Lessons Learned as the Bishop's Wife
I shared my feelings about being a bishop's wife three years ago in this post. Since it's now been five-and-a-half years, I wanted to write a follow-up.
Last year at this time, I sat at a dinner with six other bishops and their wives. We were supposed to go around the table, explaining how much we'd progressed in our callings. I was at a low point that day and feeling very frustrated about broken-down cars, teenagers, and some other things. Basically, I felt like I was juggling a jigsaw puzzle, hoping that when the pieces landed, they'd magically form a beautiful picture. It wasn't happening. When my turn came, I admitted that I really hadn't made much progress as a bishop's wife. Among other things, I'd yelled at my kids the night before, and I think I'd said more bad words in the previous week than I had in all the other years of my life.
It's been a year since that fateful day, and I can say that I am a better person for having had the opportunity to serve. And I was a better person than I realized that day; I just didn't know it. Being the wife of a bishop has been harder and easier than I ever imagined. And, like most trying times, it has brought out the best and the worst in me.
Keeping my Spiritual Batteries Charged
During the past five years, I've often felt like I was at the end of my rope. I found that I had to seek the spirit on a daily basis. My husband's life centered around spiritual experiences. Mine didn't. I had to make time to charge my spiritual batteries. Little things like prayer and scripture study made a big difference in the strength of my faith. When I neglected the little things, my problems seemed bigger.
The Trap of Self-Pity
Some people think that everything goes perfectly for the bishop's family. That simply isn't the case. We had our ups and downs like everyone else, and I sometimes fell into the trap of self-pity. To give you an example, one night last summer, instead of going on our usual Friday-night date, we helped someone move. In the process, a table fell on my foot. The next day, I could barely walk. Why me? I thought. I skipped my date night to help someone. Shouldn't I be rewarded with blessings instead of being punished with an injury?
Like most people, I have had to learn that we aren't always blessed immediately for our actions. Sometimes the Lord lets us wait for our blessings. It's natural during trials like this to feel sorry for ourselves. I think that's okay. It helps us learn to take care of ourselves. But self-pity can go too far. You can get to the point where you stop feeling sorry for other people, or, worse, you can get to the point where it becomes a contest to show everyone else that you suffer more than they do.
The Ninety Percent
Elder Eyring once gave the advice that when you meet someone, you should assume that they are facing a serious problem and ninety percent of the time you will be correct. How true that is. When you look around your neighborhood, you may see the length of the grass in your neighbors' yards and the brand of cars in their driveways. What you won't see are the illnesses, problem relationships, and heartaches. Everyone has a few of these things hidden within their homes. Trials are a part of life. Everyone has them.
When I was younger, I sometimes thought having a trial meant I'd done something wrong. Now I know that trials aren't punishments; they are simply a part of life. Yes, they teach us, but we shouldn't feel that every time we have a trial it means that we are doing something wrong.
During the last five years, I've heard a lot of bad news. Good things happened too, but as is human nature, my mind focused more on the bad than the good. I had to make a conscious effort to be positive. One of the ways I did this was by keeping a gratitude journal. Each night, before I went to bed, I wrote down five things that I could feel grateful about. This helped me have a more cheerful and realistic outlook.
Charity is about you
During our service, I encountered a few people who treated me rudely. Once, after someone hurt my feelings, I prayed and turned to the scriptures. I opened to Ether 13:36-37, where Moroni prays that the Lamanites will become more charitable:
"I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity."
"And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful."
In other words, the Lord doesn't judge us by our popularity. He only cares about the love we have for others.
I realized that my job was to love others--whether or not they loved me back. I had to learn to focus on doing the right thing, instead of on getting the right result.
The Myth of the Perfect Time
Speaking of doing the right things, when you're a bishop's wife, there is never a perfect time for anything. Many things just don't get done, and other things get done in a haphazard fashion. There certainly weren't any Pinterest-worthy birthday parties happening at our house, and I don't think I took homemade cookies to my neighbors once during the last five years. In the end, I don't think it mattered. We did what we could, and that was enough.
The kids and I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve others. My kids have helped countless families move, collected fast offerings for the needy, shoveled snow, cleaned the church, and visited the lonely. Our service has opened our eyes to the many ways we can serve those around us, and it has taught us that our Heavenly Father loves each individual more than most people ever realize.