27 July 2009

Magnifying Callings

How many times has this happened to you?

It's a Saturday night, and you're enjoying your evening. You're with excellent company doing exactly what you love to do. You haven't a care in the world and your day has been nothing but exciting, despite your sleep-deprived state. You're hours and miles away from the internet, and it feels good to be unplugged for once. You're with friends your age, and none of them are family. In a word, you're completely and totally relaxed.

DON'T DO IT!
Then the phone rings. It's the Relief Society president. She's sorry it's so short notice, but she wants to know if you can teach the lesson tomorrow. It's Lesson 37--Charity, the Pure Love of Christ...

Wait a second, you think to yourself, Why does that sound familiar? Lemme think a minute. OH YEAH! That's the lesson you were looking at in the manual two weeks ago and the Spirit told you to start preparing it. And again last week. And again right now. Dang.


"Sure! I would be more than glad to teach it."

You then realize that you just committed to preparing a lesson when you're six hours away from home, have no manual (in fact, you specifically remember that you left your manual at the church,) and the only reason you have the scriptures is because you keep a small quadruple combination in your purse pretty much at all times. (Yeah, did I mention that you're a dork?)

What do you do? Panic? Pray? Prepare frantically using a friend's blackberry to see the manual, scribbling what you want from it verbatim into your journal, along with lots of scriptures--to be assembled later? All of the above?

Well, maybe this doesn't happen to you. Maybe you're wise enough to heed the guidance and promptings of the Spirit so you aren't racing to do as much work as you can before the sun goes down and the Hill Cumorah Pageant starts. Maybe you've learned, as I seem to be learning, that building Zion is a full time job that never stops after a certain point in your spiritual development. Maybe you're right there with me, trying to give your all to see His kingdom shine in the eyes of His children.

Or maybe this is just a part of the process of becoming a wise virgin--drop by drop as you not only excel, but learn what NOT to do, and are blessed with the wisdom on how to make things right and do things better. Maybe that's the part of the story I missed--learning that to be chastised is just as important as succeeding in life.

But that's the great and glimmering gem that comes from insight through hindsight. At the time, I pretty much was alternating through self-denigration, sheer panic, and frantic scribbling of more notes and material than I was ever going to get through in one Relief Society lesson, but we're getting to that.

Eventually, I decided that I had made all the notes I would need in order to later assemble the lesson I was envisioning in my head. I decided to get back to enjoying the Pageant and being in Palmyra with great friends that definitely know how to come to your rescue when you need them most.

We had a great time. We left as soon as Pageant ended, laughed once more at the anti-Mormon protesters as we were leaving, and began the 356 mile journey back home. I had decided that my plan of attack would be to sleep in the car, finish my lesson upon returning home, get ready for church, attend the Single's ward, teach my lesson, go to my bishop's house with the rest of my ward like we do pretty much every Sunday, and NOT die of exhaustion in the process.

If I recall correctly, it was just after 6AM when we pulled up to my place. And with the addition of a two hour nap, what I planned for is essentially how everything played out.


 Which isn't to say that everything went smoothly. I didn't finish (not that I had a stopping place in mind, so I'm not sure how I was judging that), but I successfully printed what I had as I was running out the door and continued scribbling more notes and a few additional scriptures on my lesson plan through Sacrament Meeting. I found a REAL gem in 1 Peter 1 that I didn't actually get to because I ran out of time. But I did my best, there were no awkward gaps, and I still managed to run over my time--as usual. The quality of the lesson was my usual, meaning (I would hope) the best I have to offer.

And yet, it was the first time that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get comfortable up there. I usually find my groove and I enjoy every minute of being up in front of those I'm teaching, but that didn't happen. The fact that I took a detour in the middle of it really caught me off guard, and I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't had the Spirit from the word Go, I was so uncomfortable. And if I didn't have the spirit, how could I have possibly taught anyone anything about charity? I wanted so badly to do a good job, and I felt as if all I had done was expected too much of myself at the expense of everyone else's meeting.

Seeing as I was entirely too sleep deprived, my ability to trust my own spiritual perception was non-existent. So I did what I always do when I'm that far out of my mind.

I prayed. I asked for forgiveness in not heeding the voice of the Spirit weeks ago. I asked if my efforts had been sufficient, if I had properly honored the responsibility I bear in His name as a teacher of His precious children. What I asked, in my heart of hearts, is if I had disappointed Him.

I have found that any lesson you give will only be as good as what you learned about your subject in the process. And when it comes to charity, I seem to have this really sophisticated (and probably wrong) expectation of what it means for me to be worthy of His forgiveness and love. Seeing as I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, I didn't exactly have a lot of time to work through my understanding of God's love. But now I see that this was the only way I was ever going to understand His answer.

Right after I said my prayer, I spoke to someone briefly. She left a simple message for me--that she had enjoyed my lesson, and that it had meant something to her. Then she was gone.

Charity... I put hours of hurried work into a lesson that one faithful sister was able to express to me in 30 seconds simply by saying thank you. She answered my prayer, and was nothing less than an angel to me when I needed one most. And it was through her that I began to understand the unadorned truth about charity--the heart of God's matter when it comes to His children.

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that infinity could ever be that simple.

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