Today, I want to share with you one of my own personal struggles right now in life.
This is not to complain, put down, or justify anything, but to show through my own personal experience of how fear can be crippling, it affects all of us, but how with Heavenly Father, our weaknesses can become our greatest strengths.
Panic races through our veins, our breathing quickens and we immediately see a glimpse of all the escape routes throughout the Chapel.
Before you know it, you're being led into a room with either a Counsellor or Bishop, and there are two chairs. You'd rather jump out the window than sit in that chair, but you know that that just isn't going to happen.
The day that I was called from the Young Women's room, in the middle of a lesson, I gave one final salute and the 3-point whistle from the Hunger Games before my life as I knew it was over.
My thoughts begin running a marathon in my mind from one panicked thought to another-
"Did I do something wrong?"
"Am I unworthy or being EXCOMMUNICATED?"
"It's a talk isn't it? Please...no"
"I'm getting kicked out of the ward, aren't I?"
"My baptism wasn't official, and now the Counsellor is telling me that for the past 4 years I haven't been a member of the Church and now I need to be rebaptised"
"Is he going to ask me why I'm not married yet? Where's the ring on my finger?"
While I'm sitting there, my eyes which, in an attempt to avoid eye contact are fluttering around the room like a drug induced butterfly smacking into every wall and trying to shove itself into the light bulb in a fiery end, the Counsellor smiles brightly with his hands wrapped together on his folder that lays on his lap. He engages in small talk, and I'm engaging in a game of minesweep but instead of dodging mines, I'm dodging whatever he is going to throw my way. How are your studies? How's working been going? Are you enjoying playing with the Children as the Childcare? As he continues talking, asking me about how my life is going, I'm just sitting there like -
"Ashleigh, do you know why you are here today?"
"Uhh...no" 'COS YOU GUN KICK ME OUT OF THE CHURCH OR GIVE ME A TALK!
"Well, today is a very special day for you then!"
"Okay..." because I have to tell my family that I'm excommunicated for not giving a talk?
"Ashleigh...how do you feel about becoming the Chorister for Sacrament Meeting as your calling?"
"But I don't know how to read music! I don't even play any instruments!"
"Sure there are some other people in the Ward who can chorister music? What about -so and so-?"
"Do you want people to be injured and possibly die from my inabilities?"
"Think of the children..."
"Surely this is a joke. You're actually going to give me a talk, aren't you? GOT ME! Ha..."
"Please, I have a family. Don't do this to me"
After the Counsellor had spoken to me about how, "The Lord qualifies who He calls. You'll be fine!", we shook hands and I was led back to the Young Women's room. Having left like I was Katniss Everdeen, most bad ass chick to ever live in Panema, I just came back in as Katniss Everdeen from Mockingjay the third book. Having the thousand-mile-stare, the girls kind of let me to myself in fear that I might explode and probably tear off a leg or something and use it as a battering stick. Now, the next thing I'm about to tell you is true, but it kind of sucks to tell you this. I'm slightly embarrassed, but this is all for the greater good, right?
When I got home, I was still in shock. Not even Sherlock's shock blanket could help me out in this situation right now, as I was on the verge of having a melt down and a panic attack all rolled into one. Me? The Chorister of the ENTIRE sacrament meeting? I knew the two girls who choristed before me, and they were both musically inclined young women. Played pretty much every instrument, could sing and knew how to read music. Why were they calling a Hobbit with the music skill of a mossed over rock?
I then went through the 5 stages of Grief
No...they seriously couldn't have called me. They probably have gotten the wrong Ashleigh. This seriously is a joke. Nope, they'll probably call me back later today and go, "WOOPS! We actually aren't giving you a calling, it was an entirely different Ashleigh! Our bad! You have a great day now"
No! Seriously? Me? Are they daft? I can't even believe this...I'm completely wrong for the job, and they know this...they are probably making fun of me. Agh! I'm so mad I'm going to have an anger nap!
No....no no no. Maybe if I go and talk to the Bishop, explaining my situation, he'll take back the calling? Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. Surely if I ask nicely enough, he will understand...maybe I can bribe him with baked goods.
No...that's it. It's over. It's done. I'm called, will be set apart, and then it's over. I'll be choristering. I can't feel anything anymore. I'm numb to this world and pain.
I can do this...I can do this. He called me to it, so surely that means I can do it if I believe in Him. Yeah...yeah...I can do it.
But what I didn't tell you, was that I was hysterically crying during each and every single one of this stages. Absolute panicked, can't breath, hiccuping, red blotchy eyes, hysterical, crying. My mother had to comfort me, and for a second I'm fairly certain she was considering just putting me down and starting again with another child. I was absolutely distraught at the idea of getting up on stage every week, conducting music in front of everyone (And not even knowing what I was conducting), and being in the public eye. I'm a shy person, and have grown accustomed to giving talks and feeling somewhat at comfort, but this was a whole another level. For about a day or two, I was completely quiet. I just stayed in my room and sulked. And I honestly thought....How could Heavenly Father do this to me?
The Counsellor set up with another Young Woman who can honestly play every instrument, and was recently learning how to play the Organ, to come and teach me how to conduct music. For about a week, I came and she taught me. It was in the first lesson that I saw what true frustration was...through her pained eyes as she tried to teach me what a treble or note was, and I looked blankly on. I tried my best, and even at one point simply explained to her that I can't read music at all, and no amount of explain how there are 3 notes in that but only 2 notes that are played as 3 was going to help me. I was already humiliated at having to learn something in the public eye of a family I didn't really know, and a young woman who I kind of only knew. Every time I came home, I'll lay back on my bed and just let out little sulks of self-pity.
Yeah, I told you this wasn't pretty.
At one point I even considered running away.
- I'll get given something to do or learn.
- I freak out and considering running away or faking my own death
- I cry. I cry a lot.
- At a certain stage, I pull myself and just state quietly, "I'm going to own this"
- I go bloody berserk. I look up Youtube videos, i practice for like 5 hours each day, I don't eat but just study it. I become it.
- i just do it. Even though I'm petrified, probably wishing for myself to be dead or at least somewhere on a beach eating ice cream because it would be easier, I just do it. I feel the fear, and do it anyway. In retrospect, I actually face my fear by feeling it and allowing myself to be scared, but not letting myself be held back.
- I completely own it. After that, it's a breeze, and I keep getting asked to do it because I appear like a natural to people who don't realise that I literally just boot-camped myself into learning that skill.
The first Sunday that I had to conduct the Sacrament Meeting, I was so quietly freaking out while sitting on the stand. I came a good 15-20 minutes early, placed the stand and lower it to my hip level (I'm 4"10...you can imagine the giggles I get), numbered the hymns on the board, and waited until my doom began. When the first hymn was announced and it was my time to come up and begin, I was sweating so terribly I thought I was going to sweat a slip-and-slide and slide my way right out of the Sacrament Hall. I remember praying more times than I have ever prayed in my entire life (Only challenged by the time I had to face my fear of public speaking by speaking at the Stake Conference, in front of 200+ people) and remembering that my face felt like it was going to melt off from the sheer heat it was producing from blushing. I was scared.
As the song started, and I gestured for everyone to begin singing, I couldn't believe I was actually leading people to sing the hymn. Most people were looking down at the hymn so they would know how to sing it, but there were a couple who were beaming smiles at me and not even singing, but just watching me. These were people who first met me when I joined the Church, and some even knew me before. They've seen my growth within the last 4 years of my membership, and it was the sweetest thing that anyone could have done me for at that very moment. I was lifted simply by their encouraging smiles.
After Sacrament Meeting was over, I walked out of the Sacrament Hall all -
I know that as I've trusted in Heavenly Father to uphold me and give me strength to face the challenges that He gives me, I've only grown for the better. I look back at those memories with great fondness and compassion as I realised what He was doing for me. He was helping me to put my faith into practice, and learn that whenever I do rely on Him, He'll always be there. He has helped me learn how to be more out-going and to talk to people I've never met before, to give 15 minute+ talks in front of many people, to conduct music when I can't even read it, to sing in front of Congregations, and so much more. While in that moment, I know it's easy to forget Him and even think of how mean Heavenly Father must be for doing this to you, but as we humble ourselves and become strong through Him, you realise what He has been doing for you all this time.
I know this from personal experience, and it helps me to face everything with a bright outlook on life, and that I know I can rely on my person relationship with my Father in Heaven.
“Your fears leave you. You are not afraid to go up and knock on a door. That is a terrible thing the first time you try it, but your fears leave you. There comes into your hearts a new assurance and a new boldness that you didn't have.”
– Gordon B. Hinckley