Oh hey. It’s me… again.
I wonder if you ever get annoyed with prayers. So many repetitive prayers. I’m totally guilty of the repetition at times, but in my defense, I’m following the advice of Amulek in the scriptures to cry out to you morning, noon, and day, and to pour out my soul in my closet, and secret places and in my wildernesses.
While we’re here, can we please talk about “the thing” again?
When this whole “faith crisis” began for me, my prayers were all the same. I cried and cried and cried to you. Pleaded. BEGGED for you to make everything better. To “heal” me. I would ask all the time for you to bring my testimony back.
Luckily there were plenty of prescriptions and tools I had been given just for this kind of situation—I feasted on scriptures and fasted and meditated and searched for answers harder than ever before. At four in the morning I would wake up on Saturdays to make it to early Portland temple sessions. I “doubted my doubts” and inundated myself with conference talks. I studied the life of the Savior, I kept a journal of my spiritual experiences and reflected back on them again and again. And I had such a DESIRE to believe. But no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to be “good”, my testimony continued to tremble.
But you were always there for me. You always patiently listened. You always quietly prompted and sent breadcrumbs of your love to keep me moving forward. That warmth in my heart and peace were forever present as long as I gave myself a moment of silence to find you in the ocean of noise.
But many times the confusion became so dizzying. My entire life I had been handed all of the answers to eternal mysteries on a perfect platter with a bright pink bow. And little by little, as I examined each item on the platter, I began to see flaws, knicks and scratches that weren’t noticeable before. The fingerprints of imperfect humans smudged all over the doctrine I had been told was pure and told came directly from Heaven.
And then I couldn’t UNSEE the smudges. I couldn’t wipe them away with the sleeve of my elbow. And I couldn’t ignore them because that platter was meant to be flawless! As I tried to point out the dirty spots to others, they said they couldn’t see it, or they just ignored it, or they trusted it would all make sense later, and a small few suggested that the problem wasn’t with the platter but with my eyesight.
And I believed them. I believed I was the problem for a long, long time.
I think the hardest part for me was the guilt. It was the shame that pounded into me that I was doing something wrong. The general leaders would deliver conference messages about how all of these feelings and experiences I was having was coming from an evil source, that I was spiritually lazy, or that I desired to sin. It hurt me so much. And then it hurt even more knowing so many people before me had been judged the same way.
But you… you never made me feel broken. Every feeling or whisper I ever received from you was showered with unconditional love and patience and PRIDE… You were PROUD of me. You explained that I was growing stronger and that I wasn’t broken. You blanketed me in a customized cocoon and reminded me that this was all a part of my process. You acknowledged that the platter was distorted. You told me to be patient with the others that couldn’t quite see it the same as me. And nudged me at times to step outside of my own perspective. And YOU were the one that encouraged me to continue seeking truth.
I remember having questions. Hard questions. With really, really HARD answers once I found them. The answers didn’t match with what I had been taught in Sunday school growing up. And I felt so betrayed. And you counted those tears. You didn’t gaslight me and discourage me from feeling what I was feeling. You wrapped your arms around me and cried with me, because you understood how much it hurt. I didn’t know who or what to trust, and I felt my foundation disintegrate beneath me. And although that foundation was crumbling, I was still hanging there by your arms. I felt so much like Peter reaching for Christ out of the water. It must have been the exact same haunting, sinking feeling. Thank you for holding me during those really hard moments.
Then the anxiety became too much, remember? I had my first real panic attack watching General Conference up in my room all alone. I would curl in a ball and cry on Saturday nights dreading church the next day. I would get emotionally-activated during sacrament meeting. Something said over the pulpit, or even some of the lyrics we sang from our hymnbooks, would be enough to send me to the bathroom crying. I would tell you how church wasn’t giving my strength to get through my trials in this life, but that it had become my trial that was taking away my motivation for being alive. You told me church wasn’t supposed to do that to me. You agreed with me that I was running faster than I had strength. And I felt nothing but peace and support from you when I made the choice to “take a break” from Sunday services. You said to my heart, "I will meet you where you're at."
I had been taught parables my whole life about you and how you would leave the 99 sheep to find and shepherd the one lost sheep. I always assumed the role of one of the 99, munching in the grass just waiting patiently for you to get back with the wanderer, but ever since I’ve started feeling like the “one” lost, I am trusting you and trusting in your parables. You keep whispering to me, “I will find you. I promise that I will find you.”
I’ve learned how to be more honest with you and those moments have been my most sacred experiences yet. I wanted to talk with you, like… a BIG talk. I had no strength left and I needed a miracle. I went to a place that I had previously designed to go to know for myself if my religion was true. I went to my wilderness. My waterfall. Joseph Smith would have honestly been a little jealous of my sacred grove.
I was all alone, sitting on a fallen tree and feeling the spray of the waterfall on my face mixed with the wetness of tears from my eyes. But I felt so alone. I couldn’t feel you there with me. Maybe I was trying to force a spiritual experience and should have known better than to do things with my timing instead of yours.
It still made me upset though. And by the time I got home I was angry.
Sooooo angry. And it was the first time that I was angry at you, but I knew you could take it, so I came at you raw and honestly.
I said how I was so mad if you were actually the God that my religion had painted you as…
I went off about the scripture stories where you sounded so wrathful and vengeful and jealous. A god of fear… who would take beautiful, messy humans and shallowly categorize them as wicked or righteous then destroy them with floods and famines and earthquakes.
Were you really a God who designed an eternal plan that manipulated your first-borns and set them up for failure? Then birthed us all into this twisted relationship where we are all forced to depend on you? Because those are totally red flags of an abusive relationship last time I checked.
I’m upset if you’re the God who takes spiritual privileges and withholds them from his children born with certain shades of skin color or simply because they have two X chromosomes.
I’m mad if you are the God who cursed me and all other mothers with excruciating labor pains as we deliver our babies for a sin we never committed.
I am livid if you are at the head of a church that creates policies that cause LGBTQ youth to literally take their own lives because it’s too complicated to be themselves AND live the gospel.
I cannot grasp the idea that you were a God who sat back on your throne and watched polygamist women cry themselves to sleep while they listened through the thin walls to their husband making love to another woman… in the name of God?
I’m heartbroken if you really allowed me to fall in love with Mitchell and give him my whole heart, then use your doctrine to rip him away from me in the next life because of his difficult choice to leave the church when I’ve been nothing but faithful to you.
And I JUST CAN’T HANDLE IT, God, if I live my whole life doing everything you ask of me, just to be rewarded in eternity as a woman by being shoved into a dark room and cut off from my spirit children. Where I would have to watch them suffer through their mortal lives without them being able to talk to or pray to or even SPECULATE anything about their Heavenly Mother. That sounds like Hell to me!
I’m sorry God, but I’m so mad at you today. And I hope you’re there listening. I want you to exist and feel my anger. Because I’d rather be on bad terms with you now and come around later than to not have you exist at all. Because right now it’s hard to hear you.
Then I remembered that moment of silence where I listened...
That familiar warmth. That quiet whisper that I have always known. It returned. And it said to me, “Don’t worry. That’s not me. You can be mad at that God you described all you want because that’s not who I am.”
I have grown so much closer to you since that day. And I hang on to those whispered words. I have changed so much. And so have you. My understanding and interpretation of who you are is continuously evolving and I am so grateful.
Before, when I prayed, I would pray for my testimony to return and for my faith in the God I was taught to believe in to come back. But I don’t pray for that anymore. The wording is different. Now I just pray to find truth. I pray to continue to grow and to discover you. And that has been a long process of sorting through my old cultural/faith traditions to determine which parts truly represent you and which ones I no longer choose to subscribe to.
I am grieving. I think about and mourn the old, black and white version of who I was sometimes and the lack of complexity I had in my faith. But I’m taking it a day at a time and embracing the new nuanced version of who I am now. And I have felt you every step of the way.
Also I’ve started making a promise to everyone around me whenever I tell them our story. I hope you don’t mind. I tell them that if they’re concerned about me to just take it up with you. And I promise that you’ll whisper to them, “Don’t worry about that one. She’s in good hands and I’ve got her.”
My "Let's Normalize Faith Crises" PLAYLIST
that got me through the hard days
Well this is just the loveliest post! Obviously it comes from a hard and emotional place and therein lies the lovely. Thank you for the gift of sharing your heart, your struggle and your hope with such beauty and grace. You are so beloved. 💚ReplyDelete
Thank you for describing so many of my own feelings. Beautifully saidReplyDelete
Love and hugs from your friend who keeps you lifted up in prayer. God is so faithful to meet us where we are at.ReplyDelete