10 February 2008

Going to my first ward



Excerpt of an e-mail I sent recently:

Being in a ward is a lot different than being in a branch. I never would have though so, but it really is a huge difference.

In our branch, you can be 3-5 minutes late to Sacrament meeting, and your seat (because you have a seat) will still be there. In a ward, all the pews are full by the time you hit the opening hymn. I walked in during the first verse, and there was no where to sit. So I kinda just put myself into the first empty gap I could find in a pew in the back.... only to discover that the family I was sitting next to had sons at the Sacrament table, and I was in their seat. Their mother told me I was more than welcome to sit where I was because they had room to move down, but I was still a little embarrassed. I don't like putting people out, and I felt really out of place. But with the seating crisis averted, I opened my hymn book and sang the alto line to a song I had never heard like I'd been doing it all my life... it felt really good to finally get something right with music, I'll tell you that much. Then I saw one of my LDS friends from school, and she saw me too, which made me feel like I wasn't a complete stranger anymore. So that worked out nicely in my favor.
One thing I noticed instantly about a ward: three times the number of people means three times the toddlers... and three times the toddlers means three times the noise. By the time sacrament started going around, I was lost in all the movement that comes with young children. It seemed like everyone was always shifting and shuffling and moving because of their children. It was hard for me to be still, espcially once I saw the little girl in front of me who was climbing all over her mother, babbling incoherently, and playing with some kind of airplane toy. She was so cute, whenever I got too restless and distracted, I just watched her. I'm telling you, she was too cute! And when she stood on the chair, faced me, waved, and smiled at me while she played with her sweater, I about melted right there in my chair. Seeing her smile made me feel so much better, and everything I've been struggling with lately just faded away.... then her mother scooped her up, made the little girl stand in her lap, and little girl sneezed right into her mother's face. *cringe cringe cringe* Drool, snot, all of it. Point blank range. Ugh, I can't even describe it anymore. LOL.

So I turned my attention back to the speaker. I don't remember who it was at that moment. I'm pretty sure it was after the mumbling young man, so it was probably during the young mother's talk that eventually got a tug from the bishop. After she was done repeating herself (she was obviously very nervous), we heard from a missionary serving in the ward.

Something new I learned about myself: I love missionaries. They're awesome. I've never heard from a missionary that wasn't uplifting in exactly the way I needed to hear. After having to fight with myself for an entire sacrament meeting to be still and pay attention, it was such a relief to feel the peace that I've taken for granted for so long in Rising Sun... the sense that I'm where Heavenly Father wants me to be, and that He's speaking to me, and I'm actually hearing what He's saying. I was afraid that all those stars weren't going to align at any point during the meeting, and I was going to have to go another week without having felt that peace. But I see now that I have to trust Heavenly Father more than that.

We sang the closing hymn, which sounded amazing in a room that size with those kinds of acoustics. The organist is definitely my kind of organist. Even in songs I had never heard before, I recognized all the times he just flubbed a chord here or there. When it was happening, I found myself thinking, "he's no Sister Angerbauer." [Note to reader: Sister Angerbauer is Boyfriend's mom, and an expert organist].... but in hindsight, I think I'm finally starting to catch on to what I was supposed to see that day, in that ward, with everything around me.

As long as I keep having unrealistic expectations about my life, the people around me, and my own capabilities, I'm going to be disappointed. My problem isn't that the youth speaker mumbles, the children run down the aisles and sneeze on their mothers, the speaker repeats herself like a skipping record, or the organist plays like Mr. Carns. [Note to reader: Mr. Carns is my choir teacher, who has issues with pianos] They're all trying to do the best they can. Who am I to say their best isn't good enough? And maybe if I stop expecting so much from other people, I won't expect the impossible from myself all the time...

Maybe. And even then, it's easier said than done.

Newark is endearingly chaotic. Even though it feels oddly impersonal, I feel like it's something I could get used to.
Maybe even something I need.

2 comments:

  1. Very insightful, Paradox. When you boil it all down, I believe the heart of the Atonement is that our Father doesn't hold us to unrealistic expectations. That's also the heart of repentance - doing what you CAN do with hope that God will accept it.

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  2. That was a cute representation of what it's like in a meeting room of any mormon ward. I'm not sure where in the US you were attending but here in Utah, that sounds just like every single Sunday in our building. Too many toddlers (ha, I have one: and believe me when she sneezes on me, it's a lot different when it's your own kid's snot - it's like it's your very own! lol), too many speakers who are nervous, crazy songs with crazy singers and definately not enough seating! I ALWAYS get there 15 minutes early just to get MY seat up near the front. In back, you're right - too many distractions. Anyway I've been reading your blog for a time now and really enjoy your youthful perspective of our wonderful faith. I think you're very brave and strong for joining the church in your adolescence especially when your parents aren't members. Perhaps someday your good example will open their eyes. I have the same hope for myself since my husband isn't a member. Surprise Surprise - and I live in the heart of Mormon-land!

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