I must set the background for this piece by stating that I am not a huge Relief Society fan. Not that I don’t like the women in my ward. Most of them are very good people, and I like them … in a distant; “Hi & Bye” in the church halls; “Gee, aren’t their kids cute”; disconnected way. I even lobbied for, and received, a calling that I knew would make RS attendance virtually mandatory every week, just to have added incentive not to skip. I can’t even attribute my generally apathetic attitude to the fact that I’m in a family ward, because I had the same attitude when I was in the YSA ward.
So, why don’t I like Relief Society? It could be that I’m just not feeling very spiritual these days. A family member has been dealing with a case of extreme ecclesiastical abuse, and as the years have passed, I’ve found the best way to deal with it personally is to just not think about it too much. Spiritual coasting.
There are many other possible reasons for why I don’t love Relief Society, but they are really rather petty, and would make this post far too long, besides giving you a bad impression of myself, so I’ll skip them.
Anyway … after a month of being out of town or working (really, I do try to keep this to a minimum), I attended Relief Society at my home ward. Apparently they’d been getting Brother G to play the piano, and had even resorted to calling him Sister G, which he quite enjoyed. When I heard it, I almost suggested that we could swap meetings every once in a while, but I doubt the priesthood would receive me as well as the Relief Society has received Brother G. Thankfully, the songs chosen for this week were ones I knew, and I was able to play without humiliating myself.
Our teacher this week was KP. Who I generally like. But when I heard the topic for the lesson, I gave a large inward groan, and fixated one of those frozen smile on my face … you know, then kind that never reach the eyes. I think the title was “Marriage and Family Relations, “ or something or other. And I began to tune it out … hadn’t even brought my knitting, which I use to occupy my hands so that I don’t fall asleep. Again, I understand the importance of marriage and parenthood, but wish these could be taught maybe every tenth lesson, as opposed to every fourth, third, second, etc. I also wish it could be taught in a way that recognizes that there are many different types of situations … never married, married to a non-member spouse, married to an inactive spouse, married without children, married with children, divorced, widowed, etc. So, basically, I grouse because I feel like the whole marriage-and-family thing is being thrust down my throat, and because I don’t feel like I fit the template. That’s a lot of grousing, especially every second, third or fourth week.
However, I soon perked up, as KP had asked various people in the RS to participate. The lesson, which may have seemed kaleidoscopic to some, seemed to converge for me. And I felt like there may be a place for me here after all. The stories were very disparate, and not the type I’ve come to associate with sedate, correlated Relief Society lessons …
Wife who hasn’t sat next to her husband regularly in church for 30 years, due to his church service callings. That’s a lot of sharing of one’s husband. He was released last year, and she’s figuring out what to do with him.
Mother who has both teenaged children and ailing adult parents in her home. Experiencing several different stages of life simultaneously.
Single, professional sister in her 40’s. Has always felt included, and worked to correct those who (inadvertently) seem to have thought of her as a second class citizen. Has especially enjoyed working with the Young Women over the past few years.
Sister who has several children who have dissociated themselves with the church, one of whom is a gay son. Understanding that one does one’s best as a parent, and loving those who stray.
And while none of these stories closely mirrors mine, I felt a great sense of relief sweep over me. I felt something I haven’t really felt since Chieko Okazaki used to speak at General Conference. I felt that, instead of being expected to fit a mold, I had a place in the Relief Society because I was unique, and that I had a point of view that could be useful to others, and vice versa. I felt that convergence, without giving up individuality, was possible.
And so it is. I come every week with the hope of finding these moments … the ones that keep my spark alive. And I’d love to hear those Relief Society moments that have sparked your lives. How did it change or validate your point of view? How was it (or you) different from other weeks that didn’t inspire?