Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Service, Strength & Love

I went on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 21-years old.  During those 18 months I learned intensely about the importance of family, service and love. The depth of understanding I gained during my mission changed my life forever.

Before my mission I never wanted to get married. The thought of having children never even entered my mind. I planned to live in South America as a physician, living in a simple grass hut in some small remote village near the Amazon River. I loved the movie Medicine Man. When I returned from my mission, my goals were completely changed: I wanted to find someone to marry, I wanted to have a nice family to spend my life with. I quickly fell in love and married the man that is now my husband. I was certain that he was everything I would ever need or want. (He actually seemed a bit too perfect, but I went ahead anyway.)

It has been almost ten years since we were married. I never realized in the beginning how the traits I had never even seen in him when we were courting would become the ones most important to me, and to our family. His ability to love, work, serve, and enjoy life surprises me over and over again. He seems to have an innate way of seeing the needs of others, and finding within himself a way to serve them. I think if our family learns to serve each other from his example, our family will be strong forever.

When describing the people of Ammon, Alma wrote: "...when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them..." (Alma 26:6)

When I read this scripture this morning, I immediately thought about my family, my loved ones.

I turned back to how Alma described the covenant these people had made; he wrote: "... and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands." (Alma 24:18)

The people of Ammon had promised to serve and love their brethren; this allowed them to be unified and strong.

Then, I thought of my husband.

My husband eclipses me when it comes to serving others. If we are ever arguing or upset at each other, he immediately starts to serve me, especially in small, simple ways. When we were first married, this enraged me. I finally confronted him about it, not sure about his intentions. He said, "When we serve other people, our love for them increases." I was speechless, but no longer irritated. I was only envious of his ability to be unselfish, convinced that his intentions really were pure.

Since then, I have matured - but only by a little bit. He still surpasses me in his capacity to stand back and see things from an unselfish perspective and realize that he can offer something of himself, even if it is only in a small way.

One time, about six months ago, I told my kids about a friend's husband who loved chocolate cake. His wife had made a delicious chocolate cake for the family but because he was working late, there was only one piece left when he got home. The wife found out that an elderly widow also loved chocolate cake, and asked her husband if he would mind taking the last piece of cake over to him. He consented. I was trying to teach my kids about sacrificing for others. I said to my kids, "Wasn't that nice of the husband?" My oldest, seven at the time, said to me, "Ya, because if that had been you, you wouldn't have given it away, you would have eaten it because you love chocolate cake!"

I almost cried. I really want to be a good example to my kids of service. But, in the end, I must concede, that it is my husband that will teach them to truly be unselfish to those around them, not me.

But, hopefully, I will also keep learning from him too. Isn't that one reason we marry the people we do - because we sense that they will make us change and become better?

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