But one thing has always lingered around this time of year just as it did the year I got baptized. Leading up to my baptismal date, I was overwhelmed with feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. As I drove to the chapel on the date of my baptism, I was overcome with feelings of not being worthy enough or ready enough or informed enough. At every light I battled with whether or not I should pull a u-turn and run back home to hide (because they'd never look for me there). But I made it to the chapel and I got baptized and I thought I'd never have those feelings ever again.
Despite the joy, relief, and spiritual cleanliness I felt, every year since has been just the same. I haven't questioned the decision to get baptized, but rather if I'm even worth the trouble. It's during this time of year that I feel keenly how I've let friends down, how I have fallen short at work, how I'm positively failing at my calling, and how truly unworthy I am of the Savior's grace. I think another year has come and gone since my baptism and I still don't feel like I'm in "first place" yet.
Lucky for me, the Savior doesn't particularly care if I feel worthy, rather if I am worthy, but the feeling persists. I feel it with especial force when I think of all the people in the world who are far more noble and kind and influential than I am. Wouldn't it be more effective to have them accept the gospel of Jesus Christ? And then use their influence to share it's restored message with the world? Why in the world would our Father in Heaven pick me and my sin-sick soul to accept baptism and be confirmed by the Holy Ghost? I'm a nobody...
Now that I've been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for four years (plus a few days), I can hardly consider myself a "recent convert." My joke that since I got baptized at 18, I'm the spiritual equivalent of a 12-year-old is starting to not be so funny, and I'm starting to really stress when I'm in Gospel Doctrine class on Sunday and I have only a vague idea of what's going on.
Like many of you, I easily fall into the trap of getting after myself for not being perfect, especially spiritual things. Common thoughts include:
- "You've been around for four years. Why aren't you a scriptorian yet?"
- "You're the temple and family history consultant. If you don't provide a heart-turning experience for everyone in the ward every week you're not actually fulfilling your calling."
- "When are you going to get around to having children?"
- "Why aren't you in a graduate program? You must have peaked early. Dummy."
And a lot more, because I have a mind that never suffers from "how-has-Sarah-screwed-up-today"-block. But I don't want this post to be all about how mopey I feel sometimes. When I first started writing and building this blog, I wanted it to be a source of inspiration, edification, and information for all people-- member or not, convert or not. I also happen to have a very strong testimony that even in our deepest, mopiest, whiniest moments, our Father is aware of us and sends the sweetest relief if we are receptive to it.
I was reading my scriptures a few weeks ago and I was in Alma 9, where Alma is preaching repentance to the people of Ammonihah with Amulek... and I was feeling a whole lot like a citizen in the city of Ammonihah at the time-- disobedient, prideful, and far away from where God expected me to be. But then I came to verse 30, where Alma says "And now, my beloved brethren, for ye are my brethren, and ye ought to be beloved, and ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance, seeing that your hearts have been grossly hardened against the word of God, and seeing that ye are a lost and a fallen people."
The words "and ye ought to be beloved" truly touched my heart. Alma is preaching to his brethren who scorn, mock, and humiliate him, "happy" in their state of sin and disobedience, and still he teaches them that they don't have to be that way. Sometimes when we're feeling a bit sin-sick and far away from God, it's easy to convince ourselves that we're happy in our disobedience and we're too far gone to be any use to Him anyway.
BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE AT. ALL.
As children of God, we all fulfill divine purposes in His mighty work. Amidst all the scary, overwhelming, confusing things that go on in this world, we are all called to comfort, serve, and teach our fellow brothers and sisters using our most Christlike attributes. There's only one person who could have done it alone: our Savior, Jesus Christ, who died to wipe us clean of our sins and to make it possible to become like Him someday. But the world keeps turning and there are still people in need, and we all must use our littlest part to make the world a better place.
That also means that the welfare of the entire planet does not rest on you being perfect. It's not worth throwing in the towel just because you're not in "first place." No matter where you are in life-- unemployed, unmarried, unendowed, or feeling unneeded-- there is someone to serve, teach, and comfort.
If my words are falling flat, I'd recommend reading Elder Jeffery R. Holland's most recent conference address, "Be Ye Therefore Perfect-- Eventually" most especially the passage:
"What I now say in no way denies or diminishes any commandment God has ever given us. I believe in His perfection, and I know we are His spiritual sons and daughters with divine potential to become as He is. I also know that, as children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No! With a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness always in our hearts, I would hope we could pursue personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include getting ulcers or anorexia, feeling depressed or demolishing our self-esteem. That is not what the Lord wants for Primary children or anyone else who honestly sings, 'I’m trying to be like Jesus.'”
Regardless of if you've been a member your whole life, if you're a recent convert, or if you're just rejoining the party, you have a place in the church, and you have a personalized mission to build the kingdom. So if you're like me and you feel continually plagued with feelings of inadequacy, remember that it is never worth throwing in the towel. Our Heavenly Parents trust you to make your contributions at every season in life to the best of our God-given abilities, and guess what: