Exercising the virtues
With Father’s Day looming, my mind has turned towards this yearly reminder of my single status. Just this past month during Mother’s Day, another traditional reminder of single status, I remember feeling more okay than I have in past years. I also remember my Mother’s Day monologue. I extolled our need to expand our definition of motherhood to include more than having your own child.
I’ve been thinking about applying that broader perspective to fatherhood. Initially, it doesn’t seem to fit as well. I’m not really sure why. It just seems that, for me to be a father, I need to have my own child. And that’s really not the way it should be.
Maybe I’ve just been single too long. Intellectually, I see the broader perspective towards motherhood should apply also to fatherhood. It’s just connecting with that perspective emotionally that gives me trouble.
A tale of two callings
Very soon after returning from my mission, I was called to teach Primary. These were days before Church policy insisted that two adults be with the children. The thought of handling a bunch of 8-9-year-olds alone intimidated me. Nonetheless, I accepted the calling.
I recall one particularly rambunctious boy. I did my best to corral him, but I often felt like I did nothing more than babysit.
Then one day, the boy’s father thanked me. He told me he didn’t know what I was doing, but every week on the way home after church his boy just had to tell everyone what he was learning in Primary. I was reaching him in a way the father wasn’t.
I didn’t know what to say. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing to elicit that effect. But it felt gratifying knowing I really was doing something meaningful.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I was called again to Primary, this time to assist with the 11-year-old Scouts. At the time I was running my own tutoring business, so assisting during weekly Scout meetings meant sacrificing prime opportunity for earning income. Nonetheless, I accepted the calling.
I soon learned the other leaders had their own agenda that didn’t involve my help. Week after week, I attended meetings only to sit and do nothing. Eventually, I grew tired of sacrificing my opportunity to earn needed income. I declined continued service.
Reflecting on my previous experience, I didn’t think I’d done anything meaningful when I had. Could that also be the case here? Perhaps. But I’ll never know it. With the earlier calling, I have evidence of my positive contribution. With this later one, I have no evidence. No evidence doesn’t mean I didn’t make a difference. No evidence simply means I can’t make a fair judgement on that question.
What do these experiences mean for the question at hand? Can I make an emotional connection with a broader definition of fatherhood?
That seems to require more positive experiences like the one I had with that earlier calling. I struggle with the emotional connection because I don’t have enough experiences to connect me emotionally with others for whom I could be a father figure.
Of course, the remedy to that is simple. I need to get more positive experiences! And God is already helping with that. He led me to my current job teaching college classes. Could I not be a father figure for my students? Could I not contribute positively to their lives in a manner similar to a father? I know it’s not the same, but couldn’t it still count for something?
When holidays remind us of our single status, we LDS singles know what we’re going to encounter at church — an extra helping of the usual message “You’re not like us marrieds!” That’s one of the big reasons why many LDS singles stay home from church on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Been there, done that, so I understand. But I’m going to church this Father’s Day. I won’t get more positive experiences by staying home. I need to be where opportunity is if I want to increase my probability of capturing it. And it’s not inside the four walls where I sleep at night.
There is always hope because there is always Christ. He has provided us all opportunities to contribute positively to others. What will your contribution be?
Of course we should always seek to live gospel ideals. But we don’t need to have children to be fathers and mothers. We just need to exercise those virtues in contributing positively to others.
And whatever your contribution, give it your all. You’ll have greater access to the true happiness that comes more from giving than from having. And that makes the journey home all the more joyful.
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Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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