Spilled Milk: Atonement Analogy
One day, when my daughter was about 4 or 5 years old, she wanted to have a “big girl” moment.
She was wearing her cute little dance recital dress from last year at the time, so when she climbed up onto the kitchen counter, her red tutu stuck out so cute!
First she got one of those small plastic drinking cups from the cabinet, then she got down and pulled a kitchen stool out and put the cup on the stool. She then opened the fridge and got out a gallon of milk that was almost full.
As she closed the fridge with her foot, she looked at me with a “don’t even think about getting involved, Daddy” facial expression, so I stayed across the room and just watched.
She set the jug on the floor and took off the lid. She lifted the jug to pour milk into the cup. The jug got heavy quickly so she set the lip of the jug on the lip of the cup.
You can guess what happened next.
When the cup splashed to the floor, she tried to be responsible by jumping to catch it. In doing so, she dropped the jug of milk. After she noticed the cup was spilled, she rushed to the drawer with clean up towels and started to wipe up the milk.
Then she noticed the jug of milk on it’s side, blubbing milk onto the floor.
As you might guess, this is where she started to cry, and started whimpering, “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry”, as she pushed the flood of milk around with a towel, sitting in a pool of milk in her little dress.
At this time I intervened. (She was about to start pushing the milk under the stove and under the fridge!) I picked her up and put her on the stool and reassured her that everything was going to be okay. She kept saying under her tears, “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry.”
Now, what to do next?
Some parents might say that I should teach her responsibility by having her clean the mess up completely by herself. I guess that is one approach, but I calculated that this mess was too big for her to clean up on her own.
So how do I want her to feel? Did she do something wrong? Should I have discouraged her from trying to pour the milk herself? Do I want her to feel bad for trying. Do I want her to feel that I am angry that there is a mess to clean up? Do I want her to feel guilty?
I don’t always parent correctly, but I am pleased with how I handled this one.
She was already repentant. She was trying her best to clean up the mess and was sorry for having made a mess. I didn’t need to teach her a lesson, because she is a smart girl and had already figured out what went wrong, so she will do better next time. So I want her to feel reassured and relieved.
Yes, cleaning up the mess is too hard for her, but is it too hard for me? Is the loss of a few dollars for the milk going to ruin my life? Does she deserve for me to clean up her mess? No, but is that what I care about right now?
I want her to feel that I am proud of her for trying to pour milk. I want her to know that I am proud of her for trying to clean up her own mess. I want her to let me clean up the rest for her so she can be relieved of the burden. I hope the experience brings us closer, I serve her, and she is grateful to me.
I am confident that your situation is similar. You try to do things right. You work hard to get it right, and when you don’t, it makes a big mess. And then you try to clean up the mess, but the mess is more to clean up than you can handle. Then when God/Christ steps in to help, you recognize that it is not fair for them to clean up your mess. You conclude that you have already used up too much of the Atonement. Your life has needed an unfair share of the Atonement. Your mess is too big.
I don’t understand the process these Gods use to help, but I do know that if you let them help clean up your mess, you will have more energy and power to help others clean up their messes.
And then we will have lots of people helping to clean up messes everywhere.
If you have a child struggling and need help understanding or want some insight into how to help “clean up his messes”, please download my free ebook Like Dragons Did They Fight.