“My Classroom,” Ensign, Jan. 2005, 36–38
At some point in my life I was assigned to a classroom labeled “single.” Despite my efforts, I realized I had little control over when I could leave, so I spent most of my adult life seeing my classroom as a prison.
Although my attitude may have seemed positive on the outside, my relationship with Heavenly Father suffered through many long nights of desperate pleading, angry demands, and general despair. I struggled despite Heavenly Father’s many reassurances that all was well, that my deepest and most dearly held dreams would come to pass, and that He would never leave me truly alone. To my mind, that just wasn’t enough. All I could focus on was the door of this prison, and all I wanted was out.
I finally reached a point several years ago when my hope, faith, and energy hit an all-time low. Walking past affectionate couples depressed me. I watched my married friends deal with the joys and trials of marriage and family life with envy, even when toddlers threw tantrums and dishes were left undone. As far as I was concerned, I just couldn’t handle being single anymore.
I went to church one particular Sunday having already decided to ask a friend for a priesthood blessing. When I arrived, one kind sister complimented me by saying I looked “so put together.” I smiled and thanked her, while the irony of her words weighed on me: I actually felt close to falling apart.
The words of the blessing I received later that day shook my soul. The Lord’s reassurances had never been so clear or so directly linked to my particular thoughts at the time, and I had never felt the Spirit more strongly. And while the blessing did not answer all my questions, it started me on a road that took me closer to the peace I had been seeking.
Feeling stronger than I had in a long time, I started looking around my “prison.” I began to see, dimly at first, the positive aspects of the room. I began to take inventory of the ways in which I had been of use in the lives of my friends and family. I realized that being single allowed me more flexibility and freedom of movement, something I had always taken for granted. It allowed me to serve in ways I might not have been able to otherwise.
However, I continued to struggle at times with doubt, loneliness, and confusion. The tears did not come as frequently as they had in the past, but I still did a fair amount of complaining. It was as if I had started to explore my situation in a limited way, tiptoeing around the room and catching glimpses of beauty through half-closed eyes but still never truly seeing what I had been given.
I began to wonder if I had somehow failed Heavenly Father. I thought maybe it was taking longer for the door to open because there was something I was supposed to be that I wasn’t being, and that it was all my fault. Lasting peace continued to elude me. Again, I requested a priesthood blessing. Again, the reassurances and counsel of a loving Heavenly Father quieted my fears and unfounded guilt. But I also received some counsel that puzzled me: I was told I needed to humble myself—despite the fact that I had just spent the last several months beating myself up for imagined offenses. Obviously I needed a different kind of humility.
The answer finally came. It didn’t come in words; it came as a feeling. During a ward activity, as I looked at my surroundings, several thoughts ran through my mind. I remembered many such activities in the past as well as the people who had been a part of them. I realized just how much the people in that room and in my life meant to me. I thought of the many small miracles that had guided and comforted me throughout my life. Reflecting on Heavenly Father’s infinite patience with me, I remembered the Savior, who had been through the greatest torment of all so that He could succor us through life’s challenges. I felt overcome with gratitude.
It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I realized that what I had considered a prison was filled with more wonderful things than I had ever noticed. In my obsession with getting out, I had either missed or had only partly seen the Lord’s hand in filling that room with people and experiences that had taught me, comforted me, and filled my life’s cup to overflowing. I had only needed to humble myself enough to be deeply grateful for those gifts to finally feel years of pain fall away.
The exit to my classroom still has not opened. I don’t know when it will. I still listen for the handle to turn—after all, I will never lose the desire to leave my single status behind and become a wife and mother. As I have been counseled many times, that is a righteous desire. But I am finding myself more occupied with painting murals on the walls these days, contributing to the beauty of my surroundings rather than pounding on the door. I believe that when someone finally comes into the room, holds out his hand, and says, “Honey, you’re finished here; let’s go,” I will have to stop long enough to take one final look around at what the Lord has done for me as a single person before finally stepping through the door—and into another classroom.