There are times when I feel a lot of pressure to be/think/act a certain way because my invisible church resume is covered in bullet points that list my past duties, assignments or accomplishments within the church. The pressure can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially since I feel none of those things truly define the person I am today nor what I believe.
Suffice it to say that when I first read the Book of Mormon as a 19-year old girl, I believed in absolutes. My faith saw the world in terms of black and white. I armed myself with that simple and beautiful faith when I set out to teach the people of Argentina on a church service mission. And then I came home, and life was very different from the way I had left it 18 months earlier. It would be hard to explain all the ways it was different so you'll just have to take my word for it. Uncertainty crept in and stripped my simple faith down until all that was left was doubt.
Being a newlywed and trying to adapt to a strange role with new responsibilities, I decided to tuck my doubts away for a later date. Occasionally, I would talk to Tim about things, and he would listen and answer when he could, but for the most part I just left things hidden. But things can't remain hidden forever.
In the fall of 2011, I had a miscarriage that shattered every piece of me and nearly every piece of my faith. It was one of the darkest periods of my life--a period that lasted nearly two years. There were a few occasions where I told Tim that I no longer wanted to go to church and that I needed time to sort things out. He never pushed me to go when he knew I just couldn't. He gave me the space and time I needed to find my place in a religion that suddenly didn't make sense anymore.
Tim is the only one who knows how hard things actually were (and sometimes still are) during the two years. Things got really bad before they got better. I almost gave up on God, myself and the church. I certainly felt that God had given up on me.
I remember being at church last year listening to a 85-year old woman talk about how she endured the many trials of her faith. Her story resounded with me. I sat in the back as quiet as a mouse, and I watched her walk back and forth moving her wrinkled hands in the air as she talked about how hard it was at times to see light in the midst of spiritual darkness. She then asked the class for suggestions about how to get through "spiritual" darkness. All of the answers made my heart sink. I felt a panic take over my body, and I slowly raised my hand and asked, "All those answers are great, but what if you've done all of those and you still can't see anything but darkness? What then? Because I'm there. I've been stuck there a long time, and I've tried every suggestion." Every head in the room swung in my direction, and suddenly a sea of hands shot up to offer more suggestions. After 3 or 4 suggestions, I felt so embarrassed by all the sad stares that I got up and exited the building. I sat in the car until church ended. I didn't go back to class for months.
That was the worst day. I raised my hand with all the hope I could muster and left feeling deflated and defeated. I have a blog post from that day on my private blog that still gives me the chills. It is full of anger, frustration and sadness. On my drive home tonight, I tried to think of what changed for me because almost immediately after that terrible Sunday, I started to build my faith again.
As I reconstruct a newer and hopefully stronger faith, there are many things I still don't know that I once knew, or at least claimed to know, but there are many things that I believe and hope to believe. Believing something is very different than knowing something. And on my way home tonight, I made a list of some of the things I believe versus some of the things I know.
I know there is a God. I know it because I see so much good in the world, and I know that good is inspired by Him.
I believe He loves me. I just don't understand how or why he does.
I know that Jesus Christ is God's son.
I believe He is my Savior. At this moment, I am unclear as to how to access the saving grace He has offered the world.
I know God has a plan for His children, and I know He has an individual plan for me; I just don't always understand that plan.
I believe families can be together forever. I am, however, still unclear how this will all work out.
I know the Book of Mormon is true. I have had countless people try to disprove it to me, but I know the way it makes me feel when I read it and live it.
I know God speaks through prophets.
After writing it all down, it's apparently a shorter list than I thought. Or maybe that's just because it's almost 1am and my brain is starting to shut down. It's a budding faith, but it's mine, and no one can take that away from me unless I let them.
I feel more peace in my life these days. I talk to God often, and generally He answers in His own way and time. I am learning to be more patient with Him. I assume He has already mastered how to have enough patience with me. ;) I no longer pay attention to the pressure I often feel from family and friends because I realized awhile back that they don't know my heart the way I do or the way He does. They don't understand that my questions are sincere or that I am doing all that I can to stay true to things I don't even know to be true anymore.
I am grateful to be a member of a church that invites everyone to come and find their place in this great big plan of happiness. I guess that's another thing I believe...I believe God wants us to be happy. I am also grateful to be a member of a church that requires me to sacrifice hard things. Without sacrifice, I wouldn't be where I am today. That is something I know for sure.