Last week in Relief Society we were talking about callings, and one of the sisters said she didn’t think all callings were necessarily inspired, that sometimes you were just a worker in the kingdom, and that was okay. Another sister disagreed, insisting that all callings were inspired, and she knew this was so because each of her callings had allowed her to touch at least one person’s life, and if you’ve touched one person’s life, that’s all that matters.
I am more inclined to agree with Sister Workerbee than Sister Inspiration. I’m happy for Sister Inspiration, and I believe she’s touched someone’s life in each of her callings, but I don’t think one can make generalizations based on her own blessed but limited experience. I am open to the idea that every calling is inspired, for whatever reason, but I don’t really care one way or the other because if you aren’t touching someone’s life–or don’t know that you’re touching someone’s life–you need some motivation to keep going, and “this calling was inspired” is not always going to cut the mustard, especially if all evidence points to the contrary.
I’ve never accepted a calling because I thought that God wanted me to be in that position. I accept callings because I know that the ward needs someone in that position, and it may as well be me. That’s very unromantic, but God needs unromantic people like me, who don’t require spiritual validation to do the drudge work of Zion–those callings that don’t particularly touch anyone’s life, except maybe one’s own (and even then, not always for good).
Not to demean the notion of spiritual validation–if you’ve got it, that’s awesome, but to expect it is, I think, foolish. Someone, somewhere, is bound to be disappointed.
Most wards need people who can play the piano; therefore, if you can play the piano, you are very, very likely to end up in a piano-playing calling–or at the very least, some other music-related calling, because the people who extend such callings usually don’t know anything about music and assume that if you play a musical instrument, you would also make a good choir director. I have spent the majority of my adult life in piano-playing callings, which I have not minded a bit. I don’t think I’ve particularly touched anyone’s life with music, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Primary without feeling responsible for any child’s salvation. That’s a pretty sweet gig. Question: Was it inspired? Answer: Who cares?
I can believe that my calling to the Relief Society presidency while I was in the singles ward was inspired. I grew a lot while I served in that position, and I developed relationships with people I would probably not have otherwise. I can believe that my calling to be Primary chorister was inspired because I learned whilst visiting the nursery to do singing time that nursery-age children are 1,000 times better than Primary-age children, and as a result I no longer dreaded the possibility of being called to the nursery (which change in attitude has, I think, drastically reduced my chances of ever being called to the nursery, so–score). By contrast, I can’t recall ever actually doing anything as the Young Women’s secretary, and moreover, I was never invited to any of the meetings, so, you know, not a lot of life-touching going on there. But whatever.
I’ve held two teaching positions. Each only lasted a few short months, after which time I would inevitably suffer a nervous breakdown and the president of the auxiliary would have to move me to some other position so that no one else would get hurt. Were those callings inspired, and did I just fail to live up to my potential? Entirely possible, but again, I don’t care; I was so relieved to be out of direct contact with the little hooligans that I never looked back. Did I touch anyone’s life? Considering my mental state at the time, I certainly hope not.
This is not to imply that either of those callings was a mistake, but even if they were both mistakes, it doesn’t matter. We learn from our mistakes. Hopefully we learn from others’ mistakes, too. I’m sure I’ve taught a lot of people how not to do something, especially where children or teenagers are involved. I’m really not a people person, which is how I ended up in the library.
I actually do think my calling as an assistant librarian was inspired because when they called me, the head librarian was streamlining the inventory and was in the middle of throwing out a bunch of materials, including old Relief Society magazines and issues of the Improvement Era, some dating back as far as 1947. She was just going to…recycle them. I know! One’s like inner Historian shudders. But I saved them. I took them home and now they’re sitting in my garage, gathering dust, just like God intended. Did I touch anyone’s life? No. But I preserved history, or something like unto it. That’s a valuable contribution.
Unfortunately, I made my one and only valuable contribution as a librarian within the first two weeks of accepting the call. The rest of the time I’ve just spent learning to be stingy with pencils.
(Incidentally, if any of you have ever wondered why church librarians don’t trust anyone, it’s because you’re all LIARS and THIEVES!)
I actually think that the librarian position is one that could benefit from a little worker-bee attitude on the part of those extending the call. In our building, the librarians have to take turns staffing the library on Wednesday evenings, when people can bring in their large copying jobs or, I dunno, borrow some random Friend magazines or church videos if they’re so inclined. When they called me to work in the library, I told them that I couldn’t work most Wednesdays because my tap class is on Wednesday. (Yes, it may sound like a lame excuse, but I am an artiste and the laws of consecration don’t apply to me.) They said that wouldn’t be a problem because there were so many other librarians to cover the Wednesday evenings.
Well, yes, there were so many other librarians, and the only reason they wanted another one called was to spread the Wednesday night burden around some more. But whatever. Over the last three years, the other librarians in our ward who could work on Wednesdays were either released or moved away, which left me as the only librarian in my ward. When they asked me if I needed them to call another librarian to help me, I said, “Well, yes, but only because of the Wednesday evenings, because I can’t work Wednesday evenings.” So they called another librarian…who can’t work on Wednesday evenings. Was this calling inspired? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that when I spoke to the gentleman in charge of these matters, I was pretty clear about the Wednesday thing, but all he must have heard was, “Well, yes, blah blah blah [when will science find a cure for a woman's mouth?]” Can we blame the Holy Ghost for that? I don’t know.
It does seem to me that it would be a whole lot easier to just go around asking people if they’d like to spend two Wednesdays a month in the library, working a copier and catching up on their reading. I’m sure I can’t be the only person on earth to whom that scenario appeals. (On the Wednesdays I don’t have to tap dance, I very much enjoy working a copier and catching up on my reading and otherwise not being at home with the children…whom I love very much, but…come on.) And yet such people continue to elude the inspired process of calling a ward librarian. It is a puzzlement.
Of course this brings me back to my original point, which was that callings aren’t necessarily inspired, but someone has to do it and it may as well be me. If I had a holier attitude, maybe I’d be willing to make more sacrifices to build up the kingdom, as it were. Perhaps I’ve been missing opportunities. If this were an Ensign article, I would give up my tap class, bitterly resent it for a period of time, and then one fateful evening some poor soul would wander into my library and ask, “Do you have Together Forever?” and I would say, “Yes, dear brother [or sister], here it is, watch it in good health,” and eventually I would come to find out that this person went on to do the temple work for all his or her ancestors, who otherwise would not have been saved if the library had not been open that evening. Or something. But this is not an Ensign article, and thus the blog ends in confusion and despair.
Brothers and sisters, the time is now yours to comment on the inspired-or-not nature of your callings, past or present.