I did not post an Odyssey post last week because, even though I pondered the talks, I could not come up with anything to say. That just about happened this week, too. Writing on demand is not easy for me, nor is fitting into any group of people, which is why I decided to join in this writing effort. I thought, perhaps, it would stretch me outside of my comfort zone (as if I even have one any more) of personal development. And, it is a patently incredible idea which I would like to support.
The only talk from the October 1972 Friday Morning Session that had any real hope of squeezing through my cloudy brain this week was the one by the only name most people probably wouldn't recognize, titled "Becoming a Somebody".
Whether because I'm in that liminal area between young and middle-aged, or because I'm in the liminal area of being a single in a Church that emphasizes families, but with no real hope or intent to build an eternal family any more, or because I'm in the liminal area of being pushed so far past what I am capable of, I don't even know where I'm going any more, I have been fighting the growing feeling that I'm missing something.
I thought, reading the title, that it might give me that elusive element. But as I read, the gist of the talk is basically, "never give up learning and stretching yourself." This isn't exactly advice that I need. Rather than needing to be prodded to do more, I'm haunted with all the things I want to do and can't. I'm haunted by not really knowing if "can't" is really "too lazy to." I'm tired. So stressed by some indefinable something or combination of somethings that my health is suffering.
I've just worked so hard on trying to be better and gotten nowhere. I'm just as selfish and uncharitable as I always have been. And I don't know where to go from here.
I teach the gospel doctrine class to a group of amazing, vibrant, 16- and 17-year olds, mostly girls. At first, I thought that maybe I could teach them something of value. I've been through the faith crisis of having everything I was taught at that age fall apart. Maybe I could prepare them somewhat to face their own paradigm crumbling, and still stick with God.
But lately, I've been faced with their intense interest in learning, in growing, in becoming more, and I feel so, so entirely unequal to the task.
We Mormons are supposed to be volunteers, right? We're supposed to step up to the plate, be ever ready with a plate of brownies and a smile, a leaf rake and a laugh. I have the rake and make the brownies, but there is yet a gap between me and you, you wonderful brothers and sisters who make up the Church.
I read these 1972 talks which are filled with such certainty, and I feel like I do every time I go to Church. Like I used to be one of these eager young women, convinced that if I learned all the things, I'd be ready for whatever the Lord had in store for me, only to find that no amount of preparation, no amount of study or devotion or discipline can fix what is broken. And that no matter how hard I try to make the right choices, the breaking is still because of me.
Increasingly, "becoming a somebody" isn't what I want to do any more.
I am accepting that I will never be somebody, that window is passing quickly, perhaps already gone. And while a part of me, of course—of course it does!—mourns the loss, I'm learning to leave that bigger picture up to the Savior.
Because while "becoming somebody," dear Elder Vandenberg, is begun by using our leisure time effectively, acquiring knowledge of gospel principles, and successfully applying those principles to our individual circumstances ultimately, we will hit the wall of our own mortality, our own powerlessness, and our own "nothingness, and [our] worthless and fallen state."
We will realize that our effort will never keep us safe, nor earn our salvation (let alone our exaltation.) After everything we do, it is only the mercy of God that will heal us of our wounds, and lift us up to stand beside Him.
But, and here is the part that no one really talks about because it is hard, oh so hard, once you realize that, the key is to give God that effort anyways. When you stop believing that your effort makes a difference, you must learn to keep giving that effort for no other reason than because God, our Master, asks it of us.
We will never be anybody. But He is Somebody, and we are His.