Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Notes on Being Mormon: What Kind of Disciple am I?

Lately I've been thinking about this question a lot. I've also been thinking a lot about the nature of sin, but I think that's for another post. 

By the way, if you don't speak "Mormon" and want me to translate any of the jargon in this post, comment below. I think most of my readers are LDS, so I'm not going to worry about it as I write.

For over 3 years now, I've been serving as the Ward Primary Chorister. I deeply love these kids, especially my little fan club of 3-5 year olds in the front rows. They warm my heart and I love singing with them. However, it is a decidedly exhausting calling, and usually by Sunday (even before church) I'm just about falling over from fatigue, and then I push through primary with a smile on my face and singing my throat dry and then I go home and collapse for a while. Every. Sunday. (I'm currently working toward a solution to my fatigue, but I'm not there yet.) And every Sunday I feel all mixed up with both extreme tiredness and happiness. Dread and love. I don't get excited for this calling anymore-- not only am I physically tired, but I'm feeling a bit burned out. More than a bit...

Last February (11 months ago), I got a very strong, very clear impression that I would be released by April. There was an announcement about an upcoming training on some handbells our Stake Primary has, and I felt very strongly that I would be released before that training. So I got kind of excited. I love new things and I crave change. Months ticked by and I waited. April came and went and I started feeling a bit discouraged, but still I waited. Many, many other sisters got new callings, and still I waited. 

I sometimes hear comments that indicate that our ward leaders don't think anyone else could do my calling as well as I do it (not true), and I have gotten the impression that, even though I might be needed or wanted elsewhere, I'm being kept in Primary because it is convenient and they trust me to do the calling well. I doubt all of this is truth, but it underscores my wondering why I'm still here.

While I appreciate the sentiment that I'm the only one who can do the job for the ego stroke, I would be very unhappy to think that I might be needed to serve elsewhere, but not being called there because they don't know who to replace me with. Or that idea that no one else can do this calling as well. That is simply not true and unfair to the other people of this ward. Of course someone else can do it-- probably better than I do!

Anyway, with all of this in mind, my husband (who had also been in his calling for over 2 years, maybe 3) and I were called in to speak with a member of the bishopric and I thought, "Oh boy! This is it. Here we go. Maybe they'll call us to something together! Maybe..." and I had no idea what it was about. 

This is unusual for me, because I have known what I was being called to before it happened with every calling I've received as an adult. I always get an impression beforehand. Often I resist that (YW Camp Director!?! RS President!??!?!?), but I've always known.

I had no idea this time, but I was still so excited about moving on and having a change. 

They gave my husband a new calling. 

I sighed a little in disappointment.

Then I spoke up. I asked the bishopric member to please talk to the Bishop and verify that I am where the Lord wants me to be. I told him I had a strong impression 9 months prior and that since then I had been just waiting and waiting. He indicated that usually they don't release my position unless the Primary President requests it, which I doubt will happen anytime soon (again, I do the job, I'm reliable and good at it). I said, "I'm not asking to be released; I just want to have my name considered and I want to know that I'm still where I'm supposed to be."

I have heard... nothing.

Two more months have passed, and I'm still getting up on Sunday, figuring out an activity, choosing songs, and wearing myself out with the kids. I still love it, and I still love the kids, but I feel mixed up and burned out. 

Which brings me to my question.

This is the LDS.org definition of the word disciple:
See also Christians; Conversion, Convert; Yoke
 A follower of Jesus Christ, who lives according to Christ's teachings. (There's more, but this is what pertains to me)
from LDS.org images

What kind of disciple am I, if I get tired and frustrated and complain (even just in my mind) about how or where I've been asked to serve? If I resent the service, or I focus on the idea that I should have been released by now, am I serving as Jesus would have served? No. Clearly not. Jesus, even in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He suffered all the pain and sorrows of the world, experiencing agony for all the sins of the world, and later hung, dying, on the cross, did not ask to be released.

from LDS.org images

He did say "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Then He went on with the required atoning sacrifice as agreed before His birth, not complaining, not whining, not gossiping, not resenting us or God, and not forgetting whom he served. What kind of disciple am I if I can't do the same with my little call to serve?

This question pertains to many areas of our lives. What kind of disciple of Christ finds reasons not to attend weekly worship services? What kind of disciple resents going to multiple meetings or having to exert effort, give of their time and energy to His church? What kind of disciple lets go of their faith when things get difficult? What kind of disciple resents their spouse's service in a church calling?

Life is hard. Sometimes, it's very hard. Sometimes we wonder why God lets us suffer. We wonder why God lets bad things happen to good people, and people we judge as unworthy have success. We may lose faith because we don't feel like we fit in at church-- we may feel like no one there likes us or cares about us. We may feel like if God cares about us, He will ________________________.

It's easy to get sucked into negative thoughts and ideas about life, or about God. It's easy to leave the church. It's easy to stay home a few times, thinking we'll go back when ______________________.  It's easy to say we don't want to serve, that we don't have enough time, ability or energy to make the sacrifice required of the calling. It's much easier to not be a Mormon. 

But sacrifice is SO good for the soul. Giving of ourselves makes us more like Christ, and increases our love for our fellow men.

What kind of disciple of Jesus Christ refuses to give when asked to? 

I consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and I attempt to live by His teachings, and as such, I am asked to sacrifice my time and share my talents and serve His children in various ways. 
from LDS.org
Jesus did not complain about His ministry, His calling, or the service He was asked (by the Father) to do. He didn't resent the needy around Him; He didn't roll His eyes and stay in bed because they were asking too much of Him. He got up every morning and served all the hours of His life, even knowing that few people would appreciate it, even knowing that he would be tortured and murdered for it.

And, as His disciples, we are expected to do our best to emulate Him. We aren't perfect, God knows this, that's kind of the whole point of Christ coming to Earth in the flesh, but we are asked to follow Him and do as He did.

So I serve, and I will try to step it up and get excited about my calling again, and not worry about unfulfilled personal revelation. Maybe I misunderstood, or maybe God wanted me to ask the question, so I could reassert to Him "Not my will, but thine be done."Life is hard. Being a Mormon-- a faithful, full-time, committed Mormon, takes a lot of dedication. I have a feeling that over the next couple of decades, it's going to be even more difficult to be a Mormon in the U.S. We are becoming more and more... peculiar, according to the worldy world around us. Our morality and standards are not just questioned, but are actively battled. 

But the work of Christ moves forward. The time is here to stand with Christ or to stand against Him. There is no in between. I stand with Him. I decide what kind of disciple I will be.

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