I admit, attending Mormon church – especially all 3 hours – is super agonizing for me.
Inserting rant here:
- it’s been a (really really) long day for me already and I’ve been up since 5 am.
- I hate sitting in a pew or a chair or a bench or even a recliner that long (my legs and my back and my bladder start hurting).
- Every room is either too cold or too hot. (why the FREAK can this not be solved?!)
- I have limited patience enduring pontificating lectures (as in zero)
- I loathe hearing the same repetitive phrases spoken and prayed mindlessly over and over and over (no judgement or reference toward any specific person – this is just a generalized statement of my – sometimes and not always – experience of “going to church”).
- I could go on but my personal gripes are not the actual point of this post.
I admire those brothers and sisters in my circle – assuming there are those celestial souls – who actually thrive sitting through 3 hour church every week and can think of nowhere else they would actually rather be.
or definitely here.
WHO are you.
Because I must learn your Zen ways!
With all of this in mind, here is my story. I really enjoyed and appreciated yesterday’s Relief Society Lesson. For my non-Mormon friends, that’s our women’s meeting, and it’s the last hour of our three hour church marathon which I’m convinced was purposely designed for me since it’s my bribe for sitting through the first two hours. Anyway, the lesson made my day. We are a brand new ward – and no one has lived in our boundaries longer than about 24 months (all new construction) so I apologize I don’t remember our teacher’s name. I haven’t even met her yet, but I love her. She’s going to be the Erma Bombeck of the Farmington 15th Ward. Seriously. I want to convey my thanks to her for using her glorious sense of humor and personal stories to guide our discussion about what the broad and guilt-ridden subject of Service means.
The idea that stood out to me – my “Ah ha! Lightbulb turning on now in my brain” moment that I have been “ponderizing” today is how attending our church meetings is an actual act of service.
It’s not always all about me.
I (obviously) needed that message.
It must have been “meant just for me”. 😉
So … you mean… I might not have anything to gain in one particular meeting – but possibly, something to give?
Something that absolutely resonates with me that our Heavenly Parents have given each of us priceless, unique gifts to share with the world.
That’s a solid truth for me.
So, when I feel I am able to go to church on Sunday, or, comment on our ward Facebook group, or attend a ward party or participate in an organized service project (there’s no end of opportunities for Mormons…) then I’m actually performing an officially unofficial “Show Up” Service. Yay!
It’s not all about me when I gird up my loins and show up (and let me just push pause here – to those who also have to wrestle and gird up a bunch of little people – I worship and weep for your Super-heroism! #respect). And it’s not all about me when I bravely enter that dismal (let’s just say it – ugly & utilitarian) concrete building – that YES I am so blessed to have instead of a mud floor hut or a moldy rented basement!! (and yes, I will repent for showing my privilege there) or to attend at such an inconvenient time of day … (yeah, ok, it is totally not an inconvenient time for me personally this year so I’ve got nothin’.)
It’s not about me.
Someone might need me this week, or next week, or tomorrow.
OK. I hope it’s true. It sounds true. It makes me feel better. Because I am a “being needed” kind of person. How about you? I’ve heard that might actually be a common human need.
So, I’ll just show up and I’ll bring my unique spirit, with all my messy imperfection, dizzying ideas, uncomfortable perspectives, and disjointed comments – because maybe someone actually needs my brand of me.
It makes sense. Because, Church isn’t the same without all of YOU who “show up serve” for me. It would just be a very too cold (or too hot) empty utilitarian building until you fill it up with all your colors, emotions, voices, personalities – and all the light and dark places of your souls that provide fascinating contrasts and interest. In other words, you all share a brushstroke on the canvas of my life on Sunday and without YOU, my canvas is incomplete. And, don’t forget Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s awesome choir analogy.
I don’t know about you, but for me, having human interactions in a Christ-focused atmosphere is when my spirit gets REALLY excited. That is when I start growing beyond my self – and I become “born again” as new and fresh and open to bigger ideas.
The gospel of Jesus Christ can actually be super mind blowing when I take time and effort to dig in deep. Sifting through and pondering all the doctrines and all the paradoxes fascinates, frustrates and fulfills me in an “unfinished symphony” kind of way. Hearing people share how they are coping with the ambiguity of Truth and choosing to still move forward in spite of everything that does not make sense – and sharing their real stories and real struggles in their own words – that is what my soul craves, and makes me “feel the Spirit”. That is my secret hope will happen in every meeting when I go to church. The reality is it is more rare than regular, but maybe if I’m trying my “show up service” attitude things will be different.
Worth a try.
A week ago our newly ordained President Russell M. Nelson shared his first message with the church. Among the many things said was that “There is a place in the church for everyone.”
I believe that is what Mormons might call a “celestial principle”. Meaning, it’s a 100% perfect truth but it’s application by an imperfect membership is still hovering around 50%. But, the truth remains. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of God’s children in the world has a place – and is needed – in the Church of Jesus Christ. So, I truly believe that was a direct message from our Savior to me [*yeah, it’s not all about me*] to open up space in my heart for EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of God’s children.
If HE needs every one, then so do I.
He especially needs me to bring all of my aching heart, and my shattered pieces, and my flaws and awkwardness with me, so that I can sit easily with the other aching, shattered, flawed and awkward souls He wants to gather in. And I don’t have to “solve” or “fix” or “heal” – because that’s His calling. Maybe He just needs me to sit with them in their pain, and be willing to wade through the deep water next to them, and just to quietly, simply “show up serve.”. In whatever way I can.
Yeah, I can do that.
Imagine the possibilities of how He can work through me for you? And I wonder how He can work through you for me when we both just “show up?”
Now you know what I have been pondering.
This was what I tried (and completely failed) to express yesterday in our meeting. I do much better with the Written than the Spoken word. So, I decided to write it down here to share with my ward sisters, and anyone else interested.
You know, I don’t think this idea just applies to Mormon church.
What if it is broader and deeper? What if it’s a way to be more human?
Something to ponder.
I hope I can make our new ward feel like a safe space for anyone feeling like I do. Weary, different, awkward, a square peg in a round hole, a little bit of rebel, a lot tired and impatient, often hurting and broken and messy inside.
I just want you to know that you can come over and sit by me. We can be broken, shattered and messy inside together at church. If you want, we can put our stocking feet up on the chairs in front of us when our legs hurt (and feel like rebels!). I won’t even try to fix you, or give you unsolicited advice (don’t you hate that, too?). Because, I don’t have all the right answers anymore. I’ve discovered there is way too many complexities of the human condition for me to “fix” anything with a Sunday School answer. And, I personally have decided I am not supposed to have the answers – otherwise, I wouldn’t have any reason to keep learning and searching and pondering and praying and “show up serving” to church! I also don’t think you have to dress a certain way, or think a certain way, or act a certain way, or feel a certain way to be worthy and welcome and NEEDED in my ward family circle.
In a perfect world, I suppose everyone might feel this way. Unconditionally loving, accepting, embracing, rejoicing in differences. I’m sad it isn’t a perfect world, nor a perfect church, nor a perfect me. I have to accept that everyone else is on their own path of discovery and acceptance just like me. From the very top to the very bottom of the hierarchy of “Churchiness”. My path is always changing – hopefully upward – so I think it’s fair for me to give other people the benefit of the doubt as they climb their way through the rocks and thorns. I will try to “show up serve” for that one person that might need me. Maybe that will help my ward be the kind of place Jesus would like to visit from time to time. Or, at least the kind of place I’d like.
That’s why I will keep going to church.