Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Callings Feel Hard

I remember the first time a calling started to feel difficult for me.  It was my first year at BYU. I and another boy in my ward were called to be leaders in a family home evening group of other college students.  We pretty much were to make sure family home evenings happened for our group and to coordinate time and place to meet.

I tended to be the driving force behind our group meeting. I don’t know why that was. Maybe my partner didn’t have regular family home evenings growing up and so didn’t feel strongly about it.  Or maybe he had a heavy load of coursework and it weighed on him such that he didn’t feel as urgently about having family home evening. 

Whatever the reason, I was usually the one calling him to plan what we were going to do.  Once we figured that out, I was the one calling members of our group to let them know meeting details.  (This was before cell phones started to become more ubiquitous, and before texting capability, so there was no sending a group text.)

I remember late one Monday afternoon sitting on my bed, eying the phone with distaste, knowing that I was going to have to push together another family home evening when I wanted nothing more than to relax and be the one pulled for a change.

I knew I needed some motivation, so in desperation I reached for my scriptures and flipped it open to some random page and started reading.  Here is the verse that caught my eye:

And now my beloved brethren, I have said these things unto you that I might awaken you to a sense of your duty to God, that ye may walk blameless before him, that ye may walk after the holy order of God, after which ye have been received. (Alma 7:22)

That verse gave me a jolt, like an awakening. It seemed to speak to my situation. What was my duty to God?  It was to make sure FHE happened. 

“that ye may walk blameless before him” – I envisioned Judgment day and how I would feel happy if I could look back and say I had done my duty.  And after all, it looking at it from a distant perspective, my duty didn’t seem so hard after all.  A few phone calls. 

That gave me the motivation to go pick up that phone and start.

I look back at that now and I shake my head at how silly I was.  But at the time I was young and it was a big deal. I had a lot of growing to do.

Here are some other scriptures I like that are closely related—good motivators for callings…

Holiness and foreordination

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (1 Timothy 1:9)

This scripture is probably talking about “holy calling” in the sense of being brought into the church, but I think it also applies to church callings too. They come by revelation. If you are like me, you probably have raised your eyebrows at some callings you’ve been given and thought, I have no idea why I have been asked to do this; there are people who could do a better job than me at this.  That’s when you know Heavenly Father has His own purposes, and the calling didn’t come because of anything we’ve done to deserve it. There’s foreordination in it, and it’s part of the Lord’s plan.

Case in point: I have no idea how my being in charge of that FHE group at BYU fit in the Lord’s plan or what its purpose was, but I have faith that it fulfilled its purpose.  It was the first time I had to push through an aspect of my calling that was hard.

Some of my callings I’ve said to myself, This has to be revelation, because I would not have chosen this. This is not the kind of thing I like.  There was one calling that I was mad about receiving, but I accepted anyway, and it turned out to be a big blessing.  I look back at it now and I see it as evidence that Heavenly Father knew me better than I knew myself. He knew I would love it, and He knew it would stretch me where I needed stretching.

Example: Stripling warriors

And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. (Alma 53:20)

This is about the stripling warriors, but I want that to be about me in my callings. I want to be valiant for courage, be strong, be active, and be true at all times to whatsoever thing has been entrusted to me.

Learning, action, diligence

99 Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.
100 He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen. (D&C 107:99-100)

Two principles there: 1) learning our duty and 2) acting with diligence. If we don’t know what we’re supposed to do, we need to get training and get help until we know what we need to do.  Once we know, we need to do it.  Consistently.

Sometimes diligence is our big test.  Maybe we can pull off the big production once, but it is the tasks that must be done over and over and over again that can become a problem for us because we get so tired of them.  Or maybe we’re more into the calling when it is new and strange, but when it is old we might get a little slack at it.  When my callings feel old, I know I’m being trained to be diligent.

All are Needed to Keep the System Perfect

109 Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?
110 Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect. (D&C 84:109-110)

To me this one says there are no unimportant callings and each one is needed.  The image of the head dismissing the need for the feet teaches by negative analogy that leaders should not dismiss as unimportant the members who have the less-visible callings, because if those less-visible callings were eliminated, there would be hurt somewhere.  (“without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?”) 

By the way, I’ve noticed so many church leaders that are so good at thanking people who put together an event. I used to wonder why they took time for all those thank yous, but now I know that they understand this principle that every person’s contribution is important.

In the abstract, callings are a grouping of tasks that have to be done, but from the spiritual perspective, they are opportunities to practice charity and service for others.  They exist because there is work to be done to build the kingdom of God and to keep it running smoothly.  If we don’t think a particular calling is needed, we only need to think about what would be lost if it didn’t exist.

I also like that v110 says that with every member, all may be edified and the system is kept perfect. We all keep the system perfect!  We all edify each other!

Keep it up, Soldier!

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)

Sometimes callings are just hard, and we have to endure it. Good soldiers have to endure nasty conditions, and good Saints will too on occasion. 

What scriptures have helped you keep on with your callings?