When I was about 20 years old and I thought I had everything figured out, I walked into my bishop’s office and reluctantly told him I’d serve a mission. I laid out this sob story about all the things I’d have to leave and give up. The bishop sort of sat there and stared at me for a few seconds as if to consider what I had just told him.
After the silence had begun to get awkward, he finally spoke. “Greg…” he said, “you’re looking at this all wrong. It seems as if you’re looking at it as if you’re doing someone some big favor. You need to realize that it’s a privilege to be able to serve the Lord.”
When he said these words, he had tears in his eyes. I didn’t feel offended or take it as if he didn’t appreciate my willingness to serve. But he wanted to teach me an important lesson about perspective. He wanted me to learn that my approach to serving the Lord would dictate the enjoyment and fulfillment I’d derive from the service. I could either look at it begrudgingly and selfishly or I could count it as a blessing and opportunity.
Oddly, in life, the more worried about ourselves we are… the less joy we usually derive from any situation we’re in. How is it that happiness levels can decrease so rapidly among such prosperous people?
My perspective on my membership in the church and the subsequent opportunities to serve the Lord would mean everything in the years to come. I just didn’t know it yet.
I never forgot the bishop’s counsel to me that day regarding perspective and it has made all the difference.
I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only relate my own experience in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As with anything in this life, there have been ups and downs, times when I’ve felt unshakeable and then times when I’ve felt a little unstable. But having persisted in this Church for now almost 40 years, I’ve come to be sure that this is a good church, with good people, with good intentions, and with a good outlook for the future.
Ultimately, I would have missed all of that if my perspective wasn’t right.
The things I’ve learned and the things I’ve experienced as a member of this church have made me a better person. These are things I know without a doubt because I have experienced them. They are tangible to me. Those experiences are engraved upon my soul and are with me from day to day and how can I deny them? I rely on those experiences to help bring my outlook on life back into perspective. But without the correct perspective, I could have painted an entirely different picture of my experience serving in the church.
It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve come to truly understand what my bishop told me those many years back. The privilege of serving a mission was all mine. The privilege of being in this church was all mine. The privilege of being given opportunities to get out of my comfort zone and serve others has been all mine. I learned to reprioritize my life, to serve others, to stop thinking so much of myself. In my experience, that has been the only path to success and happiness. Not money, not cars, not another wave, not another chairlift or another gourmet cheeseburger. Those things are insatiable, meaning, they will always call for more. The only thing that has brought deep satisfaction to my soul is knowing that I have been willing to place any of those aforementioned temporal pursuits on the alter.
When my perspective on serving in the church changed from “I’m sacrificing so much of my time” to “I’m lucky and grateful for the opportunity to serve,” everything changed for me. My effectiveness in serving improved and the happiness I felt as a result of doing so became long lasting and memorable.