Sunday, April 24, 2016

Serving, Asking Others to Serve

We all could stand to be more patient with each other. And most of us could stand to stretch a little more. I have served in Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies.  Each time I have been in a leadership position, I have been reminded repeatedly that there are many people who serve nearly tirelessly, happily, and selflessly.  There are people who will do just about anything you ask, no matter how many times you go to that well, and there are almost as many who step up before you've even asked, because they saw the need and were willing to help.  The sister who will step in and teach a lesson at the last minute.  The counselor who shows up with the treat you completely forgot to ask her to make.  The friend who offers to bring dinner to a family in need before you've even had time to think about who is available.  Believe me, there are more of those people than you'd expect, and each and every one of them is worth their weight in gold, especially when you're trying to keep an organization (and a ward) running smoothly.  I will never forget hundreds of moments and days where people stepped up and helped their leaders and their ward, often in ways that people never knew about.  My gratitude for that is deep.

Sometimes we forget how difficult it can be to fill all those roles and needs. Sometimes we get impatient or critical.  We are unChristlike in our assessment of a situation or the people involved in it.  We all have different areas of weaknesses.  Our frailties are as unique as our strengths, and sometimes people may have been put in a position or asked to fill a role because the Lord can help them develop more strength where they are weak.  People who are willing deserve patience and encouragement, not criticism and condescension. I am deeply ashamed of the few times I forgot that, the times that I forgot how very patient my Savior has been with me, when I was willing but weak.  I regret the times I forgot how often I have demanded--all too unknowingly--the patience of my ward members and leaders.

When I was 22, my bishop asked me to be Young Women president.  I thought the idea was completely ridiculous.  But I was raised to believe that you don't say no to a calling--I don't think it ever occurred to me that that was an option. You serve wherever and in whatever capacity you are asked. Full stop. More than that, though, I trusted that bishop implicitly. After several years of working with him, I would come to trust his spiritual leadership even more.  If he said he felt strongly impressed that that was the role I was to fill, I believed him. I felt a little overwhelmed, but I was also confident that if that's what the Lord wanted me to do, he'd help me figure it out. Those three years were challenging, but delightful.  I loved those girls more than I ever thought possible. I learned a lot.  I had no teachers, advisers, etc., and more often than not only had one counselor. I put a great deal of time, effort, and energy into it.  But I was still 22, with a baby and a toddler and not very many years under my belt as an adult.  There were things I did poorly, things I failed to do, and I only figured that out in retrospect or through gentle, patient direction, because no one ever criticized me.  They only supported me.  And I regret the times I have been less than that for someone else who was willing--but weak.

Because one of the other things that has been readily apparent every time I have served in any leadership role is that there are people who won't serve.  Or who will only serve in ways that they find pleasing.  When you are in a leadership position, trying to fill callings within your stewardship can be a difficult, and sometimes discouraging, task.  There are people who will tell you that of course they'll serve, just not with this person.  I'm happy to take any calling. Unless its in this auxilliary, then don't bother asking--no matter how many necessary positions you've got vacant. Sure, I'm happy to take dinner to this family, as long as it falls on the second Wednesday of the month. Nope, I'm not gonna help with that activity, I don't do weekday stuff.

Personally, I think the doers are much more numerous.  I think the vast majority of people step up and help their neighbors.  And obviously there are definitely times when health or circumstance genuinely prevent us from doing something that we've been invited to, and we need to be honest with those doing the asking if that's the case.  But if you've been asked to serve, think twice before you say no.  It could be that the thing you think you don't want to do, or think you can't do, will end up being one of your most rewarding opportunities--that was certainly my experience in YW--and that can only be true if you approach it with a willing heart.

If you are in a position of leadership, offer guidance and instruction and redirection as the Lord so prompts, but fight the temptation to be impatient or self-righteous or critical. If you place your trust and your love in the Lord, he can do amazing things with a willing heart, no matter how weak. We are each of us a part of the body of Christ, and each part is needful. We are each at a different place in our spiritual development, and we each need teaching and nurturing.  Do not turn away from those who are willing to serve because they are not yet as you would have them.  The Lord would have them, just as he would have you, and that is enough to start something wonderful.