I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing woman who has done exceptional work serving the children of God and also raising a family in the gospel. Her life is not perfect of course, but I consider her to be a role model because she has made it a priority to discover and fulfill all the responsibilities she has as a daughter of God... She described to me how people often try to categorize women that work, and women that stay at home, and women that do this or that or the other thing, when in fact these categories are completely wrong. She said that instead we ought to think of our work on a spectrum:As I was reading this I just laughed because hanging on the board above my computer is something that looks remarkably similar:
... If we think of the example set by our Savior, we can see that charity in its fullest form is to serve every group represented along the spectrum, and our Savior did in fact make his way across the spectrum serving every individual... With that in mind, and taking into consideration whatever our personal circumstances are, we ought to constantly be pushing ourselves across this spectrum with whatever gifts, talents, and capacities we have. This could be as broad as college aged sister who volunteers her time working with those in poverty abroad, to a young mother who brings her children to visit with residents of a nursing home. The Spirit will dictate how, given our unique circumstances, we can use our time, talents, and abilities to fulfill our responsibility of service.
I made this little sign several months ago when I was feeling SO overwhelmed by all balls I was trying to juggle in my life. I was trying to maintain my relationship with God, be a good wife and mother, keep tabs on my extended family, fulfill my church calling, care for my neighbors and friends, and do the other things that God had guided me to as well (like serving women as a doula, working on my book project, and writing my blog) all at the same time! I felt like I was drowning and the truth was that I wasn't really doing a very good job at ANY of those things.
Then one night as I was praying for help I remembered a part of a movie I'd seen years and years ago. The movie was called "The Mask of Zorro" and in it the main character, Alejandro, who masquerades around as "Zorro" is set on revenging the death of his brother. In his quest he stumbles on to a man named Don Diego de la Vega who takes him under his belt and teaches what he needs to know to reach his goal. The first thing Don Diego does is to give Alejandro a blade and put him in the "Master's Wheel" where Alejandro has to learn handle the foes that come at him one ring at a time. Don Diego instructs him to remember that at first NOTHING exists outside of his inner most ring and that for the time being that is his whole world. Once Alejandro masters that inner ring his world gradually expands to include the other rings. Until, eventually he is able to defend and protect himself even at the very outermost ring which includes the man he is seeking revenge on.
While it is really sort of a gruesome and violent premise the idea of the "Master's Wheel" really resonated with my soul. I realized that I was trying to tackle all the rings of my life at the same time. As a result I was being attacked on all sides and getting cut up pretty bad in the process. I knew that if I didn't change something soon that pretty soon I'd no longer be able to defend myself and that "foes" might find their way into my inner rings. So the first thing I decided to do was to "narrow my world" (hence the phrase on my sign) by first focusing on defending my inner most ring-- which deals with my relationship with God. This ring includes things like prayer, scripture study, fasting, temple worship, and personal development. I know that "mastering" this ring will be an ongoing process but I also know that if I don't give this ring the time and respect it deserves then I will be ill equipped to handle my other rings.
The next ring on my sign is "Family" and includes the responsibilities I have as a wife, a mother, a sister and a daughter. These are what in her 2011 BYU Women's Conference talk Julie Beck called the "non-negotiable responsibilities" and I know that I've made sacred covenants to my husband, to my children living and unborn, and to my family that God will hold me-- and no one else-- accountable for someday. I don't ever expect to master this ring but I know that by giving these relationships highest priority in my life that God will bless me and magnify my ability to handle whatever comes my way.
The two outermost rings are "Church" which includes my church responsibilities, callings, and Christian service to those around me, and "Society" which includes serving and improving the lives of all of God's children. I know that there is much that the Lord would have me do in these outer rings and that He wants to be able to use my talents and strengths to move His work forward. In fact, each one of God's daughters has an important work to do in these outer rings. Joseph F. Smith once taught sisters that,
" It is for you to lead the world and to lead especially the women of the world, in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting, and that is purifying to the children of men. You are the head, not the tail."(Daughters in My Kingdom, pg. 66)All over the world righteous women should be at the forefront of every good cause and the loudest voices for what is right and true. It is part of our responsibilities as women and the Lord expects us to be involved and engaged in society and in the world just as much as He expects us to be dedicated and committed to our homes and families. Yet it is important that we do things the right way and in the right order. If we try to tackle the outer ring of "Society" before we are dedicated and grounded in our inner rings of "Self, Family and Church" then we leave these vital rings open to attack and we loose power (as Julie Beck said here) and aren't as effective in any of our rings. Eliza R. Snow, the second president of the Relief Society explained this well when she told sisters,
"Let your first business be to perform your duties at home. But, inasmuch as you are wise stewards, you will find time for social duties, because these are incumbent upon us as daughters and mothers in Zion. By seeking to perform every duty you will find that your capacity will increase, and you will be astonished at what you can accomplish." (Daughters in My Kingdom, 59)
I just need to remember that He is the Master and that, even though His training methods may seem strange at times, He knows what He is doing and who I can become.
Thank you Kels for giving me a lot to think about!