|Print | Back||October 25, 2012|
This is Not a StoneGive Thanks Instead of Taking Credit
by Hannah Bird
There are two situations in which you suddenly learn a great deal about someone's character: great struggles and great blessings. We tend to spend most of our attention learning to handle the struggles well. We want to be prepared to endure to the end. We know that we are supposed to reach for the Lord in our afflictions.
So it is all the more annoying how often we slap his hand away when we are experiencing great triumphs.
Several years ago, my beautiful sister-in-law (I'll call her Mel) was sitting in Relief Society listening to the lesson. There had been several multiple births in the word recently. One sister opined that the multiple births were a sign of how wicked the world was. Her theory was that the righteous sisters in the ward were being given multiple children because Heavenly Father knew that these sisters were good mothers and would raise their children in righteousness.
There sat my beautiful Mel, silent as stone. Her heart broke for her empty arms and empty house. She had only been able to have a single child. Everything in her screamed for a baby to hold and love. But that blessing did not come. So she poured love onto other people's children. She was openly and cheerfully grateful for her one most miraculous daughter.
So great is my love and respect for Mel and her exceptional husband that my husband and I chose them to be the guardians of our children in an emergency.
But as she sat in Relief Society that day her pain was doubled. It was not enough to ache for a child. Now it was a symptom of her unrighteousness. The conversation remained focused on the spiritual greatness of these mothers as Mel watched the minutes tick away at an agonizing crawl until she could go home and crawl sobbing into her bed.
Some years before this, I was sitting in a Gospel Doctrine class next to my then new in-laws. We were discussing the pre-existence. A brother who I thought a great deal of until that moment raised his hand and shared that he could tell who was the most elect in the pre-existence. He could tell because the most righteous of our Father's children were those born under the covenant in this life. Not surprisingly this number included him, his wife and all of his children.
I was very new to the doctrines of the Church then. I wasn't sure he was wrong. For all I knew, this was deep doctrine known only to the chosen Born-Under-the-Covenant types. For all I knew, I was not only bad at this lifetime, but had screwed up badly in the last one too.
Then, my sweet father-in-law, Mike, raised his hand. He started by expressing thanks that he too had been born under the covenant. Then he said he was especially grateful for that gift because he didn't know if he would have been strong enough to find the gospel on his own.
This is the difference between handling gifts well and handling them badly. Mike gave thanks to the source from whom all blessings flow. The others gave credit to themselves.
I am told frequently that I am a great mother. My husband and I laugh nervously at the praise we so often get. But what these kind people mean is, I have great children. They mean to say that my kids are hardworking and friendly. They appreciate that my kids are pleasant and helpful. My kids are easy to enjoy.
I agree with all the things that they mean to say. My children are lovely. They are funny and smart. They are brave and good. They stand up for what is right and others. They pitch in without being asked. They are a joy to be around.
But I am not a great mother. This isn't a lack of self-esteem or humility. Yelling at my house is pg-13 at best. I am impatient. I get caught up in trivial things and waste time. I miss teaching opportunities. I don't make dinner. I tell my children to scatter like cockroaches in the light instead of tucking them into bed. It's true. I am not a really great mother.
I know a really great mother. She is amazing. Her patience is unwavering. Her meals are timely and nutritious. She sings to her children. She teaches the gospel to her kids. She is truly an amazing mother. But her children are difficult. They have struggles other people don't understand. The behave oddly. They make others uncomfortable. They always seem to be doing something wrong.
No one tells her that she is a great mother. But the truth is, she really is. Her kids are not difficult because she has failed. They are doing this well because she has succeeded.
We forget that the proof isn't always in the pudding. Adam and Eve raised Cain and Abel. Our Heavenly Father lost a third of his precious children. Yes, my children are delightful. But I am not joking when I say they came that way. Nor am I joking when I say that my friend is the kind of mother I aspire to be.
When we are blessed, whether it is with children or money or good health or anything else, perhaps we can just say thank you. Let's skip the part where we make up a mythology about why we deserve this good thing. Just acknowledge the Lord's hand. Give thanks instead of credit.
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