Sunday, November 8, 2009

Superpowers 101: Magnifying Your Calling

My kids have discovered magnifying glasses. They wander through the house and yard looking at everything they pass through this amazing device. I have always liked them myself. You can take a very dull, ordinary object and look at it through a magnifying glass and suddenly it becomes fascinating. Even more amazing are microscopes that seem to make things appear out of nowhere. Of course, that only happens if you make the effort to see it that way.

We had a talk in church today about magnifying our callings. In the LDS church a calling is an assignment to serve in a certain position for an unspecified amount of time. We believe that callings come from God. When we talk about magnifying a calling it usually means doing more than the basics. Let me give you an example.

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine was called to play the piano in Sacrament Meeting (the main church service). She was only 14 and we had a large congregation. She was nervous and a little overwhelmed.

I remember her being very critical of herself, pointing out that she had messed up on the third verse or had not gotten the tempo right in a certain place. Most people didn't notice. She played the hymns. We sang them. That was good enough.

Over the next few years, she studied and practiced and improved her piano skills. Her ability to play the notes and make fewer mistakes improved. Was she magnifying her calling? No, she was just becoming a better pianist.

I don't mean to say that she was not talented or that her musical ability was lacking in some way. I am only pointing out that the ability to do something well does not mean you are "magnifying" that task. You might be thinking, "It is just playing the piano. What else can you do?" I will tell you.

My friend played the piano every Sunday for about 4 years. During that time, she often spoke of how she prepared for Sunday. She said she would read the lyrics and ponder the message of the hymn. She would then pray that she would be able to convey that message through her playing. She said she tried to bear her testimony of that particular subject through her playing.

I can remember being at her house for early-morning seminary (a scripture study class for high school students). Before we left for school she would quickly play though a hymn or even a portion of it, because she wanted to make sure it was right for Sunday. She said she was "playing it for the Lord". Honestly, I thought she was being a showoff. We all knew she was a wonderful pianist and she always lived up to her reputation.

Sundays had became a welcome respite for me during this time. Church was a place for me to see friends who shared my values, learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and feel the Spirit. I enjoyed music and sang in my high school chorus for 4 years. Singing the hymns was a wonderful addition to Sunday. I remember feeling the Spirit confirm those simple truths as we sang.

After high school I attended BYU. To say there are a lot of musical people at BYU is like saying there are a lot of Mormons there.  I was exposed to many extremely talented pianists. There was no shortage of young men and women who could sit down at a piano and play whatever was put in front of them. To put it simply, they were technically proficient. Many were skilled at adding emotion and feeling, making the music seem alive. Yet something was different.

I was slightly up off by this at first. Over time I came to realize what was different. It was the preparation. Not the temporal preparation but the spiritual preparation. I realized that I had taken for grated the time and sincerity my friend had put into her calling. She had not simply played a hymn well. She had been playing it with a purpose. She had prepared, not for herself, but to make the music the best she could for those she served, including her Father in Heaven.

Since coming to that realization, I have viewed callings differently. Sometimes they may seem small and of no consequence. That is only because we have not magnified them to see what they could be. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone approached their callings in life the way my friend did. Not to do it the "very best ever". To do it with the attitude that we are serving others and serving the Lord. Shouldn't we be giving Him the best we have to offer? Don't the people we serve deserve to have us do more than "good enough"?

I know you might be thinking that you are not a member of my faith and you don't have a calling. What about your calling as a parent or spouse or child? Are we doing the basics, being technically proficient, or are we seeking spiritual guidance to magnify our callings for the betterment of all?

I don't claim to be consistent at magnifying my callings...any of them. But I know that when I have the attitude of serving God and my fellow beings, I do a better job. I think it is because I don't always know what to do or how to do it. But my Heavenly Father does. If I seek his guidance, he will direct me to doing those things that will mean the most to those around me. It isn't about fitting into a mold or doing something a certain way. It is about doing what is needed, when it is needed, how it is needed. Even a Superwoman doesn't know that.

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