I'm combining my Notes from Church post with this late Monday one because even though it started on Sunday, it took me a full 24 hours for this lesson to really sink in.
Yesterday morning I was still reeling from an incredibly productive, meaningful Saturday. Everyone slept in, so everyone was in a well-rested kind of mood, which is always good on a Sunday. I threw some coffee cake into the oven and then hopped back in bed to let the Scout Master run some ideas by me for his lesson.
It was on the Godhead and this was the talk he used..."Cast not Away Therefore Your Confidence" (You MUST read this, or even listen to it so you can feel the full Jeffrey R Holland effect. Don't just skim through the parts that I mention in this post. It's an incredible talk.)
We talked for awhile about Satan's influence and how quickly he seeps into the little unattended cracks in our lives. I mentioned a few examples that I thought the boys might relate to. And then I jumped up and said, "Please make sure you emphasize the part that this isn't like getting your Eagle. There is no RESISTING TEMPTATION merit badge. It's not a place you can GET TO or an achievement you can ATTAIN. Satan is always around the corner for everyone. None of us are immune. There is never enough that you can know or learn or prepare for that will stop Satan from trying." We talked a little more about when and how those attempts come and why they happen just before or after something really big, and then I left to go finish drizzling coffee cake with swirly icing and promptly forgot about the talk.
A few minutes later I got a text from the ward organist saying that she was sick and asking if I could fill in on short notice. I said, "Absolutely!" and hurried to run through the hymns on the piano. I had never played or heard the Sacrament hymn, but I felt confident that I could wing it because it's a slow one. And I intended to get to church a little early to practice. I had a couple of other things I needed to do yesterday before church and during Sacrament, but I didn't feel like this organ thing would be a big deal.
I had an hour to get ready for church...PLENTY of time. And then I felt like I needed to write some quick notes on the inside of the choir folders the Young Women would be using for the song they were singing in Sacrament. And then I left to pick up our cute investigator friend, Casey. What I didn't realize, though, was that the battery in my bathroom clock had been dying a slow death and was actually 10 minutes slow. It takes about 10 minutes to get to Casey's house and I didn't realize until I pulled up that it was now 12:47. EEK! I totally should have already been at the church. I said a silent prayer to get back quickly and to make it before Sacrament started. I pulled into the parking lot at 12:58. I was both hopeful and nervous when I didn't hear any music as I walked in. And I also didn't see anyone sitting at the organ. The Bishop was already conducting so I decided to just calmly walk up to the organ and be prepared to play the opening hymn. What I didn't know was that the Bishop had asked someone else to play it on the piano.
I don't know how well you know me just by reading this blog, but there are a handful of consistent personality traits that I have. I HATE to be late. I HATE to disappoint people. I HATE to be misunderstood. And I HATE to appear unprepared.
The walk up to the organ was mortifying enough, but then to be sitting up there and have the Bishop ask someone else to play because I was nowhere to be found was positively horrifying. The rest of the meeting went downhill from there. After the opening hymn on the piano, the Bishop made what I would have otherwise thought were lovely remarks about the talent in our ward and the blessing that it is to have people to call on with a moment's notice, but do you know what I heard? I heard, "We should all be so grateful for this pianist who was able to step in when Haunani was not where she was supposed to be." I heard disappointment. And I felt the glaring spotlight on me while I sat there trying not to look angry or embarrassed. I don't think it worked. In the next hour, I managed to work myself up into thinking that the Bishopric would never give me any responsibility of significance again, that the organist would just drag herself to church the next time she had the flu, and that the entire congregation probably thought I was at home just doing something ridiculous and irresponsible like touching up my mascara or changing into yet another outfit.
And I was baffled that Heavenly Father would let something as awful as this happen to me after the amazing day I had just had on Saturday and the good intentions I had had all morning. I wasn't trying to over extend, I was just trying to help. I was prepared for the YW song. I had planned to pick up Casey. And I knew I could manage the three hymns on the organ. What I was not prepared for was Satan slipping into the little cracks. I didn't think I had left any cracks unattended yesterday morning. I thought everything had been sufficiently shellacked with my feelings of gratitude and love and a desire to do good things and contribute in meaningful ways.
It wasn't until tonight when I re-read Elder Holland's talk, that I realized it wasn't that Heavenly Father had LET this happen. Stuff just happens. And sometimes that stuff eats away at whatever shellac we think we have, just enough to let Satan slip in. Just a teeny doubt is a crack. Just a little mistake that makes us a little insecure is a crack. And poof! there's Satan, ready and willing to fill our heads with all the lies and misconceptions he can sneak in. And I sat right on that stand in church and let Satan whittle away at my confidence until there wasn't anything left and all I wanted to do was run out of the building as quickly as possible.
"Cast not away therefore your confidence." At that point, I was casting everything away.
I missed Gospel Doctrine. I missed Relief Society. I missed the chance to tell the Young Women how angelic their voices sounded and how wonderful it is that they let me drag them from singing opportunity to singing opportunity without ever complaining. I missed blog posts. I missed compliments from kind, well-meaning people. I missed a lot of stuff while I sat for 24 hours and tried to figure out how the rug had been pulled out from under me.
And then this afternoon when another thing out of my control happened, I thought, "Oh great. It's just going to keep coming." But then, just as quickly, I thought, "Don't miss anymore stuff because of this."
Things happen. Batteries die. Clocks stop. Lights turn red. Belts break on garage doors and they come down when you expect them to be up. There will always be things that happen that Satan will try to capitalize on. He looks for the crappy things to make us feel crappy about ourselves. Stuff is crappy sometimes. But WE are not crappy. (That's pretty profound, I know. You have permission to quote me if you want.) We can't always choose our circumstances, but we can ALWAYS choose our response to them. Even though I didn't get to church on time, I am still a reliable person. Just because I backed into the garage door, doesn't mean I'm reckless and irresponsible. There may have been some people who didn't give me the benefit of the doubt yesterday at church, but I bet there were more who did, and even more still who didn't even notice! For every untruth and negative thought that Satan plants in our minds, Heavenly Father is waiting patiently to replace it with truth and light and love.
I'm writing this down so that the next time it happens I'll remember that.
"I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of Glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that he has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored, just as we have sung and testified this morning.
"Fear ye not." And when the second and the third and the fourth blows come, "fear ye not. . . . The Lord shall fight for you." "Cast not away therefore your confidence." - Jeffrey R. Holland