Pin It (Part One is here and Part Two is here)
I've been debating this post in my mind over the last couple of weeks, torn between two options.
1) Tying it all up in a pretty package, saying "Whew - what a journey - thank goodness THAT's over," and making it vague enough to ensure that my friends and relatives will stop worrying about the eternal state of my soul
2) Sticking with the messier truth
(Insert aggrieved dramatic sigh here.)
This is the first time I've talked about religion on my blog, and it will probably be the last. I'm about five zillion miles outside of my comfort zone. It isn't funny, and it makes me nervous to write things that aren't at least 40% ridiculous.
It makes me uncomfortable not to be able to stand up here and say something definitive to you. But I wanted to say it, so that when you read my blog, and you know I'm a Mormon, you don't think I'm representing mormon mommy bloggers. Let that be Heather or Nat or Kalli. But not me.
So there I was. I was trying to make sense of it all. My brain was telling me one thing, my heart another. I clung to my One True Miracle.
What about the blessing? I asked an athiest friend.
The body is a mysterious thing. We're just starting to learn about the power of the brain to heal the body.
What about the blessing? I asked a Christian friend.
Just because Mormonism isn't true doesn't mean God won't still answer your prayers, she said.
What about the blessing? My husband would ask me.
I don't know, I would say.
What about the blessing, I would ask myself, and ask myself, and ask myself. Sometimes I asked God, but He still didn't answer me.
After a while I stopped asking.
To me, it felt like a tornado had come through my spiritual town. All of my landmarks, everything I used to get my bearings - all of it was gone and I felt lost.
It was weird not to be able to definitively say, Yes, I believe it, or No, I don't.
For a long time, I struggled.
Years that I spent going to church but carefully avoiding bearing my testimony.
Years when I bit my tongue whenever the subject of religion came up, because I had no idea what to say.
Years where I waffled and qwaffled and flipped and flopped.
(I feel I should tell you - if I mentioned it here? It isn't something that I really had an issue with. Those were all examples of things that niggled at me when I DID have a measure of faith - those weren't the issues that actually destroyed it.)
(And there is a difference, I think, between that normal leap of faith we all take, where we have questions and doubts about dinosaurs and gender politics and statistical probabilities, and the leap that I felt was in front of me. Once upon a time, I had questions and doubts, but I was looking at them from a place of faith, and the gap felt very small and inconsequential. But now I was standing on the other side, coming from a place where there was so little left that I believed, so little left that I felt was true, that I felt the chasm between me and faith was far too wide to jump over without some kind of divine intervention. And absent that divine intervention...)
In some ways the silent treatment was very good for me.
No longer sure that God would swoop down and sort out all of the injustice in the world, I felt a lot more responsibility to do what I could.
No longer sure that I knew what was Right and what was Wrong, I was a lot less judgmental. It softened me in a lot of ways. I didn't have much to feel self-righteous about.
Not knowing what I believed, I hedged my bets. Kept going to church, kept teaching my children. We concentrated on the basics - be good, be honest, be loving. I tried to keep things The Same, tried not to rock the boat of our family's faith, even though I felt adrift.
I struggled and struggled and struggled.
And then one day, I woke up, and I didn't anymore.
I already talked to you, that one time.
That was the impression that wouldn't leave my mind one morning.
It wasn't a gentle, warm feeling this time. It was more like a shove. Like, COME ON, Sue. I don't have time for this.
And the impression I had wasn't necessarily It's True, It's True, It's All True, Every Bit, but more this is where I want you to be right now.
I stood at the kitchen sink thinking, well FINALLY. THANK YOU.
(Actually, that isn't true. At first I ignored it, because it wasn't a strong impression, more like one of those things where you get a feeling, and you wonder, "OK, is this just the voices in my head talking to me again, or is this actually, you know, COMMUNICATION?" But after a while, when the thought wouldn't leave me alone, then I said THANK YOU.)
(Although - I don't even know - is it appropriate to be grateful with God but irritated at the same time? Like - thanks - but good grief, it took You long enough.)
I told my husband that night, "I think we should start having Family Home Evening. And family prayer. We should try that. I'm thinking we should get our act together."
He gave me the curious eyeballs, but didn't ask many questions, probably because some of our talks on religion don't really go All That Well, if you want to know the truth.
He didn't know what to make of my apparent change of heart.
Neither did I, frankly.
It wasn't as though I had some big spiritual epiphany. I didn't get neat answers to all of my questions. I still have questions. I still have doubt. I still hate reading my scriptures. I still skip church a little bit too much. I'm incredibly skeptical about a lot of things.
I am, I will admit, a cafeteria mormon. I grab my tray and take portions of the stuff I can get on board with, like service and Jesus and loving one another, but I steer away from things like Prop 8 and the Book of Abraham and temple work.
I know a lot of people will disapprove of this. They will tell me to get off the fence. But I think the Lord gets it. I think He knows I'm a work in progress, doing what I can.
My ex-mormon friends will say I've talked myself into it. Maybe I have, I don't know.
But I feel at peace with it. I feel that I can believe some things, even if I can't believe all things. When I pray now, I feel something. Not anything big, but something.
Enough. For now, it's enough.
Because what I feel? In my heart?
Is that this is where I'm supposed to be.
And hallelujah for that.
UPDATE: I feel compelled to update this. After a few years I couldn't maintain the mental gymnastics required to stay active and believing and I more or less left the church, although some of my family still attends. I was mostly kidding myself in the last installment of this post. I didn't believe it, but I WANTED to believe it, because it made my life so much easier to believe it. I also didn't want to hurt my mom, but I'd written myself into a corner where I had to tie it up somehow, and this was the way I wrote myself out.
I know I'm supposed to be "fallen" now, but I'm good. I'm happier. I'm less anxious. I'm no longer conflicted and I no longer second guess every decision I make. I've been mormon for so long that I basically still live my life as a mormon, just - without the guilt and angst. I feel much more of a responsibility to do good things in the world, since I don't feel like God is going to swoop down and make everything right. My family is happy and healthy, and we're doing great. I know what kinds of things I want my children to learn and know, and I strive to teach them those things. I still love and appreciate the millions of mormons in my life, and respect you all to bits, even if we no longer believe all of the same things.