The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A woman helps an elderly woman walk down a hallway.

I’m about to confess something that casts me in a very bad light. It is this: I find service very hard.

I’m not sure why. I was brought up better. My parents are some of the most service-oriented people I know. Every time I call them, they’re helping someone move, inviting a struggling family over for dinner or in some other way saving the world.

I do all these things too, but not with that willing heart and happy mind I’m supposed to have. I grump on my way there. I grump on my way home. I am nearly 40, and I still find service inconvenient and time-consuming.

Enter the ironic part: A year ago I was called as Relief Society president of my church congregation. I accepted willingly, after which I threw what can only be called a spiritual tantrum. Fists (metaphorically) beating the ground: “I don’t want to. I don’t want to. Call me to do anything else. I’ll scrub toilets with a toothbrush. I’ll lead the ward choir and the stake choir and Primary song time. I’ll teach the 12-year-olds. I’ll teach SEMINARY! Anything but this.”

In the middle of this tantrum, I had what can only be called a heavenly reprimand. A voice, telling me quietly but firmly, to knock it off. The voice said this: “You’ve always said you wanted to change the world. I am asking to change the world right here, in your own backyard. It is not glamorous or showy, but it is what is needed.”

Sufficiently humbled, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. It has not been easy. This calling is not easy. I am aware of the weight and sorrow and loneliness and heartache and chronic depression of many women. A lot of these problems cannot be solved; they can only be felt and carried.

I’ve filled food orders for people living in trailers and people living in decrepit apartments, so sick they can’t get out of a chair. I’ve sat by the beds of women with sharp minds and twisted bodies crippled with age. I’ve seen how people ruin their lives with poor choices, and I’ve seen how lives can be difficult through no choice at all.

The greatest gift of this calling is being privy to the ways in which our entire congregation lifts one another. Service happens constantly. Most of it is quiet, invisible. I am surrounded by giants of compassion, and they teach me daily.

I am absolutely and woefully inadequate in this assignment. I still have mild panic attacks on Saturday night as I review what will be required of me the next day. I have done a fraction of what is needed. I could fill each waking minute with what is required, and still come up short.

I reflected on all of this last Saturday morning as I drove to the church for a funeral luncheon. I will be released in two weeks, as our family is leaving the country on sabbatical. One year is a short tenure in this calling, and I feel like I am just now gaining my footing.

When we are baptized as Christians, we covenant to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. This is the action that follows belief.

Sometimes that means slicing croissants for a funeral or taking groceries to a sick widow. Sometimes it means listening. It can mean a dinner invitation, a hug on Sunday, a kind text. It can mean trying to understand someone who has a contrarian personality.

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It can mean making sure that new members, old members and housebound members don’t slip through the cracks, forgotten.

I’ve learned that loving others is not hard for me. However, I still find service challenging.

I recognize that this is my weakness, the thorn in my side that I will wrestle with my entire life. But I’m grateful to belong to a community of saints who teach me about Christian living, who pull me up where I fall short. And to a God who says to me, as in Christ’s parable of the supper in Luke 14, “Come to the table. This is the feast I have prepared for you.”