Loving Ourselves, Others, and God: An Interview with Michelle Dennis Christensen
"The more I contemplate the sacrifice required to save Martin, the better I understand the Savior’s gift for me, for Martin, and for every individual who ever lived. There is no greater love than the love of God in our lives."
This month I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Michelle Dennis Christensen about how she shows love. Check out her wonderful insights. Also, enter to win a copy of her new release Mirrors of Jesus.
TCA: How do you show love to yourself?
MDC: Building and maintaining a close relationship with God is essential to loving myself.
I’ve found that most of the time when I’m hard on myself, I’m also more distanced from God. Conversely, the times when I have nurtured and nourished my relationship with God are the times when I am happier and more satisfied with life. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by studying His word.
I like to read a chapter or verse of scriptures and think about how it applies to me. Then, I take my study journal and free-write whatever thoughts come to my head. I did this during the months of my husband, Martin’s kidney failure and subsequent transplant, and I was able to pull heavily from those entries when I wrote my book, Mirrors of Jesus.
For instance, I remember one time when Martin underwent a surgical procedure to fix his enlarged prostate, which we hoped would restore his kidney function. As I waited for him during the surgery, I read my scriptures. I read about an olive tree vineyard that was pruned by the Lord of the vineyard so that the orchard would grow strong and productive and good.
I likened myself to the trees in that vineyard. I realized that God was pruning me through my trials. When I looked at it that way, it gave me strength and hope and courage, and faith, all of which were essential for me to continue through the difficult times that we had ahead.
TCA: What is your favorite scripture about God and love? How have you felt God’s love for you? And how have you shown love to God?
MDC: A scripture that means a lot to me is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The message behind this scripture was plain for us to see as we searched for a donor for Martin’s transplant.
Without a transplant, Martin’s life would have been cut short. We were completely dependent on someone else for Martin to live. But more than that, the donated kidney came at a huge cost to someone else. If the organ came from a deceased donor, it came at the expense of someone else’s tragic death. If the organ came from a living donor, it came from a person who subjected themselves to the grueling surgery and recovery associated with losing a working organ. Simply put, in order for Martin to live, someone else had to make a huge sacrifice.
This situation is a strong parallel to our Savior. Just as someone had to sacrifice to save Martin, the Savior sacrificed to save all of us. Without His atonement, we would die physically, spiritually, eternally. The more I contemplate the sacrifice required to save Martin, the better I understand the Savior’s gift for me, for Martin, and for every individual who ever lived. There is no greater love than the love of God in our lives.
Once we understand how much love God has for us, it changes everything. When I feel the pure love of Christ – Charity – I am lighter. I am happier. I have more energy. I have less stress. Others like to be around me more, and I like to be around them more. Life is just better in every way.
This leads me to another one of my favorite verses of scripture. found in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:8 and a similar one in The Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:46. These two verses say: “Charity never faileth.” That astounds me. True love, the pure love of Christ, never fails. I need that in my life. I need all the kindness and patience and rejoicing I can get. Life is too hard without it.
But, how do we do that?
The answer is in the last verse in Moroni 7 says, which says: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” The answer is simple. Pray and pray and pray for this remarkable gift of the Spirit. When I pray for this type of love, my whole life changes.
TCA: How does love help you handle the hard things in life or when you’re out of your comfort zone?
MDC: There is power in love. It was love for us that gave Jesus Christ the power to die for us and to atone for our sins. It was love that gave me the power to donate my own kidney to save my husband.
Growing up, I was completely terrified of all things medical. More than once I had come close to fainting when I listened to someone’s medical war story – and one time I actually did faint. That wasn’t all, I had fainted donating blood. I had fainted a couple of times due to intense pain. I hated it all. But, with God’s help and my intense, deep love for my husband, I found the strength and the courage to undergo surgery and recovery. I remember a time during the intense difficult recovery that I literally thought, “If I’d known it was going to be this hard, I don’t think I would have done it.”
Going into it, transplant was the hardest trial in my life. In the end, it became one of the most sacred events in my life. If I had another kidney that I could donate, I would – even knowing how difficult it would be.
That’s the thing about living a life of love and letting it win out over fear, we come out on top. We are better and happier and more capable than before.
TCA: How do you show love to others?
MDC: There are so many ways to show love to others, but one I’d like to highlight is that of gratitude. When I show sincere gratitude to others, my heart swells with love for them. I recognize and acknowledge their importance in my life and my own vulnerability, which helps me treat them better. In turn, they have better, kinder feelings toward me and we grow closer together.
This was certainly the case during kidney failure and transplant. Without family, friends, neighbors, medical personnel, and spiritual leaders, we would have been lost, alone, frightened, and sick.
At one point, our church congregation was having a day of service. One of our leaders approached Martin and told him they wanted to put our family on the list of those to receive help from the neighborhood. Martin resisted, and this wise man pushed back. He told Martin that they needed to serve and that we needed to let them. This kind act of service – along with so many others – filled our hearts with gratitude and bound our lives to them in a deep and profound way. Likewise, as they served us and received our thanks, their lives, too, were bound to us.
By serving and being grateful, everyone’s lives are elevated to a higher and holier unity.
FEB 2023 GIVEAWAY
Win a copy of Michelle's new release Mirrors of Jesus.
"Through the lens of her own personal life-experience, Christensen takes us on a beautiful journey that gives greater insight to the life and mission of Jesus Christ. The tale of her sacrifice made the atonement feel even more personal to me."
—Randy Lindsay, author of The Milkman's Son
To see more photos from the events of Mirror of Jesus, visit Michelle's website.
To see Michelle's special events going on now, check out her Facebook page.