A friend of mine was going out of town a few weeks ago and teaches the women's class (Relief Society) on Sundays, so she asked me to fill in for her while she was gone.
I actually really like to teach, so I was kind of excited to help her out.
Then I saw the title of the lesson I was supposed to teach:
Work and Personal Responsibility.
Sounds like the least spiritual lesson on the planet.....I was a little less excited to teach.
Who's going to want to hear a lesson on work!?
So I began thinking over and preparing for the lesson--reading materials, gathering quotes, saying lots of prayers that my friend would decide to come home early and give her lesson so I wouldn't have to, stuff like that.
I don't have a phobia for work. I'm an Oberg, remember? We are taught at an early age the importance of working our little tushes off to avoid the wrath of our Oberg parents. Maybe some of us Oberg offspring hate work for some of those scarring childhood memories :) but I have learned to like working hard and life just seems a little out of place if ever I'm not working hard. So I'm not intimidated by the topic of "work", I just have never really considered physical labor (like mucking out a barn or cleaning toilets) to have a whole lot of spiritual significance that I could base a 45 minute lesson off of.
And yet, one of the quotes in the lesson manual goes as follows: "Labour, wide as the earth, has its summit in heaven." ~Thomas Carlyle
Sure, I believe that hard work builds confidence, self-reliance, and helps us gain a sense of self-worth, but how does it relate to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
After a few days of being stumped and taking a break from preparing the lesson,
my attention was caught by a poem that sits on my bedroom dresser next to a jar of buttons. It was written by my Grannie Oberg about her mother:
Grandma Duncan was a saver,
of this there is no doubt.
Everything was plumb wore through
before she's throw it out.
I recall a woven basket,
Setting beside her rocking chair,
And every sock that had a hole
Was sure to wind up there.
Many evenings she would spend,
After working hard all day
Patching socks, or pants, or shirts,
There was never time to play.
She always used to wear a dress,
And when the front wore through,
The back became an apron--
or a shirt for me--good as new!!
In winter the boys wore wool,
the outside work was cold.
Shirts and pants turned into mittens
After they were old.
Bed comforters were sewn from scraps,
Then filled with carded wool,
Backed by flannel, tied with yarn,
Our nights were warm when it was cool.
No matter how ragged or worn the piece,
If there was a button--any size,
Color, shape, two holes or four,
Mom saved it like some precious prize!
She didn't leave a lot in worldly goods
Just sacks and boxes of buttons remain
From worn out shirts, and coats, and dresses,
Some are pretty, most, very plain.
Grandma's buttons in a jar,
A simple legacy left for us.
I hope you'll cherish this symbol
Of a life well-lived with little pomp or fuss.
I've read this poem so many times.
It always touches me and makes me cry, I come from a line of such wonderful women.
But reading the poem this time, I realized that my Grannie doesn't love, admire, and appreciate her mother because she worked so hard, but because of how her hard work emulated the charity, or pure love of Christ, that her mother had for her family. My great-grandma approached her work from the angle of love, and it has obviously left an imprint on my Grannie's heart.
I can't help but wonder how much my great-grandmother's example of love might have prepared my Grannie to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ years later when it was introduced to her.
My jar of buttons isn't meant to remind me that I need to work hard my whole life,
but that I should work with an attitude of love.
How often do I approach mothering a cranky child, or doing the grocery shopping, or scrubbing stains out of clothes with an annoyed attitude? How often do I feel inconvenienced by my menial motherly/wifely responsibilities that seem to get in the way of my busy schedule and other things that I would rather be doing? How much can my family feel the negative attitude I sometimes have when I do my work? How can I possibly be thinking that I am helping my family (and especially my child who learns from my example) better know and love their Savior when I am not following his example of serving with an attitude of love?
I feel a little sheepish, to be honest, because a little light bulb went off in my head that suddenly made me realize that Thomas Carlyle is actually one smart guy. All labor really does have its summit in heaven. The work we do, if we do it with the right purpose and attitude, will always be spiritual.
No, I will probably never feel the "warm fuzzies" or receive spiritual enlightenment while scrubbing the toilet, but if I am able to approach my "ho-hum work" as something I do because I love my family and want to serve them, then maybe it will help them to feel not only the love I have for them, but the love that their Savior has for them as well.
I kind of doubt that the Savior grimaced and complained when he washed the (assuming) nasty feet of his apostles. I imagine that from this act of service, his apostles could feel the love He had for them and felt more inspired to go share that love with others.
And that, I believe, is the spiritual purpose behind all the physical work we are called to do on this earth.