A few years ago, a friend of mine took a small step onto her soapbox. She explained to me how a certain family in our ward needed fellow-shipping. She felt they were being left out and would come to church more often if someone reached out to them. At one point she said "I think about them all the time. I am so worried about them. Why won't anyone reach out to them?!" I could see that her frustration was genuine. She really cared for this family and was deeply moved by the needs she saw.
But I found myself feeling completely unmoved. As she went on about this, I reflected on my own feelings. I had never so much as given them a second thought. I had never once felt inclined to call them up or make a special effort to get to know them better. "Huh." I thought as she continued on her mild rant "I wonder why?"
As my friend paused for breath, I said "Maybe you should do it." She started to back-pedal a little. Excuses poured out. I imagine she had been rehearsing these excuses to herself for a while. She tried to push this "responsibility" back to me. (I guess she was telling me all this so I would do it.) I had not one ounce of guilt when I said "No, I think it's your job." We talked a little and the conversation changed. But I was left feeling much, much wiser.
This was one of those so-called "lightbulb moments" for me. I realized, for the first time, that we each have "assignments" (for lack of a better word) from our Heavenly Father. What really struck me about this conversation is that I knew EXACTLY how my friend was feeling. I have felt the same frustration. I have even said the same things she was saying like "Why won't someone do this?" As she was saying this I was thinking "Duh! Because it's for you to do!" I realized how many times I had been in her shoes, full of passion and equally full of excuses.
The thing is, I believe that, deep down, we know. We each know it is an assignment, a mission, just for us. When those thoughts or feeling come, pushing us out of our comfort zones to do something out of the ordinary, we resist. We want reasons. We want assurances. We also want "Ensign moments"*. We want every step on that limb to be greeted with applause and cheers and warm-fuzzy moments.
"I gave my friend a Book of Mormon and she got baptized the next day!"
"I took a meal to a neighbor and she started sobbing because she had no food."
"I went visiting teaching once to the sister who hadn't been to church in 20 years and she came back to church and her non-member husband got baptized and they went to the temple and their sons served missions all because of my one visit."
It doesn't happen like that. When we do it for us, it doesn't work. The Lord wants us to do it for Him, not becasue He can't but because it will be SO AWESOME for us. We will learn and grow and gain so many blessings if we obey those promptings.
Sometimes, most times, there are no "Ensign Moments". If there is success, it is not through our efforts but through the Spirit of the Lord. It is a confluence of all those involved being willing and humble. In my experience, those moments come when we are not expecting them. For me, the most precious experiences are spontaneous.
I think one reason my friend was so reluctant to act on her feeling is because it would require sacrifice. As I mentioned, those kinds of promptings push us from our comfortable routines. I am reminded of the analogy of the sculptor, working the clay, scraping, twisting, taking some off and adding more. I think when I have those impressions to do something different, I resist because I know it will change me. Change can be hard, even painful sometimes. Why would I choose to do it? (Or let it be done to me, as the case may be).
Well, let me just say this: There have been times when I didn't "go and do" only to find out later the reason I had been prompted. I felt like a spoiled, selfish brat. Sometimes it was too late to fix it. I had missed the chance. There have also been times when I stumbled along, trying to do the Lord's will, awkward and insecure as I was. And...
Just kidding. The results were sometimes subtle, sometimes anti-climactic, sometimes undetectable. Except in myself. I had peace. I had the assurance that I had done my part.
So, the next time you get the idea to call someone, write them a letter, bake them a cake, whatever. Just do it. See what happens. Maybe they will say "Thanks, but I don't like cake." Just tell them Heavenly Father wanted you to bring them one. You never know.
* The Ensign is a magazine published by the chruch that usually has a few personal stories of spiritual experiences