Have you ever just sat in a public gathering and found yourself becoming heavy with despair? Heavy and yet poised to flee at the same time—less like fight or flight and more like slip into a coma or stand up and run gasping for the door syndrome. Am I the only one who has these episodes? Nothing to do with the people there or the even things being said really. Although there are those people that have to get up every month and bear their own bizarre brand of testimony while we all cringe. But this last Sunday was different. Some kind of physiological response to everything in my entire life maybe.
I did survive the meeting—I’d like to sound noble and say it was for my children’s sake, but really it was because I knew that even if I made it to the door, even if I managed to lock myself in my vehicle and hunch down out of sight for the next two hours, I wasn’t going to feel any better. One of the youth got up and spoke about Gratitude, which piqued my attention a little, as the night before I’d decided to fast for that very purpose.
Again, lest you think I was being noble, my fast maybe might have been a thinly veiled foot-stamping pout. Saturday I ran down the mental list of all the things I could fast for and thought, you know what, I’ve fasted for all these things before. Several times. It isn’t that I don’t believe God can change my nature into the kind of person I want to be, pray to be. It isn’t that I don’t believe he can (and will) grant every righteous desire of my heart in his own good time. It’s just that he already knows what they are—I’m pretty sure He’s got them filed away under “Things Kimber Thinks Would Be Good For Her ”. He’s probably even got a backup copy or two.
It’s just that I need a compelling purpose to make it through a 24 hour fast. I’ve got to want that thing more than I want the m&m I find rolling around at the bottom of my purse. If I fast, once again, for something that I already know is on some celestial back-burner, where’s the motivation right? So I said, you know what, I’ll fast out of Gratitude for all I have. I will ask nothing. Because that’s pretty motivating, right? I know how blessed I am. I know, as I hold that scuffed up M&M in my palm that I really can’t insult Divine providence by eating it. Because I truly am grateful even when I’m pouting.
So. The speaker rattles on about gratitude, and I feel slightly mollified like God had nodded at my effort to fast for that very thing, but I still want to make a bolt for it. But to where? I can’t run from who I am. So I go to Sunday School where Bro. H gives a spur of the moment lesson on I don’t even know what. I don’t dare violate my fast of Gratitude by asking God to please not let me lose my mind, right here in Gospel Principles, so I plea in a round-about, thank you sort of way—God, thank you for Bro. Hardy’s willingness to teach today. Thank you for the Holy Ghost which can teach us what we need to know even when the teacher is reading straight from the manual. Thank you for letting me make it through Sacrament so that I can sit here and listen for that inspiration.
Lo and behold Bro H gets sidetracked from I don’t know, signs of the second coming, and relates the New Testament story where Jesus asks the man if he has faith enough for the desired miracle and the man begs, “Lord, help thou mine unbelief.” That hit me. Burned away enough of the despair so that I felt a little more like myself. Enough that I could make it to RS. Because that was exactly what my fast and my endurance through the previous two hours had been. A silent plea—help thou my unbelief. You have blessed me so thoroughly and still I am ungrateful and dissatisfied and unhappy. Help thou my unbelief.
So I make it to RS where the teacher begins a lesson on—guess what? Gratitude. She relates the story of a Christmas when her daughter was extremely disappointed with her gifts. Her now grown up daughter remembers that Christmas—not what she had wanted instead of the tea set and dollhouse, but that she had really wanted it. Her comment was, “It was the first Christmas I had expectations.”
Expectations. That's the thing. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I look at my siblings and my cousins and my inlaws and they are all posting these pictures of their homemade halloween costumes and birthday cakes etc, and I'm not even taking pictures anymore. Heaven forbid anyone document this time in my life. My expectations are in an entirely different galaxy from the one I currently inhabit.
The rest of the fog/despair gave way to that burning, absolute knowledge that God loves me. Knows me. He isn’t going to give me a made-in-china tea set when I really wanted my brothers cool fire truck. He has given me exactly what I need, and here I sit, pouting in every snapshot because I have different expectations. I understood for the first time at a gut-deep, cellular level that it doesn’t matter if I never make another birthday cake or Halloween costume or composition or even sing another lullabye. God has given me the life I am living. The opportunities for service and growth, and not only that, he’s going to make up the difference in my children’s lives if living this particular life cuts things a little short on the mother side right now. Because he knows and loves them too. And He gives the perfect gift, every time, to all his children.
Be thou perfect, He said. Maybe this is perfect for me, for now. I’m likely going to groan in discontent no matter how well I understand this. I can’t walk past the tottering laundry and like it. I can’t sleep in until the last possible second and feel good about my industrious nature. But I think I can breathe at least. Get through it. And maybe try not to pout.