(Hint: the answer is probably YES!)
In our church, we have members of the congregation testify and preach to us each week. The leadership of the congregation gives the speakers their topics in advance. These assignments are often a little terrifying (unless you’re a member of my family, I guess), but today of all days, the assignment to speak can be fraught with peril. I know because I have spoken on Mother’s Day FIVE times (you can read the last time here).
It seems there’s just no good way to address everyone in the congregation on this day. The emphasis on motherhood can break the hearts of the childless. Those who did not have a good relationship with their mothers are reminded of their open wounds. And often extolling the virtues of mothers only succeeds in reminding the mothers in the congregation how short they fall of that standard of perfection.
(Forgoing talks on the subject altogether is a special kind of sin in my opinion, and quite possibly the most offensive alternative.)
This year, our leadership was inspired as the made the assignments. Not only were our speakers very good, but the article they were given as a subject was absolutely perfect. The article, “Look Up” by Elder Carl B. Cook, appeared in the January 2012 Ensign magazine.
In the article, Elder Cook talks about when he was called to serve as a missionary to Germany. Missionary calls in our church are different from those in many other churches: the leadership of the church decides where each worthy applicant is assigned for his/her/their service. So Elder Cook didn’t pick Germany out of any great love for the people or the language; someone he’d never met was guided by the Lord to assign him to Germany.
At the beginning of his two-year mission, Elder Cook attended the Language Training Mission (now replaced by the Missionary Training Center) to learn German. Many missionaries are blessed with the gift of tongues as they learn their mission languages—but some, like Elder Cook, are not. He struggled with German and felt he was falling further and further behind his classmates. Finally, one day, he sought the Lord in desperate prayer for help to learn the language. Says Elder Cook (with my emphasis):
The Lord answered that prayer. I felt this thought come into my mind: “I never called you to master the German language. I just called you to serve with all of your heart, mind, and strength.”
Sometimes, as mothers, we feel we’re called to raise perfect children—and they have to be perfect by the time they’re 5. It’s so easy for us to look at other families and how well behaved their children are, or how well they get along, or how well they dress, even, and feel like we’re falling short.
But that’s a deep, deep mistake. As mothers, we’re called to build our children into good people, and that will be the effort of our lifetimes. We have a lot to teach them, but every child learns at his or her own pace. As long as we strive to love and teach our children with all of our efforts, we are doing enough.
Elder Cook continues (emphasis mine):
I immediately thought, “I can do that. I can serve with all of my heart, mind, and strength. If that’s what the Lord has called me to do, I can do that.” I stood up feeling tremendously relieved.
From that point on, my measuring stick changed. I no longer gauged my progress and success against that of my companion or other members of my district. Instead, I focused on how the Lord felt I was doing. Instead of looking to the side to compare myself to others, I began to look up, so to speak, to know what He thought of my efforts.
I don’t know that I learned the language much faster or much better from that point on, but I no longer felt the concerns I once had. I knew what the Lord wanted me to do, and it was in my power to do it.
And that’s a message anybody can learn from—and love.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Photo by Tatsuo Iwata