for us. But prior to 3 Nephi 17, I guess I figured the suffering was done. I didn't realize that he carries with him an active, aching longing for us.
That begins to come clear in verse 14 when the multitude of believers kneels on the ground and he groans within himself. "Father," he prays, "I am troubled because of the wickedness of the house of Israel." This is a challenging statement for me, because it seems to imply that he sees the multitude that is with him as being tainted by that wickedness. But these are the more righteous of the Lehites, the ones who not only were spared during the massive devastation that occurred at the time of his death, but who also took recourse to the temple. These are those whom he has healed. They have touched his hands, feet and side and fallen down to worship him. They have hung on his every word and have been so loathe to be separated from him that he has changed his plans and lingered beyond his stated intention.
They are also the remnant of a civilization that was spinning out of control in the pride cycle. At this moment, they adore him. But if they fall away again, they and their innocent children who've just been brought to him will pay a terrible price. And they are weak, too weak at this point to understand the things he wants to teach them (vs 2). Does that bode poorly for their long-term resilience? I wonder if that's what weighs so heavily on him. In any case, he groans under the weight of it.
And then he prays. For them (vs 17). And his intercession works a miracle. Somehow, every rebellious particle remaining in them crumbles as they hear him pour out his heart to the Father on their behalf. Somehow, I think, when he rises from his knees, they are fully and permanently his. They are overcome with joy. And he says "Blessed are ye, because of your faith, and now, behold, my joy is full."
Then he weeps.
What this means to me is that he longs for me. More, even, than I long for him. In fact, the great quest of life is to learn to long for him like he longs for me. There is no cause to ever wonder if he might give up on me. He has graven me on the palms of his hands and will never turn away. If he feels distant, it is I that have turned away, and he is giving me space to choose. But if I will choose him, if I will determinedly seek to love him like he loves me, there is no power in the universe that could or would keep me from his embrace.
I chose you first before the dawn of memory,
Loved you in a glow of endless light.
I knew full well that love would tear and bruise me And for you, I vowed to grasp the splintered night.
I chose again in sunshine warm and steady
When you sensed my love and offered me your own.
I tasted joy as we were bound together
Serene, although the storm ahead was known.
I chose again in furnace of affliction
When love delivered anguish worse than death.
I shrank and shuddered ‘neath the lash that tore me But loved you, prized you still with every breath.
And yet you halt, uncertain if you want me.
You call, I come, and then you turn away. I long to trust the promises you offer
But we both know you aren’t prepared to stay.
And so, I hide my face a little while,
I stand apart and let you be alone.
I swallow tender words I long to utter
And wait for you to find and choose your home.
But know, where'er you go, my heart is with you.
Engraven on my palms is your dear face.
And if ever you should love me like I love you,
Then we'll be one. You'll taste my tears
As we embrace.