Walking through the Phoenix airport a few weeks ago just put a smile on my face. I was there picking up my son from a week’s vacation back in Alabama and noticed large groups of people gathered in different areas with large “Welcome Home” signs and balloons.
I knew exactly who they were waiting for and what they were planning. Young men and women return home from serving on 2-year and 18-month missions respectively for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS Church). They pay all their expenses for this time, sacrifice the time to help others in service and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. Many times they learn a new language and then go to work to help others.
These families sacrifice as well when they are left behind because only limited communication through emails and letters are allowed over this time period so those families waiting at the airport were anxious to finally see them.
I have sent six of my own children off on missions with one more preparing to leave in the next few months. We miss them terribly but we are comforted in knowing they are serving the Lord and they are in the right place at this time of their life. It is a life of service for the time they are gone.
A life of service helps us to feel good about ourselves and those we help, but what about when we are resentful for serving others. Is that bad?
It takes a certain amount of sacrifice to take the time to think of others (even in our own families) and do for them that many times they cannot do for themselves. We live busy lives and sometimes what we want to do for ourselves interferes with what we might do for others.
We hear of “pay it forward” and “do a good deed daily for others” but what if we are burned out from doing so much for others? What if we are resentful for the time away from family and what we want to do for ourselves? It’s a balancing act of doing service for others and taking care of our needs too. We must remember the needs of others, yet also take care of ourselves.
A large part of many sermons and talks from the LDS Church encourage us to do service for others including those who serve missions. There are over 70,000 full-time missionaries (proselytizing) and over 33,000 Church-service missionaries (medical, family history, temple work) which serve every day. That is a lot of sacrifices.
Our church leaders are also layman in local congregations, so all of these jobs are not paid positions. Many hours are volunteered to keep our congregations running smoothly, teach Sunday school classes for adults and children and organize the youth activities. We donate much of our time in service for others. In my eyes, these are all wonderful opportunities to give back to the God who has blessed me. But even I can get burned out on serving others.
From the Book of Mormon, the king of the land of Zarahemla, King Benjamin tells it like this:
“I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.” (Mosiah 2:21-22)
God takes care of us if we help take care of others. If we are resentful in our service to others we need to take a break and renew our spirit enough so we will not be resentful for the work we do in service. Everyone has their own level of giving and for those who are able to give more should never judge those who cannot do as much. Our individual perspective hinges on our own experience, personality, and surroundings. I know God knows us and what we can do.
We shouldn’t feel guilty about taking this time to renew our spirits. There is a season and time for all that we do in our lives and taking the time now will help us in the long run. A few years ago I was asked to teach a 4-year-old children’s class at church. Much of my volunteer time had been with small children at church and with raising nine children, I was not ready to take on this task. I was feeling resentful and thought maybe I should just say no.
When the time came to give an answer, I said yes and just thought I would deal with it. For me, this was going to be a labor of love but I was pleasantly surprised at how teaching this class helped me in return. These children were mostly all very well behaved and I could do fun activities with them along with the teaching. Not only that, but I was able to take along a granddaughter the same age to teach as well and I was so happy this class helped her too.
Feeling bad about doing for others is a red flag. It has nothing to do with being mean or selfish. It’s a message to ourselves that we need to do something to fill our spirit so we can continue looking out for each other. Take the time to fill your own needs and the time to serve others will be an awesome experience. I know this from my own life experience of service as I love helping others and I know most others feel the same way.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.