For Such a Time as This

Posted on November 21, 2011

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Each visit of my sweet mother brings stories I’d never heard. Today I sat across from her at a busy buffet window table, and learned why she is still Mormon.

Many years ago my parents suffered through hard times exacerbated by the fragility of youth and a genesis absent faith, for my parents found the gospel as wild, young newlyweds. Less than ten years later, my mother had filed for divorce, though they had not separated, and concerned members of our church searched for ways to help strengthen our newly reactivated little family. The women’s group president tried unsuccessfully to visit, because my mother hid in the closet whenever she came knocking. Wisely, this woman realized that she would not be the one to reach my hurting, angry mother. She asked a sweet, plump, pink-cheeked woman to visit instead.

Once a month Sharon Hackett visited my mother, with her pure eyes and kind heart, and each time she left a little tidbit about how wonderful marriage was. The first month, mom thought with cynical acidity, “Sure it is, Sharon.” The next month, mom thought, “I’m glad it is for you.” The third month, she thought with growing kindness, “I really am glad it is a good thing for you, because you deserve good things.” The next month, mom thought wistfully, “Perhaps it could be for me – someday, under other circumstances.” In time, she thought, “Wait, maybe it can be for me what it is for you, and maybe I can do something about it.” My father’s alcoholism and the attendant disarray that brought to our home was a serious obstacle, but it began to be surmountable with the rays of hope brought by a simple monthly visit.

Sharon Hackett, a quiet, tender woman with a string of kids and no obvious personal power, changed my mother’s life.

She arrived at the crossroads, and she was nothing more than herself. She went on the Lord’s errand, just one short visit a month, and she was enough. While my mother bitterly contemplated her shortchanged lot, laying it right at the feet of God, Sharon neither removed her trial nor compensated for mom’s suffering. She simply held out a ray of hope, offered without any strings attached. And hope, after all, really is the most powerful thing we can share.

During this time, at a holiday dinner, Sharon’s husband, a church leader with a tender heart and a straight-arrow life, the picture of confirmed discipleship, came up to mom with a glass of punch and nearly stopped her heart. He commented that Sharon had saved him, that she was a saint who had put up with a great deal, because he was an alcoholic. What was unimaginable suddenly became conceivable. People can change. People can wait for people to change.

My mother, who has served faithfully in many areas since, not long after told a church leader that she would no longer be helping with the children’s group because she didn’t want her children’s behavior influenced so horribly. (You would have to know her to know how out of character that would be for her now.) The children’s meeting was pandemonium, and it was happening in her car as well since she drove another woman’s children there too. He listened, he committed to attend and help with order, he called my father and asked him to ride along and help with the drive, and he followed through to assure that an uncomfortable situation didn’t cut the fragile tie of a growing testimony from its foundation. My mother had little tolerance for such disorder in those days; it’s unlikely it was an easy or pleasant conversation for the humble, committed church leader.

Had my mother quit coming to church then, however, which she did a couple of times in her life, she would likely have never returned, and neither would we. The church played a crucial role in the growth that made my parents better marriage partners and role models, and when they came to crossroads that threatened their connection, stronger people reached back for them.

With the passing years and the growing resilience of age, the picture is discernible from the other side. Having reached out to fragile young lives caught in desperate circumstance after having been there ourselves, we see with full-circle vision. We scarce can perceive the potentials of troubled souls whose lives are complex weaves of multiple barriers, and perhaps the efforts seem futile when the fruit grows slowly. If we’ve ever been saved, the vision comes easier.

Hope grows slowly. Change comes slowly. To each of our crossroads God sends a simple soul who visits with kind eyes or thinks creatively to solve a problem instead of turning back to their own concerns and pretending that the situation is less serious than it is. “Lifting up the arms that hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees” is the work of humble, quick-acting souls who recognize crossroads and don’t demand instant reward.

I cannot begin to count the lives affected by the efforts of those simple souls who magnified their duty with hearts seeking the guidance of a loving God. My life would certainly be different. My mother’s reach has been considerable as she has grown to a woman far stronger than any could have imagined 30 years ago. Others’ lives would certainly be different.

For such a time as mom’s, a plump, pink-cheeked woman was sent, because she was the only one who would be successful. Who has been your “for such a time as this,” when your knees were feeble and your arms hung down? For whom are you sent, and are you watching for shaky stances and slack, slumped backs?

As one freshly reminded how narrowly I escaped a different life, that I was saved, my vision has suddenly grown more tender and clear.

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