Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover - or a Visiting Teaching Companion

Several choice seats were still available in the front row of Relief Society on a happy Sunday morning. But as I sat down, a girl I didn't know rushed up and said "Oh no, you can't sit here--I'm saving these for my friends."

Ouch. Couldn't I be a friend? Weren't we all supposed to be friends in Relief Society?

With my feelings hurt and my ire rankled, I slunk back a few rows and plunked myself down in a huff. I growled at that girl for the whole rest of class. My cup of human kindness had shattered into a thousand pieces in the kitchen sink. During that one class, over that one incident, I built up a very unhealthy dislike (read: hate) for that girl--Carol.

As luck would have it, within the week we got new visiting teaching assignments.

Guess what happened next. Can you guess? Come on, you can do it. 

Sure enough. Carol and I were assigned to be visiting teaching companions. 

I was so dismayed at the thought that I seriously considered asking to be reassigned. 

Our first few visits were extremely strained. It seemed our dislike for one another was intense and mutual. It was difficult to go on the Lord's errand when there were so many bad feelings between the two of us. I found I couldn't contribute to the conversation when Carol taught the lesson because I was working so hard at controlling my ugly feelings for her. I hated everything she said, even the way she said it. I was in a bad, bad place. And I was pretty sure she felt the same about me.

At first I prayed that we would get reassigned. "Please, Heavenly Father, bless me with a new visiting teaching companion."

But He didn't give me what I wanted.

Instead, He began to slowly change my heart. Soon, I found that my prayersbecame pleas to help me understand Carol, to be kind to her, so that we could better bless the sisters we were entrusted with.

As I prayed that our companionship could be strenghtened for the sake of our sisters, I found my heart was softened toward Carol. 

Carol, it turns out, was insecure and feeling like a fish out of water. She had moved to a new place with a young family and her husband travelled often. She was lonely.

As time passed, and my prayers to be a better companion to Carol were answered, I discovered a deep desire to be a better friend to her, as well. And she, not the horrible, awful girl I thought her to be, responded in kind. 

A friendship and mutual respect grew between us as we unified ourselves to serve our sisters. Our visiting teaching visits grew in meaning and we often felt the Spirit in remarkable ways during them. 

A year later, Carol was one of my truest friends, a friend for life. I had grown from this experience and learned that there is good in all things, even the hard things, if we let Heavenly Father join with us, to work with us.

In particular, He belongs on our visiting teaching visits. This is His work, afterall, and we ought to include Him when we go out.

When I felt such dislike for Carol, we had a hard time saying prayers together before we visited our sisters. But when I sought Heavenly Father's help He freely gave it. 

President Thomas S. Monson said, "It is the Lord's work, and when we are on the Lord's errand, we are entitled to the Lord's help." 

Had I not asked for His help in dealing with my awful visiting teaching companion, I might not have discovered how wonderful she was. She was a diamond, but I couldn't see her shining. I needed Father to clear my vision, to open my heart, so I could see her as He saw her. How much I would have lost, if I had never had Carol as my friend.

Sometimes we get difficult companion assignments. We feel it is a burden to spend time with the other person, we feel they hold us back, or there's something else about them that we feel we would be better off without. But I testify to you, that our assignments are made by divine inspiration and that very often there is a good reason why the two of you are together. 

A good companionship can truly bless the sisters they are assigned to teach. But a companionship that does not strive to have the Spirit of the Lord with them, does nothing to enrich their sisters lives. 

So, if you find yourself now, or sometime in the future, assigned with a companion you think you just can't stand, please, pray for her. Pray that you may come to love her. Pray to see in her what Heavenly Father sees in her. I know that He will bless you with inspiration into your companions character and heart and that your eyes will be opened. You will be blessed with an increased ability to love your companion, to care for her, and to respect her.

And with that love and respect, the two of you will truly be able to do the Lord's work and bless those sisters who have been entrusted into your care.

For more great articles on how to improve your visiting teaching efforts, please visit Jen's blog today for her Visiting Teaching Carnival!