When You are “Called”… and it doesn’t quite feel right
We’ve all been there.
It happens. Maybe more than we know.
A calling is extended and it just seems like the weirdest concept ever. When I was a YSA, I believed all I was told and tried to put a good face on and do it. But now… I am not so “Y”, nor am I “S”, and maybe I am a little more cynical on the “A” side of things. As a friend of mine once told me, “Whenever I get a calling, I ask ‘Is this inspiration or desperation?’ before I accept. I’d rather fill in till they get the right person, than accept a calling that isn’t right.”
I wish I had her hutzpah. But I don’t. I’m a people pleaser, and feel the guilt of not accepting a calling, even when it isn’t right for me.
The thing is, I do feel good about this calling—but not right now. We’ve just moved, I am still setting up house in a new country, trying to support my children, navigating a new medical system, starting a new job and about a million other things. I want another few weeks to a month before I stack on a calling that I fear will break me.
But the auxiliary (I know, wrong term) president who called me said she knew I was right for the calling the second she met me, two weeks before our records were even in the ward. And though I am stressed, I feel happy– so when people ask, I say, “I am overwhelmed, but finding my feet…” which I think they perceive as my way of saying I am just fine. But I am starting to cry more often than I’d like, a sign that I am getting overwhelmed. But then… I was sustained—much to my chagrin—before I officially accepted the calling. Ugh. So don’t even get me started on how much I dislike being “set apart” (a whole ‘nother topic for another day).
Is all this needing a bit more time to find my feet a good enough reason to “postpone” a calling?
Well, I asked Sister Google. And Sister Google provided a copious number of guilt-inducing articles and blog posts about accepting unwanted callings and the never-ending blessings associated with doing so. Sister Google overwhelmingly said “No, humble yourself and repent for questioning Heavenly Father (when did He show up?) and just do the calling and you’ll be blessed.” In case you are interested in a very recent example, there was a talk last General Conference by Larry S, Katcher wherein he tells the story of a man who wanted to avoid being called as stake president, so he skipped town during a local conference, and was in a terrible accident– spared because he was supposed to be the next stake president. After repenting, he accepted the call… which implies that to turn a calling down is a sin.
So now am I too sinful for the calling that I said no to, which created my grievous sin? Chicken or the egg argument, anyone?
Startlingly, many of the articles that popped via Sister Google were about being called to Young Women presidencies and not wanting to serve in the Young Women. Is this possibly because we know that many things we were taught as Young Women aren’t right for us and we have no desire to repeat that experience? Nor can we feign testimonies and teaching the “benefits and blessings” of a patriarchal system that teaches us to swathe ourselves in layers of clothes on the hottest days when the Young Men can openly go shirtless, and then being coerced to testify to a system that feels icky at best? In considering this, I feel like I need a counselling session to dissect it all…
At the end of the day, I do not doubt that blessings for serving are real, and being called to personally challenging positions can be a learning experience. That these experiences can teach us something utterly new about ourselves and increase our testimony to the point of euphoria. At least sometimes. And maybe even most of the time. I also absolutely believe in being blessed for service of any kind– whether inspired by Christian, Wiccan, Islamic or just good human motivations: genuine service is blessed service.
And yet… I can’t help but recall the missionary I met as a youth. A brilliant young man who converted to the church when he was 18. He had a testimony, but he wished he had not joined the church until he was older, so he didn’t “have to” go on a mission. He was miserable. And faithful. But mostly miserable. With a beautiful testimony. My heart ached for him, because even though I was quite young when I met him, I already knew the back-breaking, weighty encumbrance of church-inspired peer-pressure.
So, dear feminist sisters. What do you think? Are callings “ready, set, go”—or take a breather and make sure you are in a place to do the job? I’d like to know. Because ghosting the ward is only going to work for me for so long…