Thou whited wall

I have been trying to get with the Bishop to talk about changing up my callings. Primary is never a good place for me to serve, and right now, I just feel like I need Relief Society. I am so spiritually tired. I can’t remember the last time I went to church and came home refreshed. It’s been years. I don’t have the energy to engage with people right now, even though I feel that’s one of the most important reasons to go to church: to put the theories/theology into practice with people who maybe aren’t your “favorites” and who may not even be “friends”. Even smiling is hard. I just keep my eyes ahead and pretend I don’t notice people trying to catch my eye. It’s not who I am, but I am just so …. weakened.

Primary always drains me, even when I’m doing well. It’s not that I don’t love the kids (I definitely do!!!), but the oversimplification and cute-ifying of the gospel annoys me. I need — really need — to have my mind stretched at church, and Primary just doesn’t do it. I’m a floating sub, which means I am mainly just a live body when someone doesn’t show up. I put my full effort into loving on the kids and trying to help them feel good about Church and themselves, which is rewarding in its way, but it’s not filling my heart. Maybe loves from adorable kids does fill others’ spirits, but my tank just isn’t filled that way. My fuel is more thought-oriented, like imagining possibilities. Zion. I tried to tell them I did not think this was a good calling for me at this time when they (awkwardly) extended the call, but the 1C isn’t really capable of engaging when things don’t follow the script, and the Bishop didn’t reach out at the time. I talked briefly with the PP about it. I’ve kept doing it, but I have been ready to quit. I finally decided the respectful, responsible thing was to go talk to Bishop about it. I won’t make any demands, but I will provide information. He is out of town, but I’m sure we will get together when he gets back.

I’m at bottom—been there so long, and I think I just need some well-filling, especially now while my faith is wimpy/changing.

My ministering sister is a counselor in the PP, and she was over for the first time last week. I told her much of what I’ve said here with a little bit about my faith transition and let her know I’d planned to talk to the Bishop. She was super supportive. She actually teared up with me when I got emotional at points, which was weirdly affirming. She left quipping she’d see my Sunday but hopefully less in Primary.

I thought I might get to go to Gospel Doctrine, but my daughters’ Sunday School teachers called me to sub for them. It was the 17yos, and I was a little bit worried. I mean, how does someone who is (at least at the moment) currently not a believer in miracles and bending agnostic supposed to teach the epistles? School hasn’t started yet, so I figured the class would be small and any damage I could cause could be minimal. Plus, at the time, I had become worried about being asked to teach seminary to Sydney so that she could be on the ROTC drill team before school. I just wasn’t sure I was up to it since I’m feeling so very “in flux” faith-wise. I thought this might be a good test.

I woke up Sunday ready to bail. I did NOT want teach. I almost called out figuring the kids could just team up with another class, but I gritted my teeth, finished my last bit of preparation, and left for church. Jared realized he needed to go in a different car so he could leave right after church (seminary meeting) for the airport, so we had to turn around and get a second car, which ended up making me too late to print up the programs. I tried not to let it faze me. A former seminary student grabbed me after sacrament and we visited until I finally pulled myself away.

Sydney had retrieved the dress ups from the van and had them ready for me when I got to class. Apparently the SS President had told them they had to go to adult SS, and the class was very relieved to have a sub to save them from the horrors of Gospel Doctrine.

I think we can all relate, unfortunately.

So I started out by letting the kids who were willing dress up and act out Paul’s arrest at the temple and testimony before King Agrippa and whoever the other guy was. Can’t remember the name offhand at the moment. Anyway, it was fun. I did the whited wall chewing gum activity that I did in Seminary years ago. It worked well since this was fast Sunday, and they all wanted gum. The discussion on hypocrisy could have gone better if I had known the kids better and we weren’t so spread out. I tied the second half in to how people may react to it when the kids share their testimonies with their friends when school starts up. It’s hard to tell if Agrippa was being sarcastic about being “almost” persuaded or not, so I used both readings on the kids for our discussion. 17yos are ready for that level of thinking about the scriptures, IMHO.

Anyway, after that we finished the acting out, including the tying up with thongs and punching. I promise it was not Adult in any way — this is definitely not my first rodeo dealing with teenagers and awkward Bible phrasing. By then I had them eating out of my hands. Most of the kids in that class are easy, but one is often a brat. I’ve taught him before and seen him at activities and at his home, so I knew he was the one I had to reach to keep the class from going sideways. I held up pictures of Paul getting shipwrecked and paraphrased that story. We talked about breaking fasts as they did in the story, and I talked for a minute about fasting. I also made an effort to engage the difficult boy by tying things from the lesson to the testimony his recently returned missionary brother had shared during sacrament meeting just moments before.

The bishop had asked us to fast for a family in the ward last Sunday. Right now, my faith in fasting isn’t that it is some sort of lever that once flipped causes God to do what we want, but that it’s more like a communal empathetic response. I think fasting attunes us to others’ needs and helps us work the “miracles” if any can be. I think it focuses us, more than forces God. I was honest with the kids that I didn’t know if our fast would solve the health problems of this family’s profoundly disabled child, but I did think that fasting was valuable in helping us prepare to be “miracle”-makers. I also believe fasting helps us learn to control our appetites.

I wrapped up by sharing with them that I hoped they’d learned something about fasting, testimonies, and hypocrisy. That I hoped they were listening in case they heard something they knew they could change. Maybe they feel they are whited walls, different at home or church than they are at school. Maybe they can be more joyful about fasting or be more empathetic to others. Maybe they can be bolder when bearing testimony and not get discouraged if they are mocked or disbelieved. As I’ve said before, changing to be a little more Christlike is the sole purpose of CFM. I hope they will.

By the end of the lesson, the oft-troublesome boy was making eye contact and fully focused. Even with a broken heart, I’m good at teaching teenagers fun and meaningful gospel lessons. I don’t think that’s what I want to do at the moment as a calling, but it was a relief to see that I can teach the gospel without being a whited wall, saying anything that goes against my current state of faith or belief, even if it’s a little unorthodox.

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About Jenny Smith

I'm Jenny Smith. I keep up with three cars, two kids, one husband, and I live on 300+ acres of rolling farmland in Northern Virginia where we look after an elderly relative. I like tomatoes, all things Star Trek, watercolor, and reading. I spend most days in the garden fighting deer and groundhogs as I pursue a graduate degree. I'm trying to be like Jesus -- emphasis on the trying.
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