After I had come home from school one day, I was sitting in a chair reading the newspaper. My daughter Sarah, who was seven years old, came in and said, “Dad, can I have a bike? I’m the only kid on the block who doesn’t have a bike.”
Well, I didn’t have enough money to buy her a bike, so I stalled her and said, “Sure, Sarah.”
She said, “How? When?”
I said, “You save all your pennies, and pretty soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” And she went away.
A couple of weeks later as I was sitting in the same chair, I was aware of Sarah doing something for her mother and getting paid. She went into the other room and I heard “clink, clink.” I asked, “Sarah, what are you doing?”
She came out and she had a little jar all cleaned up with a slit cut in the lid and a bunch of pennies in the bottom. She looked at me and said, “You promised me that if I saved all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough for a bike. And, Daddy, I’ve saved every single one of them.”
She’s my daughter, and I love her. My heart melted. She was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies she would eventually have enough for a bike, but by then she would want a car. But her needs weren’t being met. Because I love her, I said, “Let’s go downtown and look at bikes.”
We went to every store in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Finally we found it—the perfect bicycle, the one she knew in the premortal existence. She got up on that bike; she was thrilled. She then saw the price tag, reached down, and turned it over. When she saw how much it cost, her face fell and she started to cry. She said, “Oh Dad, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle.”
So I said, “Sarah, how much do you have?”
She answered, “Sixty-one cents.”
“I’ll tell you what. You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” Well, she’s never been stupid. She gave me a hug and a kiss. She gave me the sixty-one cents. Then I had to drive home very slowly because she wouldn’t get off the bike. She rode home on the sidewalk, and as I drove along slowly beside her it occurred to me that this was a parable for the Atonement of Christ.
We all want something desperately—it isn’t a bicycle. We want the celestial kingdom. We want to be with our Father in Heaven. And no matter how hard we try, we come up short. At some point we realize, “I can’t do this!” That was the point my wife had reached. It is at that point that the sweetness of the gospel covenant comes to our taste as the Savior proposes, “I’ll tell you what. All right, you’re not perfect. How much do you have? What can you do? Where are you now? Give me all you’ve got, and I’ll pay the rest. Give me a hug and a kiss; enter into a personal relationship with me, and I will do what remains undone.”
There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that he still requires our best effort. We must try, we must work—we must do all that we can. But the good news is that having done all we can, it is enough—for now. Together we’ll make progress in the eternities, and eventually we will become perfect—but in the meantime, we are perfect only in a partnership, in a covenant relationship with him. Only by tapping his perfection can we hope to qualify.
-Stephen E. Robinson