When I moved to Wichita six years ago, I chose a house in the last neighborhood on the western border of the city. We are almost in the suburbs, but not quite. As such, this neighborhood flip flops between suburb wards and city wards when the stake makes boundary changes. Five weeks ago, my family and I were moved from a ward in the suburbs of Wichita to a ward that is primarily downtown. When that boundary change was put into effect, I was sustained as Relief Society President.
In that time, I have learned many things. First, I learned the names of all 95 sisters unfamiliar to me from the roll of 120. I have probably met about 60 of them in person by now. Then I learned about keys, cabinets, binders, board members, leadership in the other auxiliaries, upcoming activities and the MLS computer system.
But what I have learned most vividly is that I am powerless.
This is a hard lesson to learn for a task-oriented, overachieving, Type A, oldest child. But it’s true. I have very little power. And the bishop of the ward tried to point this out to me from the start.
When he extended the calling, he offered this advice:
“Karen, recognize that there will be a lot of things happen that might be heartbreaking. But don’t let others’ choices demoralize you. You can’t take blame for others’ mistakes. Similarly, there will be a lot of growth in the lives of others. But don’t take credit for it. Don’t let yourself be affected by criticism or praise. Just do what you can—without spreading yourself to thin—and be accountable for yourself. “
It turns out that Moses (Moses 1:10) and Ammon (Alma 26:12) both told me this and so did Job when he marveled at God’s creative powers in Job, Chapter 40. But I didn’t process the information until now.
Now, admitting that I am nothing does not mean that I should despair and detach. It’s really more about defining myself in relationship to the divine.
Before the throne of God, I am powerless. But I am also a child of God, and I am most powerful when I accept the small stewardships God has assigned to me. I am confident that if I do what is in my power, God will make up the difference. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). The atonement will cover my weaknesses that I have yet to overcome, and I will receive divine assistance to fulfill my stewardships: I will better hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to guide my thoughts, words and actions. I will better find the help of others prompted to serve, teach and comfort . Finally, I will better accept my limits and better recognize others’ strengths.
When I keep things to scale, I feel a calm joy, which sounds like an oxymoron. But let me conclude with a passage of scripture that illustrates this calm joy.
In Alma 26, Ammon describes his joy in understanding his nothingness in relationship to God’s infinite power:
35 Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.
So while the idea of powerless at first completely horrifies me, ultimately, it’s quite liberating. And with that, I feel a comforting peace. I just hope that I can retain a remembrance of this principle as I serve in this calling–and as I serve as a mother of teenagers who are teaching me about powerlessness as well. But that’s another topic.