Sunday, June 11, 2006

Charity Never Faileth

Two things happened to me today that haven't happened since I was a teenager: I ran to the bathroom during church in order to cry, and I was given two dozen long-stemmed roses by a teenage boy with a mohawk.

Unfortunately for Nick (since he has to live with me), it's been one of those days--I've been overly emotional for no good reason (and no, it's not pms). This state does not bring out my best qualities. I think I'm just processing life stress--work, baby, bills, calling, etc.--and doing it rather poorly today. We were finishing YW opening exercies today and I made an announcement concerning an award that the youth are working on in preparation for their Trek experience this summer. And a woman I love and admire made an offhand comment as we were breaking for classes that just ... it just hurt. She wasn't even talking directly to me, but it was clear that it was about me, and that it expressed frustration with my inability to keep on top of organization and communication within YW.

I felt hot, and my ears rushed, and my eyes pushed against rising tears. I told the Laurel's teacher to start without me and held Lucy close as I hurried down the hall, past the primary, past the library without saying hi to a good friend, and into the mother's lounge where I shut the door and turned off the lights and then I held Lucy even closer as I finally sat in the mauve rocking chair and released.

The feelings of self-doubt, of knowing that others could do my calling much better than I do, the guilt of wondering if "my best" for the Lord could be better--their intensity surprised me. Lucy fell asleep on my shoulder in the darkened room; she didn't mind the tears.

I grew up. I pulled myself together. I wiped away mascara. And I went back to class where I stood with Lucy in the back, swaying, trying to keep her asleep.

I think what caught my attention here was how odd it all was. I generally try not to cry over comments made by other women. And this woman, my friend, would certainly be horrified if she knew how her words had cut--I know her well enough to know there was no malice behind them, or even simple dislike. And I felt like I had suddenly regressed ten years and was a laurel myself, crying in the bathroom over other comments, not necessarily as innocent as this one, and wondering if I would ever have friends at church.

So I shouldn't have been surprised when another teenage experience was repeated later in the day. Mac stopped by as I was leaving to go visiting teaching and he said “Wait! I have something for you—” before he pulled the white roses out from the car. Just because he thought I’d like them. Platonic roses from a sixteen-year-old boy (don’t worry, they really are platonic—Mac’s been dating other boys for some time now). And my mind reflected on other roses (always pale: white, yellow, orange), and other boys who left them in lockers or cars or handed them to me just because they thought I’d like them, even though they had girlfriends. I placed Mac’s roses in water and left to go visiting teaching.

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended. . . . Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other" (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword” Ensign, May 1992, 18–19).

I shared this with my friend as we visited. Today I was reminded that I still need charity. I need it in my life and I need others to have it in theirs so they can live with me and I can feel safe with them. I still need it now, now even more than I needed it ten years ago when I was still only half-awake to the world and to God. The pure love of Christ—Christ’s pure love and loving Christ in purity—I thought about that as I said goodbye to my friend after an hour and she hugged me and told me she loved me and I knew that she meant it and the words she had spoken earlier in church, the words she didn’t know I even heard and that sent me running, those words are fading as I write. I cannot recall them now.


Jared said...

This was very personal and I appreciate you sharing it with us, Jenny. I felt like I could apply a lot of what you said to myself--that's the best kind of writing.

erin said...

Ditto, Jenny, on what Jared said...I just wish I'd been there to cry with you...and then go make some salmon fluff or something. :)

Jenny said...

Thanks Jared and Erin--I wrote this last night as I was trying to process my experiences that day, something I often do best through writing (hence my multiple journals dating back to elementary school that really need to be edited because middle school and high school are really quite embarrassing). I think the thing I was most worried about was that I would focus on what was unintentionally hurtful during the day (which is what I would have done as a teenager) instead of letting that go and focusing instead on the parts of the day where I felt like I was learning something God wanted me to learn (about charity). And writing was a way to focus my thoughts in a positive direction.

JonnyF said...

I remember one Saturday when I was a teenager and giving my mom a particularly hard time about all the projects she had lined up for me and the rest of the kids that weekend. I asked her why we couldn't just relax for one weekend, not only the kids but mom too. She told me something to the effect of, "You know, I have the same temptations to be lazy or to blow off responsibilities or to say mean things or whatever as any teenager, but part of being an adult is learning how to do things that need to be done even when you don't want to do them." Not having a snappy comeback, I didn't say anything and it sort of sunk in.
You're post made me think of this because we are all adults now, and expected to act in certain ways. But just being adults doesn't mean we don't get embarrassed or that we don't want to gossip or whatever. That sort of thing comes from effort and practice.
So I hear you Jenny, the first part of your post especially spoke to me. I often find that I'm not as grown up as I think I am.
Upon further reflection, the experiences in my life that highlight how much growing up I still have to do are often the same ones that illustrate the need for charity, like your experience. Interesting