Sunday, April 5, 2015

To Sustain

Once upon a time in a distant country filled with sun, sun, and even more sun, I was a missionary. I served in a tiny branch that covered several cities that all ran together (urban sprawl, ya'll). It was the only branch in the stake, and the members felt this keenly. Their Branch President was a humble man, without a car, who rode his bike over many miles to visit the sick, encourage the depressed, and fulfill his church duties. He was married to a nice lady who was a member of a different church and had two nice children in their early teens who also belonged to their mother's church. This kindly man hadn't been a member of the LDS church for many years when he was called as Branch President, it was no secret that a majority of that tiny congregation felt that a different man was better qualified (he wasn't, but that is yet ANOTHER story). One particular day, we had a lunch appointment with the Branch President and he was fairly discouraged about the situation. I've got to say, I don't blame the dude because some of the members of that branch were pretty awful, and I don't mean full of awe. He looked at me and said, "The problem is, Sister, that when they sustained me, they only sustained me with their hands, they didn't sustain me with their hearts."

I've thought of that a lot during my time in the church. In one of my wards we had a difficulty getting people to come help clean the church building. In order to ease the burden of the Elder's Quorum President, our Bishopric assigned each auxiliary a month to be in charge of the cleaning. The building was a Stake Center that housed meetings for the area's missionaries and occasional visiting general authority, so the building needed to be cleaned twice a week. I remember one day when I was 9 months pregnant cleaning the church when only two other women had shown up. So the three of us set off to clean the entire stake center. As I refilled the toilet paper rolls, the empty rolls kept breaking and falling to the ground. I had to maneuver my pregnant body to my hands and knees on a bathroom floor to gather them up. After about the 5th time, I was saying words in a church that you probably shouldn't even think. I was so angry. I don't type that lightly. Let me repeat... I WAS SO ANGRY. As the Relief Society President, it was my responsibility to make sure it was cleaned during our month, and we'd called a committee to organize and help assure that it would happen. At that moment I thought, "Where are all those people that sustained me? Did they sustain me with their hands or with their hearts?"

As I have moved on to a different ward and a different calling, I continue to think about that Branch President and what it means to sustain someone with your heart. I currently serve in my ward's Primary as the president. I find this calling to be a continual struggle. I am not a 'kid person' and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to mingle with grown ups. Being a stay at home mom, sometimes Sunday is my big chance to socialize. When I accepted this calling, it was with trepidation. While I admire the men in my Bishopric, we don't always agree. In fact, sometimes we passionately disagree. And if you don't understand how passionately a half-Chilean can disagree, let me introduce you to my husband and he'll fill you in. While my Bishopric and I don't always see eye to eye, I have always felt that the decisions they make are based out of love for the members of the congregation. They are not made of ego. They are not made lightly. Oftentimes, they are made after prayer, fasting, and with the knowledge that some people (sometimes me) will not be happy about the outcome. When given the opportunity in ward conference, I sustain my fellow ward members with my hand, but throughout the year... I hope I sustain them with my heart.

This means, when my visiting teaching supervisor calls/texts/emails to find out if I have visited my sisters this month... I reply promptly. It means when the stake president asks people attending a fireside to move to the front or center so latecomers can fill the back and sides... I move to the front and center. It means when it is my turn to clean the church, I do it, nine months pregnant and all. It means when my neighbor starts griping about their kid's beehive leader, I don't join in. It means that when my councilors ask me to be more aware of their needs, I make their concerns my first priority. It means when I have yet another meeting added to a busy schedule, I do my best to make time for that meeting. Hopefully (but not always, I am no saint) with a good attitude. It means when my husband is called away to give a blessing that I immediately let him know that despite my desire for him to be with the kids and I that I understand the importance of what he needs to do and I encourage him to go. It means when I personally dislike people that are called to teach lessons, be in bishoprics, be in presidencies, or be my home and/or visiting teachers, that I suck it up and act like a grown up and not a petulant child. It means that when my visiting teachers want to come at the most inconvenient time, I do my best to accommodate.

I am going to switch gears a little bit and talk about a guy named Moses and his brother Aaron. Moses was an Israelite man, not raised within the Hebrew tradition. You can read all about him in the Old Testament in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (what a read, let me tell you!). When Moses was called to lead the children of Israel out of captivity, he balked. He basically said, "Me? Really?" Then the Lord tells him to go to the leaders of Israel and say that he has seen God and that he's been called to lead them out of Egypt. To which Moses says, "Me? Really?" Well, not exactly, he says they won't believe him. So God shows him some miracles and Moses says he isn't a great speaker, yada yada yada. The Lord then says Aaron will help him sort it all out. So Aaron is actually the older brother, and by all accounts HE should be the spiritual leader of his family. Apparently he was an eloquent speaker and respected by the Hebrew Elders. So why Moses? Why not Aaron? And what did Aaron feel about all this? Well, Aaron was cool with it and together they lead the people from Egypt... but the story doesn't end there. I want to talk about what happened while the Israelites were a'wandering.

The children of Israel get a lot of press for being whiney, slow to remember God, and generally lacking in faith. After a whining episode about some water the Israelites went to battle against Amalek at a place called Rephidim. If I had more time and energy I'd go into all that because I did NOT get an A in Old Testament class for nothing, so maybe some other time. ANYWAY, Moses stood on a hill with a rod in his hand. When he held up the rod, the Israelites would do well, when he dropped it, Amalek would do well. And then:
              But Moses' hands were heavy and they took a stone, and put it under him,
              and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the
              one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until 
              the going down of the sun. Exodus 17:12 emphasis added
I can't explain how I love that passage. They *literally* help up his arms until the sun went down. Look at that image. They all look like they are struggling, that it wasn't an easy thing that they were called to do, but they did it. I imagine Aaron, someone born with both the talents and abilities to be the prophet of God certainly, yet here he is, faithfully sustaining his younger brother Moses with his hand AND his heart.

So what does that mean for us? What does that mean today? Why such a long post? Don't you have kids to watch? A house to clean? Books to read? Exercise to do? Why is THIS so important?

Well, today we have these guys...

Lets not forget about these guys as well...
As sure as I type on this computer, I know that they are the men chosen by God to lead the world (notice I didn't say His Church, I said the world) during these current times of crisis, poverty, tragedy, and hope. They are men who received preparation in a variety of career paths, through different family experiences, and certainly opportunities to choose alternate routes along the way. Sustaining prophets in latter-days does not mean we always will agree, it does not mean that we always understand, it does not even mean that we will stay awake during their talks during General Conference (sorry, P Monson, the cadence of your voice is like a sweet, sweet lullaby). It means that President Monson is standing there holding up this heavy rod during a battle, and I have the choice to be by his side (figuratively, obviously) and hold his hand up by helping those around me, by loving when it would be easier to hate, by smiling when I don't feel like it, by sacrificing and by sharing my talents and gifts with my neighbors and anyone else in need. What more can I say? THESE MEN ARE CALLED OF GOD and I sustain them with my hand, and my heart until the sun goes down.


Debbie said...

Amen, my friend ... amen.

Dan and LaVon said...

Well said. Thanks for the reminder, written with passion, eloquence and conviction. I to sustain all my leaders with my hands and my heart, and some days that is not so easy.

Heather said...

Awesome post. Doug and heather

Wendy said...

Love this and love you for writing it. Thank you for the reminder to sustain with our hearts and for sharing such powerful stories.

Sandra said...

What a wonderful read! As I was reading about Moses it made me also think of Nephi. His father was the prophet and even he murmured when things got tough. Even though Nephi was the one who didn't complain he still sustained his father and was humble in asking his leader/father where he should go to find food. Thanks for sharing this!