Recently I have felt a nudge to write out my feelings about why I decided to STAY connected to God, and specifically, connected to the Gospel, and the religion I have been a part of my entire life even through the hardest moments of my existence. The moments when I had felt abandoned and unprotected by Him.
Today that nudge turned in to a complete overwhelm. I need to share this.
And, I continue to stay.
And? I will fight to stay. I will continue to work hard for the connection I feel and for the relationship I have formed with my God, a loving father who loves his daughter. And, again, I specifically stay and thrive in a religion that I felt like, for a time, had nothing to offer me because I didn't quite match status quo.
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Fun fact...the day I was baptized the water heater was broken in our building so the water was freezing cold.
Look how innocent and naive I look.
And, it's true. I was.
For a long time I just took what I was taught and believed it...because my parents believed it. I'm a rule follower and I just followed the rules! I was pretty sure if I did I would live a wonderful life. My husband and I would have a bunch of kids, stay married our whole life, not deal with major sin or disappointment etc. The funny thing is, I don't remember being taught those things exactly, its just what I absolutely believed.
You can imagine my complete and utter shock when I ended a marriage with only 3 kids, I wasn't' going to stay married to the man I thought I'd spend forever with, and pretty much every area of my life was a disappointment. I did all the right things. I married a RM who was an Eagle Scout, ya know?
As I started breaking down some of the things I was taught as well as trying my hardest to separate culture from religion I started to panic. Did I actually know anything about my church?
So I started my journey and I stood back and in some ways had the mindset of a convert to my religion. I tried to dismiss all that I thought I knew and learned on a deeper level what I thought I already knew.
I had a lot to learn.
I dove deep into studying the atonement. I dove deep into studying and connecting.
I remember learning early on that there would someday be a time where we would stand out. That we, as members of this church would struggle to stand in a gray area of belief. I wondered what in the world would go on in this life that would cause us to stand out SO distinctly.
The past several years have taught me a lot about how to stand out. In, and out of the church I claim as my religion.
I remember asking myself "How in the world could a loving God allow me to suffer THIS much. If he loved me, wouldn't he step in? Wouldn't he STOP this from happening? If he WANTED me to stay a part of HIS church, wouldn't he make things a bit lighter so I could maybe go a day without pain? I mean... I am his freaking daughter!"
It became too much.
For me to believe that staying connected to a religion that only caused me pain. Only caused me to feel hopeless. Only caused me to feel embarrassed and ashamed of the life that I was living. Only made me feel like there was no hope for my children to succeed. Only made me step back and look at how embarrassed my family must feel that I tainted our name.
Those were real feelings. Real beliefs and real thoughts that ran deep.
I was at a crossroads.
I could be all out OR I would choose to be all in.
I prayed and pleaded with God. Please, if you want me here, I need to KNOW you are there. I will be all in. and I will sit uncomfortably in all the lessons that point out all of my differences. And, I will stand up for all the things our church stands for, and boldly so. But, please. Please show me that I matter. Show me how I fit in. Show me a path that can give me the confidence to be a fighting crusader in this world against all the evils of this world.
And he began to show me.
He began to mold me and guide me. He began to shape me into exactly who I came here to be. It wasn't always comfortable. We didn't always agree on everything I was asked to do. But every time I did what He asked I was amazed at the result; more strength. More depth. Go figure, right?
When I was experiencing a literal heartache where I had physical pain because of trauma...God was there. My Heavenly Father was there. I felt Him the strongest I had ever felt Him before. It was a warmth so humbling to be a recipient of. He saw me and knew I was hurting.
When I couldn't do life, he sent me angels. Literal heavenly angels and Earthly angels both to help me. To pull me along on a journey I didn't sign up for. To help love and support my children when I couldn't. There were moments I didn't know if I'd survive. Pain so deep, and so atrocious, and debilitating. Sometimes I didn't know if I wanted to survive.
He stayed with me when I had nothing to give.
I knew I had a place in His church here on this earth. I knew I didn't meet status quo but guess what?! My church NEEDED that. We need people who look different. Who smell different. Who have different upbringings. Who have different struggles. We need that! We need YOU!
That is what God showed to me.
My God didn't leave me. He didn't give me only as much as I could handle. In fact? I don't even think He GAVE me any of it. He allowed my life to happen and was there to help me pick up the pieces because he knew I'd make it out alive. He knows me to my core and because of that he knew how to hold me through all of this. He didn't abandon me. In fact, I believe he hurt deeply watching me struggle. I believe that it caused him hurt to NOT step in.
But he didn't step in because His roll isn't to help us avoid all things that cause us pain. His roll isn't to stop death, or abuse, or infidelity, or any other unfair occurrence this world has to offer. He stands ready and willing to help pull us out of it all when it happens. Don't believe me? I dare you to try.
I dare you to allow Him the opportunity to bond with you. To allow Him the opportunity to walk you through your next step. So that you can feel confident in your decision to stay.
I stayed because after I stepped out of the way of what He was trying to teach me I saw miracles happen. I literally had to get out of my own way. I stayed because I believe at my core that the fundamental teachings of the Religion I have chosen to connect myself are true, and important.
I stayed because I realized that SO much of the pain I felt my religion was causing me was actually not my religion at all...it was a self inflicted victim mentality that I needed to work through WITH God to allow him to show me why I was needed in His church.
I'm thankful I had the experience of navigating how my faith, religion, family, happiness, healing, and belonging all fit and coincide with one another.
I'm thankful that now, as things come up in the world AND in my religion that cause me or my loved ones pain, that I can work with God to help me figure out how to align myself properly without neglecting who I am and feeling like my agency is being jeopardized.
President Nelson, a man I really respect and love, has made a plea with the women of this world. A plea to stay strong, have a bedrock and immovable testimony. That's me. That us. Don't confuse this with not being able to questions new direction given, or finding it difficult to align, or realizing that there are imperfections in His church. That will continue to happen. But if we develop our own personal system of revelation He can help us work through anything that comes our way so that we don't sweep our feelings under the rug.
He just does. It's a promise he made.
Has it been a while since you have felt connected? Maybe you are like me and need to get out of your own way.
Are you struggling with wondering how He could let you go through the trenches and NOT step in? Ask Him to give you a tiny glimpse of what you'll become if you keep trekking along with Him as your partner. Ask Him to SHOW you. And then?
And do the work to stay connected.
I've read through this post a dozen times. I know how imperfect it is. But getting it posted is what I felt was the most important part...not a perfect post.
In invite you to stay. Show up and stay. Be different. Let's be the real life examples of living imperfectly in His church while striving to live ALL of his commandments and not just some.
God stays and so should you. Try it!