Sunday, May 11, 2014

Building Up the Kingdom of God

Today has been a rather discouraging day.

It's Mother's Day, which is always bittersweet. I love being a mom and I adore my kids, but that doesn't erase the scars of infertility and the years of wondering whether I'd ever be a mother. While I celebrate being a mom my heart thinks of the mothers who made painful, difficult choices so that I could know the joy of my children. Since my divorce, most Mother's Days have fallen on a weekend when I don't have my kids with me, so the day is spent in ironic loneliness. Mother's Day reminds me of how far away from family I am, that greeting cards and messages on facebook are how we stay in touch, and I'm jealous of friends who celebrate the holiday by heading down the street to be with family.

I was supposed to teach a lesson in church today, about building up the kingdom of God. Recent health challenges got in the way and after the third round of throwing up over a trash can yesterday I gave in and called for someone to sub for me. I threw away my prepared quotes and illustrations, and ignored my sadness that the months of preparing and pondering were wasted. As I worked on that lesson, the thought kept tugging on my mind: what exactly is the kingdom of God and how do we build it? By yesterday, when I trashed my lesson plans, I still didn't have a definitive answer, though I had some thoughts.

So, today, I wandered aimless and alone through the house, tempted to go back to bed and skip the day entirely.

I'm too much of a stoic for that, though, so I made a list of simple things that I could do without unduly exerting myself and went to work.

One sort of downside of growing up as a deeply ingrained Mormon is that conflating culture and doctrine is the natural way of life. "Building up the kingdom of God" means doing missionary work, going to the temple, teaching lessons at church, doing your visiting teaching. For the past three months I've been studying a lesson that has stories of  tremendous sacrifice to contribute to the church--an elderly man who broke his leg on the way to a church meeting and waited until the meeting was over to see a doctor, families traveling for several days in wagons to attend church meetings, people who left their families for years to serve missions overseas. If you are home feeling nauseated and not getting much of anything done, it's easy to feel pretty useless in comparison.

In the midst of my uselessness, when I wasn't tending anyone's kids in nursery, or teaching Sunday School, or playing the organ, or carrying out any of the other tasks that we Mormons so love to busy ourselves with, I found myself again asking what exactly is the kingdom of God and how do we build it? Because I've got to tell you, if it's going to church and doing missionary work and being busy with church-y stuff, I am so screwed. In this current season of my life I barely keep my head above the water just sorta managing my own health and taking care of four cute kids and doing all the endless tasks involved in adding two more cute kids. That's it; that's all I can do right now.

Today I made bread dough and set it to rise so that I could feed the hungry.

I mixed up iced herb tea that my kids have been requesting and put it in the fridge to chill so that I could give drink to the thirsty.

I did three loads of laundry and sat in the recliner with my sewing kit for an hour, mending tears and repairing lost buttons so I could clothe the naked.

I heated a bowl of chicken noodle soup and nourished the sick, who, this time around, happen to be me.

I started the paperwork for my visa application, in preparation of the coming trip to set two beautiful, precious babies free of the orphanage, free of the stigma of growing up an orphan, free of growing up unloved and unwanted, and I celebrated that soon, so very soon, the captive will be liberated, and strangers will be welcomed home and become family.

And it was enough. My mundane to-do list answered my question.

"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me, I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Insasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I didn't have to go out looking for the kingdom of God, or run myself ragged trying to build it. It was right here all along, in the bread pans and soup bowls and late-night medicine and clean sheets.

Happy Mother's Day.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Although, being the problem solver that I am, it seems a weekend swap could happen so a mother could spend mother's day with her children - before they all grow up and move to random places around the country and world, and all you can do is Skype with them one at a time on Mother's Day. But what do I know.
Kathy V.

Erin said...

I stumbled on your blog. You don't know me. I empathize with you. I am also an infertile woman that through the miracle to adoption have a son. Mother's Day is and always will be bittersweet. I cannot forget the massive hole in my heart from so desperately wanting a child and not having one.