I have wondered a little about posting such a personal article on a public blog, but I have decided that there are good reasons to do so. First, of course, is feeling that MM is an online family. There are differences of opinion, but we respect and admire each other. That makes it a safe place to share our thoughts and yearnings and learning curves. Second, while I wrote this in the first person, there are universal lessons we each can learn. I believe my experiences are representative of the situations we each face, and the joys and sorrows that are inherent in serving in the Church.
I believe the calling structure in the Church is divinely appointed. I believe that most of the time callings are extended and released based on inspiration, not desperation. (There are some exceptions, but this post isn ?t about those exceptions, so please don ?t go there.)
I have held many callings. I have always been glad to serve, to be of use to the Lord. Some callings I have had have been more enjoyable than others; some more challenging. At times I have gladly welcomed my release, and at other times I have been saddened to leave one calling even as I welcomed the opportunity for another. However, never before last year have I mourned a release. I went through a literal grieving process that took almost a month for me to work through completely. Every calling (except prophet, apostle, and patriarch) comes with a built-in release clause. I know that. I agree with that. But as I worked through my loss, I learned some things last March, and during this past year, that I had not previously comprehended fully.
This past week has been a time for memories and gratitude for lessons learned. A year ago this past weekend I was released as our ward ?s YW Pres after 3.5 years (+ 1 year as counselor). I had never held a calling as long, nor enjoyed a calling as much, as I did that one. I loved the YW; I loved the calling. This bittersweet time is emphasized for me because last week our branch, in which we had been assigned to serve for 1 year, was discontinued. I am, once again, displaced out of YW, adrift for a time without a calling. But this time I am more balanced because I remember what I learned this past year.
Last March, part of my struggle and part of my learning curve came because I did not receive a new calling for 10 weeks. The Bishop assured me there was a calling for me; he just wasn ?t sure of the timing. As this calling limbo ? continued indefinitely, I began to get antsy. I thought I needed a calling to give me a new focus, to help me complete my letting go of my former beloved calling. I began to chafe a little — why would the Lord not put to work someone who was willing, able, and anxious to serve?! Every time I decided to approach the Bishop about this, the Spirit constrained me to wait. Ray kept telling me to enjoy the break, to realize it was a gift. Wow, that was hard!
But I learned some valuable lessons throughout this entire experience, and this weekend as I remember those opportunities, I am overcome with gratitude for the unexpected blessings and the absolute knowledge that came with this learning curve.
- The Lord truly knows and loves me. He rejoices and laughs with me. He mourns and cries with me. And He literally and lovingly buoys me up when I simply cannot continue on my own.
- The peace the Comforter bestows is a real and sustaining power. Just as a soft, warm blanket wraps around me in comfort, the Holy Ghost quite literally can encircle me in love and peace and security.
- The Lord will give promptings and prepare me for difficult changes or challenges. There have been times when I might not have recognized these feelings for what they were, but there were also times when my need was great that these promptings were strong and unmistakable, and they helped prepare me to be steadfast and immovable when faced with difficulties.
- The temple is a hallowed haven of peace and comfort and eternal perspective. When all else fails, going home ? to the temple is enough to get me through the toughest times.
- Answers and reassurances surely come. When necessary, they will come in almost a voice ? whispered reassurances of acceptable sacrifices, and in the literal words of a temple prayer.
- Even when I know without doubt that it is the right time to be released, that the right person is called in my stead, and that it is time to move on, it is okay to still struggle with it, to go through a grieving process to come to terms with it. It is not a negative reflection of me. It is okay! Heavenly Father understands my need to work through these feelings.
- Heavenly Father knows what will help me learn and grow, and what will help me in the future. He knows what will sustain me through difficult times. I know there were 2 main reasons I served so long as the ward YW Pres: first, to help me focus on serving others during some very challenging personal difficulties (job loss, financial struggles, foster son challenges, extra people living with us) and second, to give me experience and confidence and knowledge of the YW program and purpose to aid me when called as the only YW leader in the branch 8 months later.
- The best way to get over ? a release or challenge is to look outside myself and help others. I do not need a calling in order to serve. Focusing on noticing someone whom I could help on a regular basis filled my need to give and serve others, and to feel that I was accomplishing something that was worthwhile.
- Patience is a difficult but important trait to learn and internalize. The moments I am able to capture this characteristic mold me into a better, more Christ-like person.
- An important aspect of believing and trusting Christ is to let go of my perceived best timing ? scenarios, and truly allow His timing to be my timing. This is part of humbly saying, Not my will, but Thine be done. ? It isn ?t easy to do, but even the attempt brings blessings!
- After being in calling limbo for 10 weeks, I was even more grateful for the opportunity to teach RS for 6 months before being called to serve in the branch. And after serving most of my life in Primary / YW / youth SS, and after my most recent 7 straight years of serving in Primary / YW, I finally realized that I truly love RS!
The most deeply rooted lesson I learned this past year has to do with experiencing a change of heart. I realized how the Lord helps us grow and stretch and become all that we can be. Sometimes He asks us to do things that aren ?t too challenging for us at the time; other times He asks things that we feel are impossible (or at least difficult) to accomplish. I have learned that we always end up BECOMING better, stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, more understanding of each other ? as we are obedient and as we serve. He helps us become more than we can be on our own. The Lord doesn ?t often let us sit idly, or live on cruise control, without something to persistently motivate us to continue to improve and grow and become better. I am grateful for these opportunities, even though they often come with fear and trepidation.
A friend shared the analogy of how, as she serves in her callings, she is like the stones of the Brother of Jared that the Lord touched and made to shine. That really resonated with me because I often feel like rough rock, hewn from the mountain, rough, unpolished, raw. Yet when the Lord touches us, He is able to bring forth light, to use us to accomplish His work and glory, to make of us something that is smoothed and brightened and amazing.
We can shine! We can be an influence for good when we serve. We can be examples. It takes time, patience, faith, hope, love, long-suffering, and His help to become enlightened and to make this change of heart, mind, and soul. It is in realizing this process and progression that we internalize and learn the lessons of being polished and changed, and becoming more like Him.
In the process of becoming, we emerge polished and brilliant. We are better than we used to be. We are forever radiant and changed because of our willingness to serve Him and His children.