For a short time, while I was growing up, I wanted to be a physical therapist. Later, while recovering from knee surgery, I learned that part of a physical therapist’s job is somewhat akin to torturing people. (Instead, I became a pharmacist, so I can give people medicine to feel better after having been to physical therapy.) I don’t believe that physical therapists have masochistic tendencies or anything but some of the exercises can make me wonder. The painful stretching and strengthening is always necessary to gain mobility and function. I am certain it is rewarding for patient and therapist to see them overcome so much and progress after working so hard. After my knee surgery, I had to get my range of motion back. I laid on my stomach with my legs out straight behind me on the table. My job was to bend my knee and lift my heel to my bottom as far as I could. I was able to get it a couple of inches off of the table by myself. The therapist, Brad, said he would help me. He said, “This may hurt a bit. I can get a towel for you to bite on if needed.” Ummm…thanks? I bit down on the towel as he lifted my ankle up until my knee was at about 90 degrees. I focused on my breathing and tried my best to relax the stretch. After some time, Brad started to count down – “10…9…8…” I started to anticipate being able to put my leg back in a comfortable position. I felt anxious and was ready for a good “Ahhhh…” sigh as he got to “3…2…1.” However, instead of allowing me that much waited for release, he said, “Let’s push a little deeper.” He pushed my knee tighter and I bit down harder on my towel while he started counting down from a much higher number. Sometimes, God is a lot like a physical therapist. He pushes us out of our comfort zone and waits for us to acclimate and then he pushes us a bit further. Like a physical therapist, he never leaves us and is always there for us as we progress and learn, encouraging us every step of the way.
With all the recent announcements regarding multiple church functions and activities, I feel that President Nelson is very much in tune with helping us stretch in a way that isn’t overwhelming. We have been taught “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:30). Today, I want to talk particularly about the new Come, Follow Me program. It was back in April 2015 that President Nelson gave the talk, “The Sabbath is a Delight” which seems to be such a precursor to the changes announced this October General Conference. In it, he discusses teaching our families, doing family history work and providing service as ways in which we can make the Sabbath a delight. There is strong emphasis on the work of teaching our families. He quoted a First Presidency letter (footnote 17 in the talk) that state, “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.”
When I heard the announcement about the new church schedule and the emphasis on using that extra time to teach within the home, I felt some pressure. I didn’t need to bite down on a towel, but I definitely felt aware of a spiritual stretch. I sometimes wonder how much of the lessons to my kids sink in. I don’t know about you but, at our house, gospel learning is often accompanied by sibling discomforts and frequent interruptions to ask someone to keep their hands to themselves (and then an additional interruption to keep their feet to themselves). I was not yet a parent when Elder Bednar said, “Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as ‘He’s touching me!’ ‘Make him stop looking at me!’ ‘Mom, he’s breathing my air!’ Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.” I am grateful that the idea of “Mom, he’s breathing my air” seemed so ludicrous that the talk has stuck with me. I’m an only child and so had no idea the reality and the nuisance of having someone else breath your air. Now, as a mom, I definitely understand the offense.
Prior to conference, I’d been feeling nudges that we needed to increase our diligence in gospel teaching within our family. As I started to feel that spiritual stretch bit stronger with the announcement during the Saturday morning session, I knew this change was going to be a bigger deal than just a schedule change. By Saturday afternoon, I felt I needed to determine how to be better prepared and able to teach my kids (and myself). Words from Julie B. Beck’s talk “Choose Ye This Day to Serve the Lord” kept coming to my mind. She says, “There was a time when I needed to prioritize, and in one of those sacred meetings between me and the Lord, He gave me three categories that I have worked from, and they have been a guide in my life. The categories are the essential things, the necessary things, and the nice-to-do things. I started writing those things down. I asked, ‘What has to go in the category of essential?’ What things must be taken care of, and if I don’t take care of them, the blessings of eternal life won’t be mine nor will they be my family’s. I wrote at the top of the essential list revelation. I have to be able to know the mind and will of God. Therefore, I have to do the things in my life that put me in a position to hear His voice.” I felt that stretching indicated I needed to increase personal revelation so that I could provide lessons that are engaging, (with hopes of less sibling squabbles), meaningful, powerful and memorable for all the members of my family. (If you have a lesson that checks all those boxes, please let me know!) I thought of what helps me to receive personal revelation. The “Sunday School Answers” fit the bill and I jotted down notes about more diligent scripture study, increasing personal prayer, praying specifically about each child and how best to edify them, and going to the temple even more frequently. As I considered these things and thought about what currently inhibited me from doing those things, the answer became obvious. “Put down your phone!! Turn off the TV!!” (My habit of watching BBC Masterpiece while eating lunch and then getting sucked into “just one more episode” before school got out, was sucking hours of my day.) I considered what types of things I could do to make sure I was prioritizing the “essential” things in life and made a plan to limit social media/phone use and to take a break from watching TV.
Those things – increased diligence in scripture study, personal prayer for my individual children, going to the temple and using my time more wisely – were all on my mind as I settled in to listen to the General Women’s Session. The early talks uplifted and encouraged me, helping me to ease into the stretch that I was planning with my changes. As our beloved prophet started his address, I felt the love that he and the Savior have for women and me individually. When he gave his 4 invitations to help us to gather scattered Israel, I felt confirmation of the goals and plans I had already been considering. Hearing it from the prophet increases my desire to be obedient to those promptings. I am grateful for his prophetic counsel and for personal revelation to help me ease into the spiritual stretches – no towel-biting required.
Photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash