It was early fall in 2001. Life was very demanding. I was due with my fourth little guy in a couple of months, and I was a newly-called, very inexperienced Primary president. My husband was beginning full-time school in a few days, in addition to his regular job. Our marriage was strained. My husband kept reassuring me that he would love the baby when he was born but he was not excited about the pregnancy. He was in a new job, with stress up to his eyeballs. Instead of having me there to take up the slack, I was needing him to do the same. It was a heavy load for both of us.
My mom and I were visiting, folding laundry when the doorbell rang. It was a member of the Bishopric. My mom went to a different part of the house, while Lewis and I spoke to him. He was there to issue a new calling to my husband: counselor in the YM presidency. My heart sank. My husband had held that calling for years, and this had been my first break from being a scout widow. He always put incredible time and energy into that calling. He left every month on a camp out, every Wednesday for scouts. We were asked if we could accept this calling. Our smiles were forced, our eyes tight when we nodded. You never turn down a calling, right? Never.
I explained to this kind brother that we had just begun childbirth classes, every Wed. night for the next month or so. It was our 4th child, but I was desperate to have my husband invested in the process. It meant everything to me. He said that was fine, he could miss a month. We explained that he was beginning night classes, that he would be gone almost every other evening. He smiled and nodded again. Then he left.
I was numb. My mom was breathless with horror for me. She couldn't believe that this would be asked of us. She told me of a similar experience she'd had when she needed to turn down a calling. With great compassion, she advised me to do the same. She knew our situation, the bishop didn't. I didn't know what to do. I'd never, ever turned down a calling, I'd never even wanted to! I was always happy to do whatever was asked of me.
I cried a lot the next few days. When I would pray, I felt comfort, but no definite direction. My husband would hold me, and tell me it would be hard, but he thought we would be blessed for it. It got worse for me. I just knew that when the time came for him to be set apart, the Bishop would place his hands on my husband's head, then take them off again, telling us there had been a mistake. On the other hand, I had such terrible feelings about it that I knew I couldn't even be in the room for it. I cried, and I cried.
Finally, my husband agreed and let me call the Bishop, and tell him we'd changed our minds. It was hard for him, and I knew I'd let him down. I made the call, and the Bishop was very disappointed. He made it very clear that he wished we had not made this decision.
I was devastated, but I still couldn't see how we could have done it. I was plagued by guilt, sure in the knowledge that I had undercut my husband's growth. Time passed, the baby was born. I got my feet under me as a Primary president. My husband's schedule was brutal. He was driven too hard with all his responsibilities. It really depleted him as a person. I repented though, oh how I repented. I was so sorry for failing what I had come to understand was a critical test.
One day, about a year later, I was feeling the weight of my mistake. I was still heartsick and wanted comfort. I opened the scriptures, randomly flipping. Then words leaped out of the page at me.
It was Alma chapter 49
3. Behold, I said that the city of Ammonihah had been rebuilt...because the Lamanites had destroyed it once because of the iniquity of the people, they supposed that it would again become an easy prey for them.
4. But behold how great was their disappointment; for behold, the Nephites had dug up a ridge of earth round about them, which was so high that the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them that they might take effect, neither could they come upon them save it was by their place of entrance.
I understood that I was the city of Ammonihah. I had been knocked to the ground because of my weakness and my lack of faith. But I had been rebuilt, and through my experience and increased faith, I would never again repeat that mistake. My walls were so high that I was secure. The Lord knew it, and he wanted me to know that he did. I felt such relief. A short time later, my husband was extended the same calling. I was happy, overjoyed to accept.
Most of the time, our church responsibilities are pretty convenient to our schedules. They don't ask anything of us that really, truly hurts. But sometimes they do. It happened with our ancestors, with Abraham too. I think it will happen at least once to each of us. I wasn't ready the first time. It hurt us. There were consequences of my failure in the coming years that I could never have foreseen on the day I called the Bishop. I understand now, that his disappointment was because of the sorrow he knew would come to us because to our decision.
The great thing is, is that we've paid the price. Our walls are strong now, maybe even stronger than if we had not made that mistake. I will never, never turn down another calling. I will never, ever undercut my husband again. I send him out the door with a smile, whatever the time. We need our husbands. We need their help, but when it comes to Priesthood responsibilities, we need them strong. And we need to be strong for them.