|Teaching the Ideal, Living in Reality||June 1, 2005|
There’s been a lot of discussion lately in the Bloggernacle about feeling out of place at church, feeling you don’t measure up to the “ideal.” Some have suggested the church should stop emphasizing the ideal in its teachings as strongly as it has. I’ve struggled with this feeling all my life.
I love the gospel, and I love going to church. But what if, like me, you don’t have children yet? What if you’re at work when most of the women in your age group are getting together for lunch at the park with each other and bringing along their two or three kids?
What if you are a young woman in a less than ideal family situation? As a teenager, I felt like I was the only one who didn’t have two loving parents at home who were active church members. It seemed like every lesson my Laurel year was about eternal families. I remember writing in my journal after church, locked in my room, and crying as I prayed that someday I could have that perfect eternal family.
I admit, I still feel isolated sometimes. Mother’s Day is still hard for me. I understand the need to honor the mothers who do such important work. But when I think about my experiences growing up, I don’t feel at peace. When I look around the congregation at my friends shushing their babies while the primary children sing to their mothers, it’s really hard for me to stay in the room.
At times, we all feel like we don’t fit in, and like everyone else shares in something that we can’t be part of. And yet, I think it is important for church leaders to teach the ideal so we all have something to strive for. I would want a good marriage even if the importance of eternal families weren’t emphasized so much, but I think being taught the ideal probably makes me feel even more motivated. When we fall short, I hope that we aren’t so focused on ourselves and our own problems and unique situations that we start resenting or arguing against the ideal itself.
One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 12:4-5: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” We are all different, and we all have different situations. We can work toward an ideal lovingly with each other. We can support each other in undesirable circumstances. We can try to rejoice for others who succeed in achieving what we haven’t.
Sometimes things don’t work out for us the way we expect. And other times things work out better than we hoped for. I am grateful for my good, kind and worthy husband. I am so thankful I was able to marry in the temple. I am blessed to be in a wonderful ward with so many kind people who have reached out to us even though our situation is not identical to theirs. I have a calling now with the Young Women where I can reach out to those girls who feel like I did, that they might never feel loved, or have a happy eternal family, or fit in at church. I hope that I can use my past failures to have more compassion for others, and that I can help bless other people who, like me, might not look like the ideal.