Beauty for Ashes

Kate Strongin
07/23/20 | 4 min read
I knelt in prayer and offered the Savior the ashes of my day, and He returned beauty—the beauty of His Atonement for me, for my family, for us all.

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and it feels like the sun is shining from within? One where you actually wake up without the help of an alarm? One in which you start your day spending time with your Father in Heaven and you take the time to prepare for the spiritual message you remembered you were assigned?

That was exactly the unique Sunday I was having, and while my spiritual message wasn’t coming together the way I wanted, I felt a calm confidence from the Spirit. The crowning moment of glory occurred when I walked downstairs expecting to find a messy house and instead found that almost all my five children had done their chores, and they had even remembered to do the extra work I had requested in preparation for our home church. Wow!

Two hours later, my beautiful day was starting to unravel. One child still refused to do his chore, and when I confronted him about it, he gave me the impression that he wasn’t coming to home church. My chest felt tight, and irritation seemed to course through my blood, tensing every part of my body. His chore needed to be done, so I headed to the kitchen to wash dishes. I found another son and daughter in the kitchen, and I let them know that I still had a lot of my own preparations to make for our home worship. They worked to help me, but they bickered, bringing an ugly spirit in our home. I corrected them sharply, immediately feeling worse for adding to the discord.

I finished the dishes, only to find that a younger child had completely destroyed the room where we hold our home church. I took a deep breath and asked him to please clean it up. Our interaction ended with him refusing to clean up and saying he wasn’t coming to church. I dropped to my knees and asked for heavenly backup. I was in such a stressed-out state of mind that all I could say was “Heavenly Father, please help me!”

Somehow I convinced my son to clean up the mess he had made, but as we went back upstairs to get him dressed, his face contorted into an angry scowl.

“I hate Jesus!” he exploded.

“Are you mad at Jesus because he wants you to go to church?” I asked, trying to understand my son’s six-year-old reasoning.

“Yeah! He’s so mean! He forces us to go to church!”

I did my best to explain that Jesus would never force us to go to church and that He wants us to be happy and to give us blessings if we choose to obey. But the deep furrow in my son’s angry brow told me that he didn’t believe me.

I felt completely inadequate to teach this precious boy. While the Spirit had helped me at times to reach his heart, the ongoing challenge remained, and I felt daunted.

“I hate Jesus! He’s so dumb!” he exploded again.

The words scraped my raw heart, unwelcome and offensive. Tears filled my eyes and slid down my cheeks, and I could hardly speak.

“But don’t you know? He died for you.” I couldn’t leave the words unsaid. The tears came more freely now. Somehow my son ended up dressed for church. As we headed downstairs, my eyes were still filled with tears when a spiritual recognition hit me so strong that I had to sit down right where I was.

Jesus cares more about me than His own life. He died for me, and He died for my little boy—my little boy who He knew would say unkind things about Him. My son, who had been holding my hand, sensed that something was different and crawled into my lap, sliding his arms around my neck while the tears continued to flow. I sat immersed in a moment of recognition and realization. From the time I was a little girl, I had always believed that Jesus died for me, but I had never understood that He valued my life more than His own. The thought took my breath away.

After several minutes, my son untangled his arms from my neck and in a tender voice said, “C’mon, Mom. Let’s go to church.” He took me by the hand and led me downstairs.

As I readied myself to partake of the sacrament, I realized there were some new impurities I needed to repent of, and so I prayed in my heart for forgiveness and mercy. As I tried to sing the sacrament hymn, my voice failed me. The perfect love of my Savior filled me so completely that it overflowed through my eyes in the form of tears.

As we transitioned from that sacred ordinance to my spiritual message, I understood why my message had not come together. I had prayed earnestly that morning that I would be able to teach my family what He wanted them to know. This was what my Father needed me to share with my family. So I recounted the fierce realization from the Holy Spirit that Jesus cares more for my life and for the lives of my family members than for His own. I felt the Spirit testifying to my family that what I said was true.

The rest of the day, a phrase from a scripture in Isaiah 61:3 ran through my head: “to give unto them beauty for ashes.” That was what the Savior had given me. I had knelt in prayer and offered Him the ashes of my day, and He had returned beauty—the beauty of His Atonement for me, for my family, for us all.

As I look back on this sacred experience, I think the thing that amazes me most is that our Father and our Savior ask us to keep the commandments, and then when we struggle to keep them and ask for help, They are there, making up the difference, making our flawed efforts whole, complete and beautiful.

Kate Strongin
Kate considers the Holy Ghost to be one of the greatest gifts in her life. She loves that her mind can be enlightened and taught from on high in her studies. She looks forward to date night each week with her husband and going on adventures with her family.