(Photo by Beka Price Photography)
Yesterday marked four years since I was set apart as a full-time Sister missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. Today marks four years since I boarded an airplane to Brazil and tomorrow is my official four-year anniversary since I entered the Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo to embark on what would become one of my life’s greatest adventures. It was through my mission that I discovered my calling in life, the reason why I was born, and what I was destined to do with my time on this earth. Little did I know then what the Lord had in store for me. He is full of surprises, you know! My heart is so overwhelmed at the goodness of our God who sees the end from the beginning and allows us to be co-authors with Him in writing our life stories that will become our legacies.
As I have reflected today on where I am now, I had some thoughts I felt impressed to share. Have you ever received a calling that you felt totally inadequate to fulfill? I felt that way as missionary, as my home ward’s Girls Camp Director, and I certainly feel it now as I am serving as my Young Single Adult Ward’s Relief Society President. I am convinced that no one ever feels completely qualified for callings they receive. When my Bishop met with me to extend this calling about five months ago I was completely shocked. Me? A Relief Society President? He must be joking! The first thoughts that went through my mind were:
Doesn’t he know I have bipolar disorder?
Doesn’t he know I have anxiety, depression, and OCD?
Doesn’t he know that I came home early from my mission?
Doesn’t he know that some days I can’t even get out of bed and face the world?
Yes — he knew. But he asked me anyway. It was my gut instinct to instantly disqualify myself because in my mind Relief Society Presidents were perfect! In my mind, Relief Society Presidents had their life together! In my mind, Relief Society Presidents didn’t have mental illness! But you know what? Turns out I was wrong. Relief Society Presidents are PEOPLE. It’s funny because every single person I know who has served in this same calling said they didn’t imagine themselves as the “type” of person in that role and felt pretty overwhelmed at first. They worried about saying the right things all the time, always being friendly and welcoming, and even looking like they had it all together. I guess when your in positions of greater visibility it’s easier to be more aware and critical on every single little thing. But guys — Relief Society Presidents are PEOPLE. I cannot emphasize that point enough!
It’s important to remember that callings aren’t death sentences! They are opportunities to learn, to grow, and to love. Our callings enhance our capacities in all areas of our lives. We can create relationships that we will have forever through our callings. We can have some of our happiest and most spiritual experiences through our service! Over the past five months I’ve learned seven powerful lessons that I hope will help those of you that may feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or even doubtful that you can fulfill your calling.
1. Stay humble.
These two verses from the hymn “Be Thou Humble” pretty much sum this one up:
Be thou humble in thy weakness
And the Lord thy God shall lead thee,
Shall lead thee by the hand
And give thee answers to thy prayers…
Be thou humble in thy calling
And the Lord thy God shall teach thee
To serve His children gladly with a pure and gentle love…
I’ve learned not to rely solely on my own capacities but to let the Lord be my strength. His grace is more than enough to take our contributions — what we may see as measly loaves and dinky fishes — and accomplish miracles. Ether 12:27 has some great insights on this as well:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
2. You are enough.
I reached a point a few weeks ago when I let the fear gremlins completely devour my faith in regards to my ability to keep going. I told my Bishop, “I can’t do this. You should call somebody else. I’m just not good enough.” I found myself comparing my weaknesses to other’s strengths, and when you do that you always come up short. It is normal to have moments of self-doubt, but the trick is to not dwell there. The Bishop told me that because I know what it means to struggle that I would be able to help the sisters in my ward in a unique way. It’s not my job to fix everyone’s problems. It’s not my job to save them either. It is my job to love them. Don’t worry about trying to be just like the person who served before you. Don’t worry about trying to fill their shoes. God called YOU, so focus on what YOU have to offer and let it be enough.
3. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
When I was set apart there was one thing that stood out in my blessing more than anything else. I was blessed that whatever mental health challenges I would face as I served in this calling would be BRIEF. That word — BRIEF. That blessing has absolutely been fulfilled. It makes me so emotional to write out this particular lesson because I felt so unqualified because of my bipolar disorder. It is important to remember that God does not call the qualified — He qualifies the called. Trust that He knows what He’s doing.
Whenever I feel discouraged in my responsibilities, I remind myself of the incredible comforting feeling that washed over me just before I told the Bishop that I would accept the calling. The Spirit filled me from head to toe and I knew it was the right thing to do. It felt like I was taking a leap into the dark by saying yes, but if there is one thing I’ve learned its this: Where God guides, God provides. And with His help we can achieve the seemingly impossible.
4. You do not have to be perfect.
I am so grateful my Bishop made it very clear to me from the get-go that he did not expect me to be perfect. His only expectation of me was to do my best. I love this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk Lord, I Believe: “Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it… so should we!”
Isn’t it incredible that God calls imperfect humans to accomplish His perfect work? God is able to do His own work and yet He gives us the opportunity to to work hand-in-hand with Him and each other. What trust He has in us! What love He has for us! Guys, I am human. Just like you, I make mistakes. I’m sure I have offended people, no doubt about it. But somehow the Lord compensates and makes my efforts enough, however imperfect. Just show up, do your best, and turn the rest over to God. You do not have to be perfect — you just have to be brave! And if you don’t have that courage, pray for it.
5. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
One of my biggest concerns I expressed to my Bishop was, “What happens if I tank and am unable to fulfill my responsibilities? Then what?” I was so afraid of disappointing God and the Bishop and especially the sisters in my Relief Society. His response to me was, “That’s why you have counselors — to share the load.” My counselors are three of the most charitable, patient, and Christ-like individuals I have ever had the privilege of working with. And he was right… they are there to share the load! I love the sisters in my ward so much! They inspire me with their light and goodness and I am so lucky to serve with them!
6. “You do not have to be healed to help.”
This is a quote from my friend Josie Thompson of the 444 Project, a fellow fighter of bipolar disorder who has inspired thousands through her campaign to help people find the light in their darkness. What a powerful reminder that God doesn’t always call us in our strength but rather in our weakness. Whatever the struggle, I believe we can always find ways to serve. You do not need to define your capacity to serve by circumstances out of your control.
7. Remember Who is really in charge.
My Bishop is a very inspired leader and I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for him. He shared something with me in my first interview with him that I have never forgotten. He said: “Sister Sargeant, I want you to always remember that this is not your ward. It is His. These are not your sisters. They are His. And this is not your work. It is His. All you have to do is be willing to do what He asks you to do.”
The first week after I was sustained, I went to the Temple to pray about what Heavenly Father’s expectations were of me in this calling. I came away with a clear answer: “Help them come closer to Jesus Christ.” To me, that was a realistic expectation. So that is my focus in my calling — to help my sisters come closer to Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we are called to serve. Sometime we are called to learn. And sometimes we are called to be humbled. Whatever the reason for your calling, you are called because God trusts you. You have hearts to touch and lives to change that are entrusted to YOU! Don’t worry about what you can’t do — focus on what you CAN do. I echo the words of Elder Nelson in his recent address titled Becoming True Millenials: EXPECT AND PREPARE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. God will ask you to do hard things because with Him all things are possible. Don’t stop! Don’t give up! Keep going and see miracles unfold! Bipolar or not, the Lord still has work for me to do! Take these words from Elder Nelson to heart and believe that you can do hard things!
“How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth… When you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.”