Spaghetti Sauce Splatters and the Atonement

My stove was a mess! My kids were in bed and now I could clean. I gathered my supplies, including a heavy-duty cleaner, and approached the offending appliance. In the rush of breakfast that morning, my
pot of homemade strawberry jam overflowed, leaving a serious spill on my stovetop.

Naively thinking today’s mess would be my only job, I was shocked when I found more than I bargained for. In the hustle and bustle of young motherhood, it is easy to write off small splashes and spills as they
happen. Oh, it’s just one drip, I can clean it later; it’s not that big of a deal.

But next to the spilled jam, I found soup drizzles, pancake batter drips, crusty rice, and more than a few unavoidable spaghetti sauce splatters covering my stovetop. My careless actions had created an unmanageable mess. Had I cleaned them up as they’d happened, especially when wet, I could have moved on, thinking nothing of them. But now, I was being reminded of meals long gone and the work to remove them had increased.

As I put on my rubber gloves and began to scrub, the silence of my kitchen allowed me to ponder about spills, both physical and spiritual, and my understanding of repentance.

***

I have repented of serious matters. I’ve humbly and contritely met with my bishop. I’ve had journeys of weeks or sometimes months. These were “spilled pot of strawberry jam” repentance experiences—ones
that were incredibly sticky and messy and needed to be dealt with carefully. But once I was done, I felt the merciful, cleansing power of the Atonement: Jesus had been my “heavy-duty, open the windows, use rubber gloves” cleaner.

As I continued to scrub, God allowed me to see that while I had made great use of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in big moments, I had not yet come to understand the scope of His cleansing power. While I stared at my stove’s splatters, He showed me the glaring appearance of my spiritual spaghetti sauce splatters. My small (often dismissed) mistakes were beginning to stack up. I had small daily moments of impatience and frustration that needed to be dealt with.

Big repentance has changed my life. But what if this new idea of “small, daily repentance” could also change my days? Change my moments?

“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” - Alma 37:6

***

Each Saturday, I (try to) clean my home in preparation for the Sabbath. It allows me more space to ponder about my week. It helps me look towards the sacrament to make it a “sacred focal point of [my] week” (Holland, “The Lamb of God,” April 2019).

While the stress of wrangling toddlers is still a reality, Sundays have become less of a burden as I turn to the Atonement more often for relief and strength. I steal any moment I can during the passing of the sacrament to pray, to think of my Savior, and to turn my sins over to Him. He shoulders my worries and my mistakes. His grace gives me strength. He is my weekly relief.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God…unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord…” - Mosiah 3:19

The more I felt blessed by the Atonement, the more I used it! Repentance became more approachable and less daunting and I began repenting daily through prayer. My need for His strength, aid, and forgiveness hadn’t changed but my understanding had—of how His love could change my days, hours and even minutes. I had a “fresh view about God, [my]self, and about the world” (Bible Dictionary, “Repentance”) and my place in it.

My prayers were less about my week and more about my days. I blessed my meal but also asked for spiritual nourishment. I made more of an effort to pray aloud and while kneeling. I shared my frustrations, weaknesses, and regrets more readily. I shared more of my hopes, desires, gratitude, and
even my whole heart with God! I was beginning to counsel more with my Father. We were talking!

***

However, after a few weeks, I noticed a pattern: I was asking forgiveness for the same things!

I asked to be forgiven for impatience, getting frustrated, being unkind, being too quick to judge, and other natural, mortal mistakes. Somehow, my pleadings began to feel insincere. I felt as if my prayers said, “Well, I did the same things wrong I did yesterday… Can you forgive me again?” I felt I was taking advantage of or abusing the greatest gift He had given me. I felt I was being disrespectful.

Surely, that can’t be right! How can using the Atonement more often be a mockery of His sacrifice? I must be missing something!

***

Several nights later I was sweeping the floor beneath my 14-month-old twins’ high chairs. You can imagine the mess they make! Some of their mess is on purpose (like throwing food on the floor!), and some are just from being a toddler. They are learning to pick up, hold onto and eat new foods. They are learning to use their muscles in coordinated ways for the first time. They are learning and growing and making messes along the way. And that is the point! Messes are a part of childhood, and messes are a part of life.


I clean up after them one mess at a time, one day at a time. And I don’t dwell on yesterday’s or last week’s messes. And neither do they! I realized I needed to become as a little child.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God…unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things…” - Mosiah 3:19 (emphasis added)

I could forget their messes, but I was still holding on to my own. I needed to forgive myself. No matter how many times my toddlers pick up a peach slice and it slips out of their hands, they try again with the next one. I needed to learn to do the same to move forward.

At some point while repenting, I began to feel unworthy of trying again. I thought I had used up my share of His grace. I continued to punish myself for sins already repented of. I knew how to give Him large sins but had let daily crumbs sit and fester in my heart. I would allow a bad day to bleed into my week. But when I realized I was still worthy and needed to forgive myself, my days changed. Embracing the full power of the Atonement gave me a fresh, clean start. I became more resilient.

“Of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).

That includes forgiving me, too.

***

My children’s mess taught me that night. In the same way I will continue to clean up after them, God will continue to clean up after me. Because it’s not about me, really. I will always be unworthy. That is why He gave His life and spilled His blood and lived again—to show me a love far deeper than I could
imagine. In truth, He is the best cleaner I could ever dream of.

I don’t understand His infinite capacity to love and forgive me. But maybe I am not meant to. Maybe continued repentance allows me unending chances to better understand His infinite love.


Repenting daily or hourly or as often as I need is not making a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice. Recognizing the depth and breadth and versatility of His cleansing power is the best way to honor and revere His gift.

Now, I can’t NOT repent every day!

Now, I know He is my “everyday, all-purpose, wipe-up-the-spaghetti-sauce-splatter cleaner” just as much as He is my “deep-cleaner.”

And I can smile as I use my stove, dirty or not, because I know I’ve got the best cleaner around!

 

Melissa Buckley earned a degree in Family Life from Brigham Young University. After graduation, she pursued her life-long dream of attending Culinary and Pastry Arts School at Le Cordon Bleu and then worked for a few years as a professional baker in Las Vegas. Having grown up near Portland, Oregon, Melissa acclimated surprisingly well to the Vegas desert. After Melissa and her husband welcomed twins to their family in 2018, baking had to take a back seat, but motherhood has given her many new experiences that have inspired her to pursue her writing talents. 
Melissa has endured a number of life’s challenges but has found strength in them because of her faith in her Savior. She is grateful for trying times because she views them as opportunities to learn on Whom she can rely. She regularly relates gospel truths to everyday experiences and is adept at applying baking analogies when sharing the gospel. Melissa seeks to share her story and feelings of hope to encourage women to recognize their capacity for greatness while striving to rely on the Savior for strength.
Follow Melissa on Instagram at @melissarosebuckley22.
Read her blog at http://imlearningtothrive.wordpress.com.