When the Bishop Stops by and You Look Like a Deer in the Headlights

It’s been two months now since the Bishop stopped by my house and asked me to serve as Relief Society President.  It was completely unexpected.  I think I’m still in shock!  Well, the shock was followed by fear, and now peace, but you get the idea.  I still picture this as something my mother would do.  Also,  I think  I was under the impression that there was some sort of “hierarchy of holiness” in the ward with the most spiritual people being asked to do these sorts of callings.  That left me feeling pretty safe.  Well, at this point, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works!

I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t necessarily wait until we are prepared, feel up for the task, and have our lives all together. He doesn’t always choose the person who is the most experienced, or the most gifted. He pretty much takes us as we are, with all our flaws and inadequacies. I suppose that’s the beauty of grace. We are all inadequate and flawed and he will love us anyway.

He has a use for each of us, even those of us who question and struggle with some of the historical and cultural issues in the church.  Maybe it’s that struggling that makes us useful at times, at least that was my Bishop’s response to my misgivings.  I will say that struggling  can certainly make us more humble, and  more compassionate.  In the New Testament we read about how Christ associated with ordinary people, and called them his disciples and friends. There is comfort in that.

In the months prior to this calling, I’d been trying to just embrace everything that I can and live with some of the mystery.  I’d been praying for ways to serve others in a meaningful way.  For anyone who’s been through a bit of a faith crisis, this seems to be one of the best ways to reconnect with your faith.  Just forget yourself and serve.  This calling isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I’m hoping for another season of growth.  I’m making an effort to be open to the journey, and to try to recognize inspiration.  I have a hope that I can touch other women who don’t quite fit the Mormon mold.

I remind myself that it’s really about loving people.  I can do that.  I do really love being with the women in Relief Society.  Maybe that stems from being the only girl in a family with two brothers but I love the feeling of sisterhood. I like that there is a mix of ages and experience.

This is an excerpt from the sacrament meeting talk I gave when I was called.

If you haven’t stopped by Relief Society in awhile, I hope you will feel welcome. I will warn you that you won’t find any perfect people in there, just a lot of women like you who are trying to do their best. As members of the church, we know the Lord is accustomed to accomplishing his purposes with the help of uneducated farm boys who pray alone in the woods, and ordinary women who are busy with chores and children. Age doesn’t matter; neither does your marital status, or dress size. If you have felt that you have never quite fit in at church, or don’t quite fit the Mormon mold, there are women just like you in Relief Society. If you’ve been away from church for awhile and are just putting your toes back in the water, there are women like you in Relief Society. If your life hasn’t turned out quite like you planned, and you worry that you don’t measure up somehow, well, there are women just like you in Relief Society. The Lord has need of each of us.

While we share some of the same difficulties and concerns, we are also unique. Each life has the ability to touch the lives of a unique set of family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues. I believe that. There is no such thing as an inconsequential life. Each of us is of tremendous worth to the Lord. We are not clones of one another. We have different opinions and interests and strengths. That’s a good thing. Your life will touch others that no one else can. You will do it in a way that will be different from someone else. The women of the church can be practical visionaries to our families and our associates, as we minister to those around us. This is a living church where miracles happen everyday, usually through the kindness of ordinary people. We need Relief Society, and Relief Society needs us too.

I’m grateful for the grace of the Savior. I believe He works through us. We are held together by a belief in Christ and a desire to feel His grace at work in our lives. Our motto is “Charity Never Faileth”. Charity is the pure love of Christ. I believe He will help us to be about His business. I’m grateful for the restored gospel and I’m excited to serve together with the women of this ward. Among us there are women with soft hearts who listen to the spirit, thinking women with keen minds, and capable women with hands that serve. I pray that we will go forward with the confidence that the Lord will help us as we minister to the needs of our families, and as we minister to the needs of the ward. We are not alone. We don’t need to be perfect, but with the Lord, we are enough.

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18 Responses

  1. Meka says:

    Why couldn’t this have happened two years ago? You will be spectacular, Rebecca. The sisters in your ward are so very lucky.

  2. Diana says:

    I can relate to this post so completely. A year and a half ago I was called to be RS pres in my singles branch. At the time I felt like one of the undergrads that no one new (it’s a student/working singles ward). I wasn’t even endowed at the time so I felt like I was lacking some greater knowledge that I needed to be able to lead.

    I too had been praying for greater opportunities to serve and an increase of charity in my life, and boy did it come! I was a deer in head lights for a long time, but slowly gradually I’ve been adjusting.

    Thank you for sharing. I love what you shared from your talk. I would love to share that with all the sisters who don’t feel connected to our RS.

  3. Paul says:

    Your comments from your talk are quite lovely.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Meka – Thanks for the vote of confidence. I so wish you were still living here. We miss you and your DH.

    Diana – Nice to hear I’m not alone, and that it’s working out. Sometimes we just have to trust. Your experience reminded me of being called as a Primary President when I was 25, and had never had a calling in the primary, and had no kids. That was pretty stressful too.

    Paul – Glad to see you over here at Exponent. I often enjoy your comments around the ‘nacle.

  5. Corktree says:

    Lovely post. From what I know of you, I would love to have you as my RS president. The women in your ward are blessed to have you loving them.

    “Each life has the ability to touch the lives of a unique set of family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

    I am finally using this idea to reach beyond myself. I realized that I can affect someone in a very unique way and that it is selfish of me to shy away from those who may need a friend or just need to hear what I have to offer simply because I’m afraid of rejection. I’m not an extrovert, but I don’t have to be to share myself with others. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Sally says:

    You prayed for ways to serve and were called as RS pres. My son-in-law prayed to learn the scriptures better and was called as seminary teacher. Be careful what you pray for… But really, I loved your sac meeting talk. So good to be reminded that beneath the Sunday faces, we are all struggling in some way.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    See now…this is why I stopped praying for chances to serve 😉

    But, seriously, your message is beautiful. I’d love to hear it my Relief Society. And, your ward is very lucky to have you, my friend.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Corktree – I do believe that each of us has the potential to touch people that no one else can. My husband and I have joked about living an “inconsequential life”. There isn’t such a thing, but it’s easy to feel that way, and to put limits on ourselves out of fear. I loved Heather’s most recent post about friendships for that reason.

    Sally and Emily – Thanks for your insights. It’s interesting how prayers are sometimes answered in very unexpected ways. We should probably be especially cautious about praying for growth. In my experience, it tends to be painful! Same with empathy. It probably means you are going to go through some challenges so you’ll understand others better.

    Thanks for your words of support. I feel surrounded by my sisters today. Oh, and some brothers too.

  9. Caroline says:

    When I learned that you were going to be our new RS president, I almost did a jig, I was so happy and excited for you.

    I loved the talk you gave when you were called. The more we can emphasize that RS has women from across the ideological, class, professional, racial, political, etc. spectrum, the better IMO. The more types of women we can enfold in RS, the more people we can help and the more we can grow, both in numbers and in spirit.

  10. I find the first paragraph of your Sacrament Meeting talk excerpt to be profound, insightful, and touching. Every woman in the Church would benefit from hearing and believing those words! Thank you for sharing them.

  11. Deborah says:

    We need to hear more messages like that over the pulpit. Inspired indeed, you and your bishop.

  12. sandra says:

    Great post. I loved the comments from your talk. You will be fantastic.

  13. Mike M. says:

    Thanks Rebecca. Just terrific.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Alison – I was hoping to give everyone a warm welcome and feeling of acceptance, regardless of circumstances. I hope that’s what came across. I have purely selfish reasons for feeling this way. There are quite a few really wonderful women ( some of them feisty feminists) who skip RS. I want them back! Not only do I want them back, but I want them teaching!

    Deborah – About inspired bishops, our bishop is outstanding, and I’m not saying that because he called me. Actually, that made me wonder if he had his signals crossed! Overall, I’ve felt a mutual respect and support. I hope that isn’t unique. I was floored one Sunday when they did a “leadership training” moment in ward council and the focus was Elder Oak’s remarks about how men do not equal the priesthood. The priesthood is the power of God, not the men. I thought, Wow! These guys could be posting over here at Exponent! It was fun to hear it.

    I feel really fortunate to work with some really wonderful people in our ward. Seeing all the good-deed-doers behind the scenes has been really inspiring.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    I am so glad that you are the RS pres in your ward.

    I am even more glad that you blog with us! I love reading your experiences, perspective and testimony.

    Thank you.

  16. “For anyone who’s been through a bit of a faith crisis, this seems to be one of the best ways to reconnect with your faith. Just forget yourself and serve.”

    Yes, and sometimes its the only thing that can keep you with a purpose for coming back (beyond simple inertia). The love of people.

  17. Rebecca says:

    Jess – I’m soo enjoying blogging here with you all. Thanks Jess.

    Troth – For the past few years, I’ve spend quite a bit of time in places like cubs or the nursery. I like to be behind the scenes, and these were places where I could serve without needing to be on the spot with regards to my testimony, particularly when I was going through a lot of intellectual angst. Things can feel pretty secular in cub scouts, and I could feel at peace there. I’ve been fortunate to know a few other people who have talked to me about a faith crisis, but it’s not something we tend to talk a lot about in the church, probably because it’s fairly hard for people who haven’t experienced one to understand. Turning my attention toward loving and serving people takes things back to the most basic principles of the gospel, and helps me to get out of my own head.

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