Sunday, December 15, 2013

practice what you preach

last week i was sitting in sunday school and look ahead to the next lesson, which turned out to be "putting on the whole armor of God." and since the teacher that day confessed that she found out about five minutes before class that she was teaching, i suspected that maybe no one was assigned to teach next sunday and later asked the sunday school president if i could. yes.

so, on facebook i commented that i had sat through a year's worth of lessons in the family ward about how we can be better husbands, wives, and parents, but now i'm teaching and we will be learning about darth vader. it got a lot of likes which left me feeling cool, but one of my friends from school messaged me and said that he'd never been to a mormon church before and that my darth vader lesson sounded like the perfect time to visit.

i warned him that our sunday service consists of three hour-long meetings and that it will be our Christmas program as well, so it won't be quite a normal sunday but that he was more than welcome to come. that didn't seem to deter him and he asked for directions to the chapel.
later in the week, though, he said that he remembered a friend had a wedding on sunday and so he wouldn't be able to come after all. i was a little disappointed but it was no big deal.

as we were getting ready to sing the sacrament hymn today, my roommate next to me motioned to invite someone to sit next to us and, when i looked up, i saw that it was my friend. he sat down next to me and said that he couldn't find the time of the wedding and since he was already dressed up, he decided to come to church. there wasn't time to do much welcoming or explaining as the sacrament was being blessed and passed, since i try to make that a very sacred and reverent time, but when it was finished, i tried to give a few basic explanations, such as why 12-year old boys are officiating in sacramental ordinances and the like.

i also kind of regretted not finishing my lesson earlier and felt a little sheepish working on it during the meeting. after the closing prayer was given, several people came up to him and introduced themselves, welcoming him to the ward and earning major points. it was really cool to see, actually, and he seemed to appreciate it.

my lesson in sunday school was "putting on the whole armor of God," and i used darth vader as my example: he is the strongest and toughest guy in the galaxy, pretty much unstoppable. but, as we learn at the end of return of the jedi, outside of his armor, he's weak and frail; he can't survive without it. spiritually speaking, we're about the same. with the armor of God, the protection that comes from living the commandments, we're strong and safe, protected from the ubiquitous fiery darts of the adversary. but if we do things that weaken that protection, that take us outside of the safety of the commandments, we are just as vulnerable as vader.
as the sith lord says in his final battle against luke, "you are unwise to lower your defenses!"

that's really about as far as we got in the lesson. we talked about the different parts of the armor of God, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit of God, the breastplate of righteousness, and the rest, how they can protect and strengthen us and what we need to do to have that protection. the discussion and comments that were generated were so good that i barely got to page three of my eight pages of notes. there were no crazy people in the class (thank you!) and my friend even raised his hand to make a really good comment.

in the last sever or eight minutes, though, i did touch on the remainder of the lesson plan, namely three ways that we need to keep ourself protected: chastity, honesty, and language. as i was preparing it and as i was teaching, i scrutinized myself a little more deeply because my friend was there.

most people at church don't know me outside of church. in fact, i can't think of anyone who does apart from my roommate. so they only see me on sunday, being my sunday self. but my friend from school has seen me at school. at parties. out on the weekends. he was part of our team when we did the back to the future movie in the spring, when i was stressed and tired and wanting to throw myself in front of a speeding delorean at 4 a.m.
now he was visiting my church. as i was writing notes for my lesson, i had to review myself. had i lived
up to what i would be preaching in a few minutes? was there anything in my conduct that would reflect poorly on what a latter-day saint should be? had i acted contrary to what i would be preaching in sunday school?

i couldn't think of anything. i wasn't perfect or entirely without fault, but i couldn't think of anything i had done or said that would undermine what i was preparing to teach.
that was a good feeling and also a good reminder that we never really know when someone is watching us.