I think about the fact that he was doing this in the margins and tiny spaces of time remaining after being gone from about 6:30 am till almost 7 pm every day just working and commuting.
It doesn't seem possible, does it?
But yet, it was not only possible, it happened. He did it and did it well; and in ways that can only be described as being the evidence of living a life of faith and covenant, he was still successful in his work, an involved and loving dad, and a great husband to me.
Yes, he was gone a lot. It is a huge responsibility. Fortunately, he is blessed with a thick skin, an even-tempered personality and a lot of personal security about his place in the world. He loved the people he served frankly and with all his best effort. For him, it was completely a privilege to have the chance to do something like this to serve his Heavenly Father.
Since I have a thin skin, a moody personality and no personal security about my place in the world, as I look back, there were plenty of days when I was less than the perfectly supportive wife that I could have been. Overall, I did fine and things were generally good, but yes, I had some hard days.
But Heavenly Father was aware, so there was always peace in the end.
In spite of my weaknesses, the balance sheet shows an increase. An increase in love, an increase in my ability to see the best parts of my husband, an increase in family closeness and unity, an increase in our temporal blessings, and many other increases. There are ideas in religion that are hard to understand because logically they don't seem to make any sense, but to someone who lives them, they come to make perfect sense. One of those is the truth that by giving and sacrificing and not being selfish, you actually gain more real rewards than you would have otherwise. In the scriptures (Luke 9:24) it goes like this:
For whosoever will save his life, must be willing to lose it for my sake; and whosoever will be willing to lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
To save my own life means to act without faith, to be unwilling to see life in a broader way, unwilling to believe that there is more out there than I can actually see with my human eyes. It's to be limited to the belief that if Eric is spending 10-20 or more hours additional per week doing things for church, that there must be less time for me.
To be willing to lose your life means to live the life that God wants you to live, with the understanding that He loves you and wants what is best, just like a parent. It means to remember that my Heavenly Father's math is not the same as mine and that the time he spent serving others also somehow strengthened our marriage and brought him closer to our kids. It really, actually did.
I like that that scripture includes the word "willing." That is the main thing God expects of us-to just be willing and try. Both Eric and I were as normal and human and imperfect as we could be. So, we just did our best. And that's the greatest tribute I can give Eric right now, is that he really, really did his best. He cares so deeply for the hundreds of people that he had living inside his head for all this time. He thought about them all the time and prayed about how to help them. He knew them all by name and could tell you something about every one of them who let him get to know them.
So, hopefully you can see, that this was a big thing for him and for our family. Culturally, in our church, people express one of two things to a Bishop and his family: Congratulations for reaching such a "prestigious" position in the church or condolences for having to take on such a terrible task. Neither sentiment fits in the slightest. There is no prestige in it, other than knowing that your Heavenly Father trusts you with this job. And even though it is hard, it is no terrible task. It's just the simplest, sweetest, purest kind of service-the kind that asks you to dig deep but gives richly in return. It has been a glorious time for our family, full of happy and sad experiences, spiritual maturing, opportunities to grow our faith, and chances to get better at loving other people.
He will miss this assignment a lot. Which is okay. That is another proof that he put all he had into it. I'm so proud of him for everything he did.
|Here he is with the young women of the ward. He loves them|
a lot, even though this is not a smiley photo. They saw his humor
and good heart.