Sunday, July 25, 2010

An Average Ending

What? Doth mine eyes deceive me? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it an overly-long, drawn-out, poorly worded treatise on nothing?

Why yes. Yes it is.

After a several month hiatus, the Average Joel is back. And what message of good tidings do I bring to my avid and devoted reader? Well, to the both of you I have only this to say: so long suckers!

Allow me to 'esplain.

12 years ago, I found myself on a flight from Houston Texas to Bogota Colombia to begin my two-year Mormon mission. While all the other passengers calmly looked out the window as we crossed the Caribbean in twilight, I sat in a cold sweat, nervously clutching the air-sickness bag in the hopes of catching the remnants of dinner I was sure was about to come back for an encore. Did all these people on the plane not realize where we were going? COLOMBIA! SOUTH AMERICA! I was only minutes away from stepping foot in a country where I did not know a living soul and I could not speak the language. Heck, I could not even pronounce the name of the capital.( It turns out, Bogota does not rhyme with Dakota, seriously, who knew?). As if that wasn't bad enough, I was about to spend the next two years of my life in a country whose penchant for narco-terrorism and kidnappings had scared away every tourist since Romancing the Stone was made. Over the last twenty-years, the only movies made about Colombia have been written by Tom freakin' Clancy! Does this sound like the kind of place where you would want to sell religion door-to-door?

Well the plane, as all good planes do, eventually landed. And, unlike Hawaii where you are greeted by Hula Girls with flowers around their necks, I was greeted by sub-machine gun toting soldiers with bullets draped across their chests who surrounded the plane as soon as it pulled up to the gate. Bienvenidos, indeed.

As everyone else calmly filed out of the plane I stared blankly ahead of me like a nine-year- old boy at the top of a water slide he is sure will kill him. Too afraid to go. Too stupid/proud to turn back.

Then I remembered why I was there: to answer the call. So I stood up, walked off the plane and, in so doing, committed to serve the Lord whenever and wherever he wanted me to. Even Colombia.

That decision to serve has shaped every facet of my life ever since.

A few weeks ago, I discovered something scary and disconcerting. I was content with my life. And every time I have ever felt content with my life, the Lord has always decided to through me a pitch I haven't seen yet.

And then the phone rang.

To understand what I am about to say you need to know a little bit about the Mormon church. All you Mormons can go ahead and skip this paragraph and get back to eating your green jell-o. For you non-Mormons, please keep reading. Each LDS congregation is called a Ward and constitutes a set geographic area (usually a couple square miles). As Mormons, we do not have paid clergy. Each member of the Ward, is assigned a role and we rotate through these roles. It can be anything from teaching Sunday School, to leading music, to organizing church activities. Even the leaders of the Ward serve on a volunteer basis and are not paid. The leader of a Ward is a called a Bishopand he is assisted by two counselors. Together, these three men constitute a Bishopric. The Bishopric is responsible for the spiritual and temporal well being of all the people in the ward, usually about 100 families. Their role goes far beyond overseeing the church administration and organizing Sunday services. They help struggling bread-winners get a job and pay the mortgage. They help families get food through a special grocery store called the Bishops Store House. They counsel struggling marriages. They tend to the sick and needy. They help people overcome sin and addiction. They assist in the total well-being of every person in the ward. It is a tremendous responsibility, requires a large time commitment and, oh, did I mention it does not pay a dime?

Well, the phone call came from Stake Presidency (the guys who are in charge of the Bishops. Try to keep up.) The Stake Presidency needed to meet with me and right away I knew what was coming. We were due for a new Bishopric and there was really only one reason why they would want to talk to me.

Sure enough, at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 11th, I heard the words that would change my entire life. Will you serve as Second Counselor in the Bishopric?

Just like 12 year ago, sitting on the plane, every sensible part of my screamed no and frankly, the sensible part of me made some pretty good arguments. I am only 31 years old, isn't this a job better suited for someone older and wiser? I have five kids under the age of seven, how is this fair to my wife? I have a demanding job, how am I going to find the time necessary to serve effectively?

Despite all this, I could not ignore my decade-old commitment to serve. Anytime. Anywhere.

So I said Yes.

Now each Sunday, while the rest of the world sleeps, I get up early for my 6:45 a.m. Bishopric meeting, to be followed by 3 hours of church service to be followed by more meetings to be followed by in-home visits to be followed by...well, you get the picture.

Where does this leave me? Well, it leaves me saying good bye. For almost two years now, it has been the highlight of my week being able to stir up my thoughts and throw them out onto the internet like a Jackson Pollock painting. With the birth of the twins this has become next to impossible. Getting called to the Bishopric, I am afraid, was the last nail in the Average Joel coffin.

Before I ride off into the blogosphere sunset, let say thanks for reading and especially for commenting. I am a feedback junkie and I appreciate all the kind words, even when we disagreed. This site will remain up if you ever care to peruse my thoughts but new content will have to stay trapped inside my head, where it probably belongs.

However, before your internet- induced ADD compels you to click on something else (oooooh look..LOL cats!) allow me the chance to unmask myself and reveal my not-so-secret identity. My name is Joel. I am married to Wonderwoman. I have five children who, despite my best efforts, are as beautiful as they are smart. I am a proud, unabashed and vocal member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. I am a child of a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares for me. The same hands that made the sun, the moon and the stars made me.

Maybe I am not so average after all.