I am a quitter.
Over the course of my life, I have watched myself quit time after time, letting go of things I love, who I’ve aspired to be, and what I believe I want/need. Some of the quitting has been easy –“I’m sorry, I can’t volunteer in the classrooms anymore, I have small children at home” –and some has been hard –“But I want to be a published writer!”
There’s a certain type of grief that accompanies letting go. I imagine the scoffs and scorns Jane Clayson Johnson received when she gave up money and fame (quite literally) to be a wife and mother. She said, “When I left…to get married and to have a family, many of my colleagues told me I was crazy, that I was out of my mind. I had turned down a lucrative, four-year network contract, working on exciting, high-profile, prime-time projects.”(1) Although I never had to give up a successful career, I think I understand. I have felt the smallest portion of that sacrifice myself. I gave up a chance to change my major, one that would have resulted in a music career. I gave up a chance at writing professionally. Side “careers” have been swept away even as they began. Through it all, I’ve heard the laughing and have witnessed the pity. I have heard the comments about how I could have been somebody great. I have even felt people criticize my pain, because it was not the same as theirs.
Each time Heavenly Father has asked me to quit some part of who I am individually, of what I believed gave my life value, I have done my best to obey. I have not always obeyed with a willing heart, however. Sometimes, I go kicking and screaming and dragging my feet –all because I’m being told that my ideas and my ways are not as wise. I don’t like to be told I am not doing things wisely. I don’t like to be told I don’t understand everything, especially when what I love and value has been earned through earnest time, talents, and inspiration.
I remember exactly where I was when the years of quitting –of letting go –really began to feel like sacrifice. In one moment, I let go and told Heavenly Father, “Okay. Thy will be done.” I was 5 months pregnant with our fifth child. I had been fighting the Spirit for months, begging Heavenly Father to make this fifth baby be our last baby. I wanted to be done! Isn’t five enough? Aren’t I already stretched too thin? I was watching General Conference. Elder Oaks began to talk. He said this:
A familiar example of losing ourselves in the service of others—this one not unique to Latter-day Saints—is the sacrifice parents make for their children. Mothers suffer pain and loss of personal priorities and comforts to bear and rear each child. Fathers adjust their lives and priorities to support a family. The gap between those who are and those who are not willing to do this is widening in today’s world. One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”
We rejoice that so many Latter-day Saint couples are among that unselfish group who are willing to surrender their personal priorities and serve the Lord by bearing and rearing the children our Heavenly Father sends to their care. We also rejoice in those who care for disabled family members and aged parents. None of this service asks, what’s in it for me? All of it requires setting aside personal convenience for unselfish service. All of it stands in contrast to the fame, fortune, and other immediate gratification that are the worldly ways of so many in our day.
(“Unselfish Service” April 2009 General Conference)
I immediately let it go. I said, in my heart, “I’ll obey.” I never thought about whether or not our fifth baby was our last again, and in March of 2012, we had our sixth.
Letting go, sacrificing, laying our sins and our desires on the altars before God is probably the hardest thing for us, as mortal beings, to do. Walking that fine line between self-reliance, education, and giving up our desires to the Divine can be precarious at best. And yet, it has been witnessed to me time and time again that this is right, as the Spirit whispers to me, “Cheryl, maybe what you want to become is not what I need you to become.”
One of our bloggers, Jendoop, said this:
In the end I’ve already chosen to sacrifice everything for faith through the covenants I’ve made. The difficulty is in the fact that the Lord allows me to retain possession until he needs those sacrifices. Life seems to be a slow process of God taking sacrificed items out of my hands one by one and each time replacing them with faith. At the end of my life I will return to him with nothing, except my faith and covenants. It is amazing that no matter how often this process is repeated, sacrifice = faith, I reconsider my sacrifice each time. I pause, clinging to it to feel my possession, close my eyes, loosen my grip, and let go. That letting go can be exhilarating, the rush right before the parachute of faith catches me. The letting go teaches me that I am more of God than I am of this world.
Many voices close to me (as well as in society) tell me I have given up too much for my children. To have my children. To raise my children. It’s true that even after we had our fifth child and before we had decided to have our sixth, I had many more instances of being told to let things go in order to be the mother my children needed. I have had to quit many, many things. I quit consistently! But I tell those naysayers (including myself) that they need to understand only this: Heavenly Father knows and loves me. He knows and loves my children. If I can’t trust Him, then who can I trust? Letting all of the outisde stuff go has taught me, more than anything I could have recieved from keeping it, is that God truly has a plan for me. He knows me. He knows.
- How have you let the world go?
- How have you been able to sacrifice self in order to serve God?
- Are there things that are easier and/or harder for you to let go?
- Have you been blessed for “quitting”?
1. I Am a Mother, Jane Clayson Johnson, p.3