Many years ago I had this experience that changed me. It started when I was filling in for the primary pianist and while I was playing the postlude music this darling sister came up and stood behind the upright piano and just smiled at me. This sister is one of those genuinely good people that when you see her your heart already is just mush. She told me she needed some help and kindly asked if I’d be willing to fill in the following Sunday to teach the lesson to the women in the ward.
I’m still playing the piano and looking at both her and the music simultaneously while trying to comprehend what she had just requested. My thoughts went something like this: No! Are you kidding me? I’ve never taught ADULTS before. I do love teaching but I’ve only ever taught people under the age of 18! Adults are scary. Why would they listen to me? Totally out of my comfort zone! No, no, no, no, no, no. Then:
“No problem, I’d love to”. She then offered me one of her famous smiles again and sauntered off.
Whaaaaat just happened? Self, what did you just do? Is it too late to run after her and say I’ve had a change of heart??? No, that’d be weird. Okay…I can do this. Breathe….it’s going to be okay. Next week is Christmas Sunday so if ever I were to teach I’d choose this one for sure! What could go wrong teaching a lesson on the Savior?
All week I fretted and worried and got to work. I read, reread, highlighted, dog-eared the lesson so I’d be prepared to teach.
It was time…I was up.
Mustering my limited confidence I held tight to my lesson book and walked up to the front of the room. I got this…it’s going to be great…But when I looked out at the room packed with these ladies all curiously peering at me, waiting for whatever genius I’m going to deliver, I had a moment of blankness. I stood there like I deer caught in headlights.
Quickly trying to recover I opened my book and everything I prepared to say and how I was going to start the lesson all flew out of the window. Ever have one of those moments that you’re so nervous and your brain somehow forgets how to read? Like you look down at the page and all you can see are these foreign symbols dancing around in a sea of highlighted pink? I did. The more I tried the worse it got.
I’m going to save you the mortification I experienced during that sad, sad hour and skip to the end. The part where the closing prayer had been said and I bolted out of that room faster than I ever had before and fast enough so I didn’t have to talk to anyone afterwards. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stomach my embarrassment in front of others so I fled. Feeling somewhat relieved it was over I had my hand on the door about to push it open to freedom and I heard our Bishop’s voice, “Sister Coles, Can I speak with you a minute?” Wha-but-I-so close to leaving-home…
“Of course, Bishop” I replied but inside I felt so deflated. I sat in his office and the first thing he asked was, “How was your class today?”
Does he know? How can he know? I’m not sure how to respond to that…terrible? mortifying? I learned that I can’t read anymore? What can I honestly say to that?
“Umm…I’m really glad it’s over” I answered. Then his expression changed to a slightly disappointed look however gone just as quickly as I saw it. He smiled and said, “I have a calling for you! I’d like for you to be the new Relief Society teacher and teach the women’s group.”
Do I tell him how bad it was today??? I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to pow-wow with the Relief Society Presidency first?” aka…give them a chance to say, “uh…no”…
However, all he said was, “No. This was prayed about and you belong here.” I reluctantly accepted and drove home feeling like I had just sealed my fate to this torture indefinitely. I felt like, who am I to them? Why would they care what I have to say? There’s so many other people much more qualified than I, why aren’t they teaching? I felt inadequate and insecure in this endeavor. Then I remembered what my bishop had said, “You belong here”
I started to feel a glimmer of hope. It didn’t matter that my first lesson was a flop. I didn’t have to be a scriptorian. I just needed to bring my little light, my spirit, and my love to these ladies. I belonged there
So I made some changes. Big ones. I remembered this leadership training that I went to years prior and the speaker said, “PREPARATION PRECEDES POWER”. If I was going to have this calling and teach on a continual basis I needed to figure out what worked for me. What do I have to offer? I decided that I was going to ROCK that calling somehow or another.
So I went to work. I wrote out a very detailed lesson plan each and every time I taught. I worked hand in hand with my Father in Heaven following His guidance, trusting that He knows what He’s doing and that someone there needed something that He knew I could give.
Yes, there are others out there that know more, are seemingly more “qualified”, that have more experience…but…THEY are not YOU. We each have a very specific and unique spirit and we have so much to offer.
I taught that women’s group for years and years and I loved EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT I had it (save that first day – but technically I wasn’t “called” to it yet). My goal was to bring love to those sisters each and every week while sharing gospel truths through each lesson and it was a beautiful thing.
One particular lesson I tried out this exercise. I got the idea from a friend of mine and thought it fit so perfectly with our lesson on love that week. I divided the women into two groups. Group A (they named themselves the A-dorables) and Group B (for the Beauties). Group A formed a circle while group B stood behind them. I asked group A to close their eyes while group B went from person to person whispering super softly in their ears the one thing THEY THEMSELVES needed to hear – not what they thought that person needed to hear but more vulnerable what they personally needed to hear the most right that second. After they made it all the way around we switched roles and group A whispered to the B’s that stood now with closed eyes.
Let me just tell you that there was not a single dry eye in that room when we finished. Some of the things shared were:
You are SO BEAUTIFUL
You are VALUABLE
You are doing such a GOOD JOB
You are SO LOVED
You are PRECIOUS
When we were done everyone went back to their seats. Arms went around sisters and tissues were being distributed. Smiles canvased the room and there was this powerfully strong, tangible feeling in the room of love and sisterhood.
I asked them these two questions:
How did it feel to be the receiver of those tender words?
How did if feel to be the giver of such love to others?
In both situations it was a beautiful thing. When they were giving others those cherished words they could see the reactions and emotions of the sisters listening. Some cried and didn’t stop the entire time. When they received those words themselves it was like their spirits craved that love and validation and couldn’t contain the emotions they were feeling.
I believe in the scriptures when the Savior talks about His cup that runneth over – that His heart is full this is how that felt. So much love. So much understanding. So much compassion.
See, the thing is that we’re all in this together. We all need to hear those words. We all need to feel that LOVE, COMPASSION, UNDERSTANDING
If you are feeling inadequate, alone, different, separate and unsure of where you fit, let me assure you…YOU BELONG HERE
You are LOVED
You are PRECIOUS
You have a DIVINE PURPOSE
You Belong Here.