Seeing the Face of God at Church
A recently released Relief Society president reflected on one of the most important things she learned during her service: “I knew I was beginning to truly understand the nature of the calling when I began to sit in the back of the chapel during Sacrament Meeting.”
Sometimes we chide the saints who sit in the back. We encourage them to move forward. This president had good reasons to sit in the back. “I realized that while some of the people who sit in the back are there because they arrive late or simply prefer to be there, other people sit there because they are struggling or uncomfortable. So I began to sit where I could notice them. I looked for who was sitting alone and needed a friend. I noticed back-sitters who seemed to feel they didn’t fit in and needed support. There were those who were consistently dragging in late who might need a warm greeting or an appreciative smile. ”
She continued: “Sitting in the back also gave me a view of the entire congregation. I became aware of who was missing and needed to be checked on. I saw a few people who came after a long absence and seemed to feel uncomfortable or tentative in their attendance. I occasionally saw sisters leave the meeting trying to hide tears so I knew to seek them out, put an arm around them, pray for them. I saw people who were new and needed to be welcomed. As I came to truly understand my role, I began noticing people and their situations more. I began looking for people who needed to be cared for so I could connect with them and serve them.”
I felt inspired by a woman who did not go to church primarily to be loved, taught, and fellowshipped but who went primarily to love, to teach, and to pull into heaven’s embrace. What an excellent example of someone anxiously engaged in following the Savior’s instruction: “When thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.” (Luke 22:32)
One of the surest signs of our conversion is our reaching out to strengthen others.
Surrounded by Opportunities to Minister
In Mosiah, Alma sets forth the covenant conditions of baptism.
When we are baptized we covenant to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort. And yet. As natural men and natural women, we tend to be self-absorbed. We are preoccupied by our own problems and issues. We are busy. We worry about whether we have the right skill set to help. We assume someone else will jump in. We tend to our callings and perhaps forget to look outside that circle of stewardship for additional opportunities to minister. We may sit in the same seats and socialize with the same friends each Sunday.
President Thomas S. Monson pointed out, “Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead?'” (What Have I Done for Someone Today?, October 2009, General Conference)
The Blessing of Partnering with God
To be anxiously engaged does not mean that we are anxious, burdened, and overwhelmed. It means that we gladly do all that we feel God calling us to do. We know that He will sustain us in those things we are called to do. The irony is that, in God’s service, when we bless others we ourselves are enriched.
If we feel marginalized, reaching out to another brings both of us into fellowship. If we feel burdened, helping others with their problems places ours in perspective. If our faith needs strengthening, pointing someone else towards the power of the Savior refreshes our own appreciation of His power and mercy.
One of the blessings of actively serving is that it brings us such joy.
Some of our keenest joys are those times when God has used us to bless. Any time we have delivered healing balm or lifting love to someone sliding toward despair, we have felt the shock of heavenly joy. The same is true whether we are serving as full-time missionaries, Primary teachers, or just fellow saints. We enjoy the indescribable satisfaction of partnering with God.
As we lift each other’s burdens and hold up the hands that hang down, we ourselves are lifted by God. Our needy neighbors are our ticket to God; they are the unmarked doors behind which we see the face of God. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25: 40, 45)
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