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When our son, Brandon, was just two, I picked him up from the church nursery and later asked, “What did you learn today?”
He sighed, then shared what he had heard the teacher say: “Get out from under the table.”
I still chuckle, picturing a dedicated teacher who had prepared songs, coloring pictures, treats, and a lesson for a wiggly group of toddlers, at least one of whom was not making her task any easier.
And, as I’ve thought about this over the years, those words actually have taken on profound meaning. Though we are not physically hiding under a table during Sunday School, we do much the same thing. And we do it often.
I once read a very old quote by someone saying that all they ever did during sermons was study other women’s hats. Obviously, in an era when women always wore hats to church, you can imagine the temptation to sit in the chapel, tune out the speakers, and just look at the backs of people’s heads. And, even today, we find plenty of distractions if we drop our focus and tune out.
In classes, during the passing of the Sacrament, even when studying scriptures, some of us veer off task as our mind wanders to other things. Many of us have caught ourselves mumbling worn-out phrases when we pray. It seems that whenever there’s an opportunity for spiritual growth, even an “aha!” moment, Satan is right there to lure us under the table, so to speak.
We just enjoyed a feast of inspiration in General Conference. But have we climbed back under the table, now? When we hear a wonderful message during a Sacrament meeting talk, do we jot it down, share it with our family, tape it to a mirror, post it online, include it in a journal entry? Do we actually try to implement it? I’ll be honest—I often hear fabulous insights but fail to take the steps I should to let it improve my life. I’m sitting under the table.
This “hiding” is invisible to others, so no one catches us by the sleeve and says, “Hey, I’m teaching a lesson here. You should listen.” But, as adults, we can self-regulate, can’t we? In Sacrament meeting we can pay attention to the lyrics we sing. We can say a silent prayer for the speakers, and then really listen for insights as they deliver their messages. Above all, we can partake of the Sacrament with an awareness of the holy ordinance it is, and make those promises sincerely, repenting and recommitting every week.
In classes we can decide to participate more, ask and answer questions, and read the material beforehand. When the teacher needs help, we can be there for them. Instead of coming to church with the adolescent approach that sits back and waits to be entertained, we can engage like grownups.
The analogy can even extend to our everyday life, mine included. How often are we sitting under the table instead of doing the temple work or genealogy we should be doing? How many opportunities for service have we missed, in favor of sports and recreation? How many healing conversations with family members have been put on a back burner, as our busy lives intrude and months go by? When we turn from those activities that can secure eternal blessings, in favor of transient mortal choices, we are sitting under the table. We are choosing the easy wrong instead of the hard right, as President Monson has counseled us not to do.
Today I’m going to look at my life, the more difficult things that I’ve been avoiding, and see if I can climb out from under that table. Wanna come with me?