JST Luke 15:4
Yesterday’s Sunday School lessons covered 3 parables – all of which equated to being about the worth of souls.
I read the opening verse to this entry twice in the last week in preparation for Sunday School and earlier this month as I was doing my personal scripture study. Yet, not until yesterday was I suddenly struck by a thought that brought me to tears.
Before late last Summer/early last Autumn I had been in and out of activity with my church for years. Sadly, more out than in. Really, I had never intended to go inactive (or to stray), but I started having more mental health issues and I, being too tired, worn out and battle weary and discouraged from fighting with my mental health without support from family, allowed Satan to use those problems to keep me from going to church.
What I realized yesterday was that less than a year ago, I had been a stray from the flock. I was the one sheep.
Then in August the Lord, through my church’s Home Teaching program, sent a shepherd – two really – to find me in the wilderness and carry me back to the flock.
When I first moved out here, I tried to stay with the flock but for some reason I began having panic attacks when I went to church. I tried for a little while to just work through those panic attacks, but it started taking too much out of me. I stopped going.
For some reason the father and son who had been assigned to be my home teachers did not find out about it until just before Snowmageddon – December 2009 – even though I had moved into that ward during the Summer of 2008. They came faithfully December, January, February, and March 2010. The week after their March visit, however, the Stake reorganized the ward boundaries and created a new ward and a new branch. (Wards and branches being the “local congregations” and a Stake being a collection of said wards and branches). Those home teachers were no longer in the same ward as I.
I tried a few times – 1 time because I had a meeting – at my request – with the bishop. I just tried to stay for the meetings. In all attempts I had to flee after Sacrament meeting – our first meeting - because of the panic attacks.
Then for some reason, no home teachers were assigned until August. One of my home teachers was the one person I knew the best from the previous ward, as he was the one I kept calling when I needed a blessing or other priesthood help. (The Lord moves in mysterious ways as that fact became a big key, in many ways, for where my life is today.)
When the home teacher whom I had known pretty much since moving out here, found out that I hadn’t been attending church most recently because every time I went to church I had a panic attack, made a suggestion. Because he was a familiar face – a very familiar face – he offered to take me to church I could sit with him and his family. He also said he’d be willing to take me home if I felt I couldn’t stay any longer. His companion – whom I had just met – offered the same if the first home teacher wasn’t in town – though the companion did at that time understand there was a lack of familiarity.
That plan didn’t come together for a few weeks. Once it did, however, what great changes started to come to me. The first few weeks were hard because I had to work through those panic attacks. Two weeks before the first time I rode with him, I had to drive myself because I had a meeting – again, at my request – with the bishop. I fought the panic attack the whole time.
I planned to stay in the back and flee after sacrament meeting but I saw the one home teacher and I sat with him and his daughter. Because of his presence I was able to last through Sunday School. I could not stay for the third hour though – when mean and women separate in their own meetings – because that would have been my first time in that meeting and there would have been the introduction of visitors or “new members”. The panic just swelled up more and more to the point I had to leave. So the home teacher walked me to my car. I did not attend the following week. That Sunday night the home teachers came for their monthly visit. I had to remind them both that I had panic attacks when going to church and that the only reason I had gone the week before on my own was because of the pre-meetings interview with the bishop.
Lesson learned, he or his wife (or in some cases his daughter) have faithfully given me a ride to church each Sunday since the. There were a couple of times when I needed the help of the priesthood and this home teacher was out of town so I, with some difficulty, managed to turn to the other home teacher. This allowed me to become comfortable with him and his family.
The first Sunday when I rode with him and his daughter I fought for over 3hours with a panic attack to stay for all 3 meetings (with the home teacher driving me talked to the Relief Society (the women’s group that meets the third hour) about leaving me out of the introduction process for now. (He also ended up having to run interference for me with a very well meaning sister whose help was only making things harder for me.)
The following week, I intended to sit quietly in the foyer until the third hour meetings were over, but that home teacher’s wife (who was able to attend the meetings in our ward for the first time since I started going) came out with me and kept me company. From that point on she became one of my closest friends and supporters – again because of the shepherd going into the wilderness to bring back the one sheep.
These shepherds’ actions have allowed me to return the fold. The panic attacks subsided into anxiety – which is controlled by an extra dosage of my anti-anxiety medication on Sundays. Gradually I’ve been adding more and more things to my life that center around Christ and the Holy Ghost so that I am stronger and braver going to church and at church.
I would not be in the good position I am spiritually now if it had not been for the shepherd(s) going into the wilderness to find me, the one lost sheep, and carry me back to the fold.
When I realized I had been the one sheep yesterday in Sunday school, through tears I thanked my Heavenly Fatter for sending the shepherd(s) into the wilderness to find me and bring me back to the fold.
What great changes have been wrought in my life because of this! I will forever be thankful to the Lord and to my home teachers – the shepherd(s) the Savior sent to find me – for answering the call.
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine and go into the wilderness after that which is lost until he find it?”
JST Luke 15:4