This last week I was in a great Relief Society lesson. At one point, the conversion of Saul/Paul was brought up, and some comments were made that really changed my was of looking at that story. I think most people are familiar with the story of Paul in the New Testament, a guy intent on persecuting all Christians until one fateful day on the road to Damascus when the Savior appeared to him and he completely turned his life around.
So often when we think of Paul of the New Testament, all we see or think of is all of the scriptures he wrote, or the innumerable amount of people who joined the church because of him, or any other of the many miraculous things he accomplished. We forget so easily who this man was before, his character and his life plans in the very instant the Savior decided to appear to him. Paul himself talks of what he was in Acts 22, describing himself as persecuting all Christians, throwing people in jail, beating them, and even consenting to the death of an Apostle. He was actively fighting against Christ and His church.
And it was then, on his way to go persecute even more people, that the Savior came to Saul. Saul probably even mentioned to the Savior something akin to "BTW, maybe you forgot, but I'm not a very good dude. I've been doing a lot of mean things to your followers....did you want to reconsider this mercy that you're extending to me? I am the least deserving of all". I'm sure the Savior gave Saul/Paul a loving smile, and replied with something like: "Oh Paul. My Son. You can't even possibly imagine how much I love you. You know what? You're not making the best choices you could be right now. But that's all right. I know you, and I know that you are better than that. You can change your ways, you can have such a positive influence on so many people, you can do so much good with your life. You can repent, and I will absolutely forgive you."
How often do we look at ourselves and think "I've messed up too much. I'm not as good as so-and-so. I make too many mistakes. God cannot love me. God would rather have other people help Him out in His work. I shouldn't bother starting to be better now, I can't make up for the wrongs I have already done." That is the exact opposite of what God is thinking! We are a beloved son or daughter of God. He knows us individually, all of us. He knows our strengths, he know our weaknesses. He knows where we have been, and he knows what we are capable of, even when we cannot even begin to comprehend it. Look at the story of Alma in the Book of Mormon, where he and his friends were described as the vilest of sinners. Now, I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty bad place to be at. And yet, that's exactly the state that these people were in when God intervened. He didn't cast them off, He reached out in mercy, He reminded them that there is a better way. These "vilest of sinners" became some of the most amazing men in the Book of Mormon, Alma himself becoming a prophet later in his life.
Who are we to judge ourselves on our current sins and weaknesses? Who are we to tell the God of all living, the Father and Creator of us all, the one who has all knowledge and all wisdom, that He is wrong about us? When all is said and done, I'm pretty sure God knows what he's doing. So we should probably trust Him when He says He loves us and knows how to help us achieve peace and happiness. He can take the Saul parts of our lives and turn them into Paul parts, and show us an extraordinary outpouring of love while doing so, if only we let Him.