It was six years ago. I was a young mom with three small children ages four, two, and newborn. I had just come off of the most terrifying experience of my life where I spent a month in the hospital and had my body tested to the limit. I in no way felt “good” or “back to normal” after the delivery of this child just three months earlier. My husband was commuting and working a part time job, and I felt like I couldn't possibly put one more thing on my plate.
Which is why , when I was called into the bishop's office and asked to be the new Primary president, I felt like Moses when he said:
“…O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto the servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
I may not have felt slow of speech, but the sentiment was the same; I felt totally unprepared for this calling in so many ways. First, the timing just seemed so off. There were dozens of women in my ward who I knew had more settled lives than I did at the time. Second, Primary? While I had served in Primary a time or two before, I definitely didn't feel like my strengths were in working with children. If I were Moses, my verse may have sounded something like this:
“O my Lord, I am not ready right now, neither heretofore, nor since thou has spoken unto the servant: but I am still recovering from childbirth and raising toddlers, and I don't especially like working with kids!”
And yet, ready or not, here it was. I was called and sustained as the Primary president in a young and growing ward. I knew I had huge challenges ahead of me (and I didn't even have a CLUE at that time how hard those challenges really would be). All I could think of was, “Why me? Why now?”
Callings don't always come at convenient times or to people who feel completely prepared for what they are called to do. But usually we accept, we learn, we do our best, and yes we can even learn to serve with joy.
When I look back at that particular time in my life, it is with a smile. There were great challenges for me during that time, both calling-related and in my personal life. But there were also many in fact, far more times of great joy as I made life-long friends with those with whom I served, and witnessed the testimonies of Primary children grow as they learned about the gospel. It's not a time I'd trade for anything.
There have been times before and since when I may not have felt that my calling was the best fit for me at the time, but I can honestly say that each time I have served with my whole heart, I have been blessed and have grown.
Recently I moved into a new ward, and my second time attending I was called in to meet with a young counselor in the bishopric. As we started talking, I was thinking, “Gee, this guy can't be more than 30 years old can he?” and remembering back how I felt as a young wife with a husband in the bishopric. “His poor wife!” I thought. “I know how hard it is to raise young kids with your husband gone all the time.”
As our interview continued, he called me to serve as a counselor in the new Young Women's presidency in the ward. He explained that the president had been called a month or so earlier and had quickly decided on one counselor and the secretary, but that she was having a hard time filling that last position. Luckily, she had a little time because they wanted to get girl's camp behind them before the change. She saw me briefly on my first Sunday there and didn't know my name, but took the question to the temple and felt like I was the one to be her other counselor. I didn't ask who the new president was (because I didn't know anyone anyway so it wouldn't really matter!), but finally the counselor said, “I know she felt very strongly about it, because it's my wife.”
Wow. Here I was feeling sorry for this woman for having a husband in the bishopric and now he tells me that she is the new YW president! God has a sense of humor, this I know to be true!
As I've served with this sister over the past two months, and come to know her a bit better, I've come to learn two things: First, she really does have her hands full! Her oldest child is just starting kindergarten and she is expecting her fourth, and with her husband's calling and work she has to feel completely overwhelmed. But second, I've also learned this: this is the person who the Lord would have serve at this time. I've seen her interact with the girls and there is a reason she is there. She may not know the reason now, but someday she also will look back on this time as one of great joy in her life. This I know.
So, how do you serve with joy in your calling when not even you have a testimony that you are the right person or this is the right time? I know you all have experience with this. Do share!