(A true story shared by my college-age son who is now living abroad.)
Here in Italy, I love teaching English course. And we teachers always try to do a spiritual thought at the end of our classes. So, this past Thursday we decided to imitate a spiritual thought we’d heard about from a friend…so we made some chocolate chip cookies and brought them to class. There were about 35 students that showed up.
We made a big semi-circle with the chairs and I proceeded to ask the students individually if they would like a cookie. Naturally, the first student said “yes” and I gave him a cookie. I then told a fellow teacher, who was standing in the middle of the semi-circle, to do ten push-ups so that this guy could have his cookie.
Without hesitating, this strong teacher dropped to the ground and started doing push-ups. The class immediately stopped chatting and went silent…. intently looking back and forth from me to this teacher in confusion. When he finished his ten push-ups I then asked the second student if she wanted a cookie. She accepted, and I told the teacher to do ten more push-ups. The third student, thinking that he had solved the puzzle, refused the cookie that I offered. So I told the teacher to do ten more push-ups.
This brought an audible gasp to the class and an almost hurt look on the faces of the students. As I continued to go around the room, the students realized that this teacher would be doing ten push-ups for every single person, regardless of whether or not they accepted the cookie.
By the eighth or ninth person, there was a very uncomfortable feeling between the students. You could see on their faces the displeasure and anxiety as they watched the teacher in the middle of the circle become tired. The push-ups began to take a little longer…with more struggle.
Slowly, the students started to understand. Then, all at once I was hit by a spiritual wave so powerful that I started to tear up—and the students around the room started crying, as well. It seemed as if time slowed down as cookies were taken, but mostly refused. And our poor teacher remained in the middle of the circle, now sweating and breathing hard, fighting to finish his sets.
I think some of us really caught a glimpse in that moment just how personal the Atonement of Jesus Christ really is. As I solemnly and slowly walked around the circle, I got to one of my dear friends, Alberto—a 65-year-old man. With tears in his eyes, he dropped to the ground and started doing push-ups with the teacher. My heart was very heavy as I explained to them that only this teacher could do the push-ups. It had to be him. He knew what he had accepted to do, and he had to finish it. But I’m telling you that this strong, courageous teacher really did suffer there… yet he finished. Every last student was given the opportunity to take a cookie or to reject it.
I thought the idea of this representation would be cool to try, but it was so much more powerful than I had ever expected it to be. We learned so much about the Atonement together, and so few words were spoken. At the end of class, I explained the significance of the cookies, of the teacher, of me, and I bore testimony of the divine gift that humbles me every time I think about it. Oh, it wonderful to me! I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives. I know that His Atonement is perfect, infinite, and complete. It’s finished. He’s paid the price. He did it for me. And for you.
So, please…take your cookie.
Use this gift.
Feel His refining power and His love.