Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What I Got Out of Stake Conference (February 25, 2007)

The past two years, Rich and I have taken turns going to stake conference because we have a toddler who makes the drive to Bozeman, the two hours in the meeting, and the drive home almost impossible. So rather than bringing the whole family home frazzled and un-edified, we just took good notes and talked to each other about the conference. This year, we decided to be brave and go all together, taking all three kids. Of course, our stake has split sessions and our ward was supposed to go at 1:00pm, which was out of the question (we do not mess with nap times around here). We arrived just in time for the 9:00am session and took our seats near the overflow.

The kids weren’t terrible. They were quiet, but consistently a little naughty, constantly distracting me from the speakers. I tried to listen and I did feel the spirit and I waited for something to teach me. Over the din, I listened intently to the final talk from our dear Stake President. His day job is Institute Director, so he is a great teacher, every time he speaks. I had gathered enough from the meeting to know that the theme was the price of discipleship, and that we needed to make a few more sacrifices to get to the temple more often. I counted that as lesson number one—there is always room for improvement in our temple attendance, mostly for the same reason there is room for improvement in our stake conference attendance (getting a babysitter for three kids for at least 7-8 hours is no small feat…but I digress). So President Heap centered his remarks on this scripture:

Luke 14:26-27: If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children. And brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
(The footnote refers us to Matthew 10:37, which reads, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy
of me.” It also shows a JST that explains the hating your own life thing as “is afraid to lay down his life for my sake.”)

This scripture and the ensuing sermon spoke to my heart in a very current way, and also as a reminder of a sacred experience I had as a missionary.

The current way is this: it’s no secret that I am very close to my siblings. And it’s probably no secret (through reading my blog, anyway) that about half of them have gone temporarily insane recently (and by insane, I mean making choices and justifications that are totally off my personal radar screen and, for some of them, totally out of character). After visiting with each of them over the holidays and New Year, I had quiet spiritual assurances that they would all be okay (and that I and my own family would be okay), and that was nice. But within a few weeks, a horrible chasm had grown between us. Trust had been broken; lots of common ground was lost. I was a thousand miles away from my dearest friends in every way imaginable: physically, and now emotionally and spiritually, too. And it hurt. It hurt really bad.

One morning in early February, I woke up and could no longer hold it all in. I felt terribly sad knowing we couldn’t all be in the temple together anymore. It felt like some of the joy of being temple worthy and all of the blessings and camaraderie of gospel living had been stripped away from the relationships that meant the most to me (besides those of my nuclear family, of course). I cried. I cried like one grieving the death of a loved one. And I guess it really was a death—a spiritual death, however temporary—and it deserved my grief for a moment. At the same time I was overcome with gratitude for the pure goodness of my husband and the trust I have in him. Each time I thought of my family of origin, though, I felt a profound loneliness. It shouldn’t be so hard to be good, I thought to myself. It shouldn’t be so hard for me, and I wish it weren’t so hard for them. I felt like I was shouting over the chasm and only my echo came back.

Which then reminded me of the mission thing. At one point in my mission, near the middle, I transferred in to what became a small scale “mission scandal.” You know, one of those situations where people get chastised and transferred? My mission president asked me about the situation in an interview and I told him everything I knew. I wasn’t directly involved and our work was going fine, so I wasn’t too worried. President told me he was very concerned about certain missionaries and I should have noticed this or that, and he wondered if he could trust any of us anymore. This shocked and hurt me and I carried the hurt with me into my work the next week. Although I knew I had been 100% honest, and I knew God knew it, I was still terribly shaken by the thought that my President didn’t trust me. I prayed about it one night and fell asleep praying. I had a dream that was long and strange but had a message for me, directly from Christ: “You need to put your trust in me and me alone. You have to stop worrying about what other people think, even your mission president.” Profound and applicable, and easier said than done. It’s something that has become easier, but is still a struggle to this day. And I believe He knew it would be.

I really miss my siblings. There is an enormous part of my life that I can’t share with them. You know, when you’re in it together, you get it, and when you’re not, you just avoid the topic? There are lots of things like that in life—motherhood, marriage, addiction, etc.—either you’ve been there or you haven’t. Pure Religion and Discipleship are in that category for me, and it’s sad. I have felt left out for a long time, but it’s a good kind of left out. The Savior said in Luke 14:26-27 that it might be like this and I have to love him more than anything to be his disciple (and I think I do—I’m trying to prove it). But he also said (coincidentally) in John 14:26-27 he would send me comfort and peace… “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And I’m not troubled or afraid anymore. He kept his promise in a million little ways throughout the month of February. My cup, which felt so empty on that morning I cried has been filled to overflowing with assurances that I am never alone; that God gave me Rich for this exact reason (and a million others); that my siblings will indeed come back someday, and we will all walk this path together with our families. Until then, I’ll stay the course and pay the price of discipleship. There is no title I’d rather have.

(Thanks, President Heap)


Kelli Melin said...

Well said, Jamie!

Jenn said...

I wish I had been able to go to Stake Conference, but vivisting with Matthew was my "discipleship".
Thanks for the deep thoughts...it made me think about my own life and how it relates to what has been going on for me!
Good thoughts my dear!
Love ya

Geo said...

I read a scripture in the D&C recently (and I'm too fatigued now to paraphrase it well, but here it goes anyway) that spoke of the Savior's work only being done when he has wrought salvation in the lives of all of his children, except for the sons of perdition. That was such an unfathomable yet comforting thought. There's a lot we know, but so much more we don't, about the tender mercies of the Lord. We really have no reason to fear, though fear is one of our biggest struggles and griefs in life.

I love the moral of your dream. Even your mission president. Charity never faileth, but the only one with perfect charity (and insight, etc., etc.) is the Lord. His opinion is the only one we ultimately need to worry about.

cmhl said...

excellent post Jamie-- I know what you mean, some of the things I feel and believe most deeply are the hardest to discuss with my immediate family.