Our family visited another ward today. I spent sacrament meeting trying to swallow my frustration at my five year old's inability to sit still and the need to constantly remind my two year old that not everyone was interested in a play-by-play of what was going on around him. I didn't get to go to Relief Society because my little guy fell apart fifteen minutes after I left him in nursery. It wasn't exactly the most spiritual experience of my life, and I was acutely aware of how much my boys have forgotten how to behave in church. It's been six months, you see, since we've been able to go.
Although I know we've had mornings in the past where going to church was not high on our list of fun things to do, this isn't the reason for our six month hiatus. We live on an island where we are quite literally the only members. Church is in our living room, and the closest thing to sacrament meeting our boys see these days is a talk from General Conference or their daddy reading a selection from the RS and Priesthood lesson manual. We are working hard to teach them about the Gospel, but the formal part of it is a tad lost in the shuffle.
You know what, though? I wasn't really there for what I thought I'd learn. I was there to remind our kids of what church is like so they will remember when we are able to belong to a ward again. I was there to take the sacrament and feel a part of a community from which we are temporarily separated. Those are the things I miss most, not the talks and lessons.
I've been asked by friends how we manage to stay strong while not being able to attend a formal meeting every week. I worried a lot about that before our move, but have found since coming here that my relationship with God is not at all dependent on church. Don't get me wrong; I absolutely believe in the value of regular Sunday meetings, especially since being apart from them, but the things I miss have absolutely nothing to do with my faith and testimony. The things I rely on today to keep me moving forward are the same things I have always needed: prayer, scripture study, and moments of quiet contemplation. I also consider the Ensign and the church website lifelines as we both teach our children and strive to learn more of what is expected of us.
Church attendance is fantastic for many reasons, but when you can't go, you are never, never forgotten. I worried most about that in the weeks after our move. No one seemed to know who we sent our tithing to or where our records should be. They are, in fact, still sitting with our old ward because every conversation I've had with anyone who might be able to get them moving in the right direction has dead-ended. I felt abandoned and forgotten, but one night I reached for the Book of Mormon and read this verse in 1 Nephi 19:16: "Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel..." I felt a warmth fill my heart, and my fears fell away. We are one of those on the isles of the sea, and we have been remembered by our Lord and Savior. Everything else is unimportant.
I'm going to be very glad when we are able to rejoin a ward and gain all that you gain from that, and I suspect we'll crash a few more wards with our unruly sons before that happens, but I'm so grateful for this experience. I have felt such a great sense of peace every time I kneel to pray with concerns and fears about being so far away from everything. He is listening no matter where you are. Never, ever doubt that.
*Picture taken by Ana.