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Lovest Thou Me More Than These?

Written by: April Tribe Giauque

My talk in Sacrament meeting for Dec 31, 2023


Lovest Thou Me More Than These?


Click, click, and click. My eyes connected with my three boys as I snapped the last buckle into place. My head suddenly screamed at me. Two minutes left


I ran back inside, reached for my two innocent daughters, and ran out towards the van as I snuggled them close to muffle their cries. My mind shouted at me again, One minute left!


Everyone is in the van! I thought. Drive! Go! Now!


 I jumped behind the wheel and fired it up. 


I pulled down the gear lever into drive. 


Suddenly, there was a pounding on the hood of my van and screaming for me to stop. 


I took my chance and punched it into reverse, throwing him off the van; I slammed it into drive and sped around him out of the driveway and onto the street.  Leaving my tracks in the freshly fallen snow. 


I drove away from the basement apartment with all I loved in the van, never to return to my first marriage, to that heartache, or to the abyss of abuse. 


Lovest thou this mess more than me? 


As snowy mile after snowy mile was under me, my mind was suddenly hit with a question that would help me with some intense course corrections.  “Lovest thou this mess more than me?” 


Now, that might sound very strange, and It was phrased in my mind in a slightly reversed order than from the scriptures, which states, “Lovest thou Me more than these? It was Lovest thou this mess more than me?  


With the falling snow catching the light of my headlights, I could feel a list of the mess that I was definitely attending more than Him. 


It was my pride.

 

Satan was so sneaky with the words he used in my head, twisting up the truths I knew with his lies.

  1. I was obsessed with getting married and having a large family, and THAT was MY PLAN. But I felt it was a great plan because it seemed to fit into Heavenly Father’s plan of getting married and having children, so much so that I rushed everything and didn’t listen to the warning signs. 

  2. Then, when my first husband’s true nature was revealed to me, I was too proud to admit I had made a mistake. 

  3. I had given birth to three beautiful children by this time, and I felt I could stick it out or that somehow I could help him change.  

  4. My pride kept me in a bad marriage just to make sure, “You don’t want to be the only one in the family who got divorced.” 

  5. “You are supposed to love each other in all the bad times—these are just years of bad times.”

  6. “You drove him  to substance abuse because you made him mad.”

  7. “You don’t respect his work or his mind.” 

  8. “You are too busy with the kids to really love and help him.”  

  9. This last piece of pride nearly cost me my life. I wanted my husband to change, and in my pride, I started doing whatever I could to “save him.”  That kept me trapped for another seven years.


I felt like I was living two different lives: Faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet surviving a dark abyss. 


Despite the mess of abuse:  

I never missed church, remained temple-worthy, prayed and prayed, read my scriptures, and hoped and prayed for our family. My prayer was for my first husband to change back to who I thought he was when I married him. 


Please understand me. Praying for others to find hope and light is excellent! But they have their agency, and they have to want change. It was complicated by my first husband’s Mental Health illness of schizophrenia and substance abuse.


 In my pride, I hoped he would look at his growing family and want to get help to get off the drugs. I think that those actions are terrific, but Satan’s words would twist these hopeful desires into a mess.  


COURSE CORRECTIONS


In June of 2006, I had an experience that started an awakening to my situation and what my children were going through. It was as if my blinders of pride in the marriage came off, and a mirror was placed before me, and I saw five nearly broken children. I knew that I was going to have to change to help get us out of this abuse. 


By July 2006, I had set some minor course corrections in motion.

  1.  I was now a teacher. 

  2. I had an income. I had a separate bank account. 

  3. I was in a Master of Special Education and certification program to become a licensed teacher. 

  4. I had a network of friends that my first husband never knew about. 

  5. I had also received a priesthood blessing that was a scolding from Heavenly Father. 

In that blessing, Heavenly Father said, “You can’t save your husband. Only my Son can do that. You are not a savior.” 


That was a massive blow to my pride and NOT what I expected. But I felt the truth of it, so I let go of my pride in trying to help save my first husband and knew that I was going to get a divorce and that it didn’t matter what everyone else thought.  


Many scary and messy things happened suddenly in November of 2006, which led me to literally DRIVE away from my marriage on Nov 28, 2006.  It’s been 17 years since we left. 


Now, remember, while I was driving away, Heavenly Father gave me a DEEP question that I reflected on the question again, “Lovest thou this mess more than me?  The quick answer did not come, but I could feel it surfacing. 


The Spirit Heart to Heart With Me 


The Spirit talked to me as I drove away from that life I knew and started me off on another list: 



The first truth that I was reminded of was that I knew I was a child of God. I never doubted that. I also knew Heavenly Father was there for us as we fled from one of His children. I knew God would take care of us and take care of my soon-to-be ex-husband. 


I had a testimony, felt God’s love as a child and youth, and served a faithful mission. I knew the Book of Mormon was and is the word of God. I knew that Heavenly Father answered prayers and that He made this 8-minute escape possible for me and my first five children to get out. 


Second, as I drove away that night, I had to vocally say out loud that I knew what I was experiencing was abuse. It was neglect, spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse in my first marriage, and it was blocking my path. I was not able to think celestial because we were surviving My first husband’s psychotic darkness. It was like a caged animal and would strike out at unpredictable moments, leaving emotional, spiritual, and physical marks on me and my first five children. 


I winced as those memories flooded upward with darkness. But as I drove away, I could almost feel Heavenly Father’s light push it back. I knew I was worth more. I knew my children were worth more!  I knew that my soon-to-be ex-husband needed help. The only help possible would be from Heavenly Father. He was in His hands. 


Third, supporters. I learned to build a network of people and places to help me escape. This took 18 months to build and about 8 minutes to execute; we were free from his grasp. 


Fourth financially. I became a teacher. I had hidden bank accounts. I had a plan. I had hope. 


So now, with this huge change in my life, What was I searching for? Was I seeking Jesus differently than I had before? The answer was Yes! Why? Because I needed Him. I needed guidance every hour by hour. Jesus stepped in and provided that almost like a first responder with an amazing GPS, But was it more than that? 


I’ll put a pin in my personal story to ask these questions: 



Do you know of the Savior or do you only know about the Savior?

Do you believe in Him? 

Do you trust in His word? 

Do you seek after Him? 

Are your thoughts connecting to Him?

Is Jesus an afterthought instead of our first thought

In my case, was it all my plan before His plan? 


Now, Let me ask these questions:

Who are your friends? 

Why are they your friends? 

How did they come to be your friends? 

Can you name what they like, what they don’t like, and what their experiences are? 

Do you pray for them, serve them, help them? 


Now, do you seek to improve your relationship with the Savior similarly?


Wow, with those thoughts, close your eyes. 

Pull up the image of Jesus, the Savior, the Christ, the Lamb of God, in your mind. 

Hold it there. 


Do you see his kindness, his smile, his gentle hands, and feel His love?


To tell you the truth, I didn’t and couldn’t see or feel that for the longest time. It was always for someone else. In my heart and mind, it went something like this: Jesus was amazing and wonderful, but not really for me. I know it sounds crazy. I knew that Heavenly Father loved me, answered my prayers, was always there for me, and guided the Spirit in my path. 


But I didn’t understand who Jesus was/is. I followed obediently and knew with faith to do these things; I loved serving others and the feeling it gave me. I loved teaching others and watching the aha when they got it. I loved helping others. But I didn’t realize that in doing that, I was getting to know Jesus better until recently.


I know that sounds so silly, but It was a gap I had. I was missing the keyword for myself when it came to thinking about Jesus. The Word was Relationship—or even friendship. 


RELATIONSHIP



This word—relationship—drove me back to the scriptures. I dove back into the New Testament, reading from Luke, Matthew, and John about the love and miracles of Christ.


 I jumped into the Book of Mormon and read again in 3Nephi 17 when the Resurrected Savior visited the Nephites, and the scene jumped off the page for me. He had been teaching them and it was time to leave, when Jesus saw and felt the people ask him to tarry a little longer with them. I felt Jesus in the midst of them. When they asked him not to leave, I whispered the same thing. “Don’t leave.” I wanted Him to stay there with me. 


I suddenly had a testimony of Jesus—a relationship! Through prayer and reading the scriptures, I started to get to know Him. The Spirit helped me stay tuned to the Lord and built a piece of friendship for me—a relationship. 


Friendships and relationships are challenging for me because that means I need to trust someone, become vulnerable, and hope they respect who I am. I’ve been hurt so badly because of abuse in my first marriage that building trust with someone was scary.  


But I should be able to trust Jesus—after all, He asks us to follow him. So, I attended the temple with the goal of understanding Him better. I stopped asking for help with all my problems and started wanting to know Him better. I was blessed with dreams, memories, and opportunities to serve more people, and my heart started to know Him in such a way that I could actually call Him a friend. 


In this process, I was guided to my second husband. One who loves me for me loves my first five children for them, and together, we decided to have four more children. Jesus can heal and bring light into your lives as he has with mine.  


How Are You Improving Your Relationships with Jesus? 


So, with the new year approaching, literally within hours tonight, I have a question: How are you improving your relationship with Jesus?  In my mind, I see his loving face and hear his gentle voice telling us to:  



Love Me first. 
Please get to know Me. 
Please build a relationship with Me. 
You will find what you are looking for as you seek after Me. 
You won’t be distracted; 
You’ll step away from your pride so that you seek Me first.

I think about the apostles and how they built a relationship with Jesus. First, they were physically near him. They watched him, followed him, acted with him, followed his teaching, and did their best in their limited ways, and for three years, they were exposed to the most amazing friend of their lifetime. Their way of thinking and traditions were interrupted. But they learned how to trust and follow Jesus. 


With their understanding and faith, once Jesus died, what was there left to do? Jesus returned to them, in His resurrected body repeatedly, to remind them that He is real and that all of this happened and to go and SHARE it! 



In 2019, Elder Ballard stood on the shore of Gallie and recalled the story of Peter and the apostle fishing. Peter and the other disciples fished all night without success.1 In the morning, they saw a man standing on the shore who told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. To their astonishment, the net was filled miraculously.2


They immediately recognized that the man was the Lord, and they rushed to greet Him.

As they dragged the net to shore, full of fish, Jesus said, “Come and dine.”3 John reports that

when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”

While Elder Ballard stood on the same seashore, he realized that the Savior’s question was one of the most important questions that He might someday ask him. Quote, “I could almost hear His voice asking, ‘“Russell, lovest thou me more than these?”’


Great question. When I heard the SAME question for myself after leaving the abuse, I realized that my relationship with the Savior was very strained. It was like I suddenly had to call someone who I had talked to in years. And I had to ask them to help me with so many things. 


My relationship felt a little awkward at first, but I needed Jesus to help me while we were homeless, without food, and stumbling to keep my five children safe. I think you could say we were in our extremities. 


Jesus never left me and protected us the whole time. But I knew that I couldn't just use Him in my time of need, and then when things were going well, I would just forget to talk to Him.  


Here’s what I mean. If we have a strong relationship with someone, we think of them first for their well-being, talk with them, learn what they love and don’t like, and allow for good and bad days to happen, forgiveness, etc.


How was I going to become better friends with Jesus? The answer is found in the scriptures. 



In Mathew 25: 35-40, the Savior says, 

35 For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Once I realized how to build a better relationship with Jesus, It was like more blinders fell off my eyes. I was able to see people better—with those eyes. I suddenly understood the next sentence that Jesus told Peter: Feed my lambs!


There is an excitement and a quiet humility when you suddenly see people as your brothers and sisters and serve their needs, think of them, and try to help. 


My time spent with my children is now different. My time at the temple is different. My time loving my husband is different. I am a work in progress, but my awareness in how I talk, share with, and worship Jesus has fundamentally changed because I have a relationship with him. 


So here comes the question: are we building our relationship with Jesus so that when it is His turn to ask us the question, “Lovest thou Me more than these?”

We can say,

"Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Remember what He will ask of us?  — To Feed His lambs.


FEED HIS LAMBS



With the New Year dawning, my focus has had another course correction of feeding his lambs. 


First, I turned to my first five children. Four of them have jumped ship and are swimming in dangerous waters. I love the Savior enough to remember that I am not a Savior, and I will not leave the Good Ship Zion to swim after them. 


Still, I will stay anchored with Christ and shine what little light I have from God out toward them so that they will always know love and kindness and have a place to return to as the storms rage in their lives. I focus on prayer and developing better friendships with my children through Jesus’s guidance.


Second: With my remaining four children and husband, through my friendship relationship with Jesus, I pray they will feel God’s light and guidance in their lives. They can see me actively live, make mistakes, ask for forgiveness, not get prideful, and try, try again—all with simple, wholesome fun. They will desire a relationship of their own with Heavenly Father and Jesus so that they will choose to Lovest Thou Him–not out of worry, fear, or force, but out of love. 


Third: As I teach and work in the community, I pray that my words match my actions, and when they don’t, I will be quick to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and continue to serve. 


Elder Ballard asks us this question: “Do the things of this world bring us the joy, happiness, and peace that the Savior offered to His disciples and that He offers to us?”  It is a powerful question. I hope you take it into your life as a reflection and course correction for 2024. But it all comes down to the question, Lovest Thou Me more than These? Let’s put away our pride and seek Him.


Get to know Jesus this year. Build that relationship and friendship with Him. Do it through prayer, scripture study, service, paying tithing, and church worship.  


Jesus is the only one who can bring us true joy, happiness, and peace by loving Him and following His teachings.


When we discover a fuller meaning of this question, we can become better family members, neighbors, citizens, members of the Church, and sons and daughters of God.


When we love and follow Him, we have faith in Him. We repent. We follow His example, are baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost. We endure to the end and stay on the covenant path. 



We forgive family members and neighbors by letting go of grudges we may be holding. 


We earnestly strive to keep God’s commandments. We strive to be obedient. We make and keep covenants. We honor our fathers and mothers. We set aside negative worldly influences. We prepare ourselves for His Second Coming.


So again, Lovest Thou Me more than These? And if the answer isn’t yes, then build a relationship with Him until the answer is yes, and then go and feed His Lambs. 


I say this in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

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If you need help getting out of Domestic Violence, CLICK HERE for Resources.

Check out my two books: first, how we escaped, and second, what I learned after.





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