In our travels as a military family we moved into a congregation where I met a wonderful woman named Paula. We easily became good friends (and still are). During the time my family and I were there she served as the Relief Society (women’s organization) 1st Counselor, 2nd Counselor, and President. This service all happened back to back during a 6 year period. In this same time frame she worked full-time as a math professor at a local college and her husband worked full-time for a large company that frequently sent him to Asia to work with their subsidiaries. They worked very hard to help their 5 children graduate from high school, serve full-time missions, and attend college. Their first born is on the Autism Spectrum and required hours of therapy per week and extra parental guidance.
While serving her church community, Paula, helped many women become closer to Christ by organizing Sunday lessons, monthly activities that also gave the women time to fellowship and exercise Christian attributes, attend to the temporal needs of the women and their families by assisting with family meals during difficult times, helping the Bishop provide needed welfare, and finally, helping with many of the congregational holiday gatherings. Serving God in the way she did is no small task.
After she was released from the Presidency service Paula was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Over the past 6 years she had very little time for herself and she needed a break!
She needed time to commune with her God and take time to attend to her family, to rebuild her strength and her faith. For her to find the solace she was seeking she was ready to walk away from the Church for a time.
Raise your hand if you have ever felt like my friend Paula?!
I hope your hands are all up because mine sure are. We all need time off or time outs or breaks or personal time – whatever you want to call it, we need it! To me this is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, ESPECIALLY for WOMEN. We don’t know how to pace ourselves. It’s just not in our blood. We have to do everything, be everything, be everywhere, have everything, and know everything. But we need to STOP!
The Savior Himself had similar experiences where He needed to retreat and have time to commune with His Father:
After Jesus was baptized by John He went into the wilderness after the spirit where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He was tempted there by Satan before returning to the sea where He chose His disciples. (Matthew 4)
Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath day at the pool of Bethesda after which the Jews began to question and persecute Him. He left and went up into the mountains with only His disciples. (John 5)
When there were about 5,000 who followed Jesus to hear Him speak and they were hungry, He fed them with 5 loaves and 2 fishes. When they were done Jesus sent the multitude away and told His disciples to go ahead of Him so that He could go into the mountains alone. ( John 6 & Matthew 14)
It is my perspective that Jesus was a God with ability to perform many miracles, yet He was also limited by the flesh of man. I believe He understood these limitations and knew when to attend to His own needs.
It is not our responsibility to decide the needs of others or to take away their agency by shaming them into worshiping, parenting or living the way WE choose.
We are commanded to love one another and serve each other. Through this we love God and serve God.
My friend Paula was blessed with a loving spouse who counseled her not to take a hiatus from her church attendance completely but to continue attending her church meetings without serving in a calling for a time. This helped her focus on her family and personal spirituality. After a time she returned to full service in the church – with a stronger testimony and a better understanding of others who might feel overwhelmed by life.
Religion, motherhood, womanhood, life….these are not one size fits all experiences. Each person has a set of talents, trials and opportunities that are unique to their growth. It is important that we find what works for us and stand by it.
It is not about how quickly we get to Heaven, but who we become along the way. Give yourself and others time and opportunity to become a better mom, sister, friend, wife and woman.
Let me just finish by saying that if taking time for yourself to replenish and connect with your God is good enough for Christ, then it’s good enough for me.