Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Gospel Doctrine Calling

I hit a moment in my life back in 2012 where I was really down. I have bouts of depression hit at random times, but this one felt a bit different. After some self-reflection, I realized that I had been slipping in my scripture study.

I have always been very good about reading scriptures, and I was still in a daily habit of reading scriptures, but there was no way my habit could be considered a true study. In no way could my two chapters a day be called feasting upon the word.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks, and I prayed right then and there to regain my former thirst for knowledge and joy in scripture study.

I bear witness that God hears and answers prayers. God also has a sense of humor.

The very next day I was pulled into the Bishop's office and called to be the new Gospel Doctrine teacher. This was not what I was expecting, and I was honestly quite terrified. The truth is that I had good reason to be.

My very first lesson was something of a baptism by fire. The lesson was about pride and about how coming unto Christ requires us to let go of pride and replace it with love and humility. Now, I had been admonished to keep my lesson materials to the scriptures and manual, but while preparing this lesson, the Spirit was adamant that I add in some references from The Last Battle- the last book from the Narnia series. There is a moment in the book where some dwarves are placed in a shed that is really a portal to a paradise of Aslan. Despite their amazing surroundings, the dwarves are full of hatred and pride, and all they see is the filthy shed and darkness all around them. I compared this to our perspectives of our situations and the importance of letting go of our own ideas and embracing the path of Christ.

I think it went over really well. It was a good analogy, because C.S. Lewis is rather wise. That was not the main reason for me to read through the book, however. In my search for the right section, I was able to get a good reminder of many different sections of the book, which I really love. Thank goodness for this, because one of those other excerpts helped me in a pretty significant way.

At one point in the lesson, a woman in the back, who was wearing a burqa, declared very loudly that she did not believe in Christ and felt no reason that this lack of belief should be indicative of pride on her part.

Yikes! As I sat there listening to her, I could feel the tension in the room rise. Things got tangibly stifling, and I had no idea how to respond to this bizarre and unexpected turn of events. I just let her keep talking and BEGGED the Spirit to tell me what to do. Finally, it came.

There is another portion of that book that discusses a soldier of a Pagan God who was brought into the presence of Aslan in the Paradise. The soldier was a good man, but he was confused as to why Aslan was allowing him to be a part of the beautiful surroundings all around him when he had spent his whole life serving another master. Aslan told this stalwart man that all of his good works for another God had only taught him humility and faith in a higher being. The Christ-figure lion told the man that everything he had done to help Tash, his other god, would be credited to him for the good now that he knew the truth.

I tried my best to explain this portion to this woman, and told her that I was sure her devotion would only help her in this life and the next. I felt a burning in my chest that told me I had done well. The tension had been lifted a bit, and the woman smiled as she sat down. I was shaking and had silent tears pouring from my face. It was so intense, and I was so overcome with how God had prepared me to handle this very surprising event. As I saw other hands start to rise to make comments, I quickly changed to the next section.

After church that day, I RAN to the Bishop's office to get set apart. I had a feeling that was just the beginning of my awkward encounters, and I knew I needed some priesthood help to back me up. That moment of the non-believer was just the first of MANY awkward moments and combative statements from class members. Each time I was able to diffuse the situation and make sure that no false doctrine was ever able to stand without some firm correction from me.

I love preparing lessons. I love collecting quotes an scriptures and combining them to make a point. I love to try and take the ideas we are taught all the time and find a new angle from which to attack things.

I do NOT love presenting these lessons. I do NOT love opening up chances for people to make comments that have the potential to drain the Spirit from the room. I do NOT love shaking and flop sweating in front of the whole ward.  I did NOT love this calling. It was hard. So very hard.

I gained a lot from this calling, and I feel like I did a good job of it, but I was so ready to be done with it. I prayed for months to be released. Just after Christmas, I gave a lesson that centered around The Living Christ document. It was a good lesson. That might sound a bit arrogant, but I was really guided by the Spirit the entire time I was preparing the lesson. I knew just what to share and was explicitly shown what the ward members needed to hear. It was a really beautiful thing to be a part of, and I was grateful for it.

After this lesson, a man I didn't recognize, who had made a few comments during the lesson, came up to me. I figured he was visiting family, as it was the Christmas season. He introduced himself as the Stake Sunday School President. He told me that my lesson was the best he had ever been a part of, and he asked if I would be willing to be part of training other Sunday School teachers.

I was flattered by these statements, but I hung my head as he walked away because I felt like this meant that I would never be released from this calling that was so burdensome to me. I prayed all through Relief Society about the situation, and finally told the Lord that I would continue to serve and teach if that is what He wanted from me.

Later that day, Brother Thompson from the Bishopric came over and offered me a calling in the Young Women's program. I was grinning from ear to ear, and as he left, I sat down and wept with relief and excitement. Turns out, all I had to do was submit to the Lord's will, and He was ready to give me the blessings I had been praying for.

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