While I really do write for myself, it wouldn’t be honest to say I’m not aware of the affect my writing can have on others. My last post about my break-up with the church has received quite the varied response from those that know about this little blog. I know, it was pretty raw. Because most of my readers are close friends and family, I knew that the post might make some worried about me. When I posted it on social media, I put a little caveat to remind any readers that there was no cause for concern. But, in their love, some worried anyway. This post is just to reassure you that I’m really okay.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. I have bad days just like everyone else. Some days my toast burns, or my children argue with each other, or a package gets lost, or I find out someone in my family is really sick. Nowadays, the store is out of toilet paper or butter, or someone on social media is ridiculed for feeling strong emotions about this or that and my heart breaks for them. It’s rough out there in my suburban world. Yes, that was sarcasm. Days are just days. There is no way to prevent mourning and grief when expectations aren’t met. I, just like you, sometimes get my hopes up that life is going to look a certain way, or that my day is going to go a certain way. But life is just life.
I’m really doing great. Why? Because I’m finding it much easier to move through the initial emotional reactions I have to things with grace. There’s something about being honest with oneself, good, bad, and ugly, that frees one to just live. Soak it all in, choose the good, and let the rest go. It takes a significant amount of self-emptying, which is generally at least a little bit painful, and never seems to be finished. The pain cuts deep because it needs to make space for something new and beautiful, but the more you allow it the more you find the comfort that Jesus promises those who mourn. Cherubim and a flaming sword guides me to the tree of life. Suddenly Paul seems a little less crazy. “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4).
Post-seemingly-apocalyptic-post I’m feeling pretty much comfort all the time. And when I don’t, things settle and comfort arises quickly. It’s incredibly freeing and I feel lighter. Like, colors are brighter, sounds are fuller, and rest is more restful. Okay, not really all that, but there’s a peace deep in my heart that speaks to me of God’s love and inspires me to want to only ever be gentle, meek, kind, and loving. It makes me want to be with people, see people, and hear people. I now know what’s possible when I have real integrity with myself and others. Life didn’t get any easier, but it did get lighter, and a lot more exciting. If this is what it feels like to be clay in the Potter’s hand, then I’m down.
As for the church, which is where I’m sure most of the worry from others is coming from, I don’t really know what to tell you. If you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints then you might be worried about my eternal salvation. If you’ve been reading my posts then I think you already probably know my rebuttal to that concern. We just see things differently. And if you disagree with me, I’m sorry I can’t do more to ease your trepidation than to just clarify what my previous post means for me in a practical, on-the-ground, real-life-application sort of way.
I’m not planning on leaving the church. I am still loyal to all of the good parts of the church that raised me. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the good things I learned there and the love I’ve received from my church family over the years. I have no feelings to reject the church or be a cynic about it. I have no desire to change everyone’s mind, or change church doctrine, or ruin your Sunday School lesson. You can still call on me if I raise my hand, if you want to.
The church is going to be exactly what it’s going to be for the majority of its members, and everyone can relate with it however they want. I’m just going to be me. Me is honest, and kind.
I’m not going to ask to be released from my calling. I love being YW President, and I love our youth. The logistical part is not always a walk in the park, but it’s good honest work and I’m happy to do it. Our youth are so amazing, and they don’t need me to tell them what to think about things. They just need someone to remind them that they have access to a loving God and that they can and should experience the fullness of life with the Spirit as their constant companion. That’s the good news, and it’s all I have ever preached when I’m with them, so you don’t have to worry about me pontificating on deep theology.
I’m still the same person I was before you read my last post, I’m just happier and less conflicted all the time. If it still makes you nervous, that’s fine too. I’m not offended. You can release me. But my children are youth and I’m not going to stop serving, including, or encouraging church friendships for them. They’ll be invited over to my house for pizza and ice cream anyway (once all of this distancing takes a hike), so you might as well let me do all the clerical work of the calling while I’m at it.
I’m still going to go to church on Sunday. At least I will when we’re allowed to do that again. For a while, I’ll admit, I was really loving not having the pressure of going to church. But now I think I’m seeing that the pressure I was feeling was because I felt like I had to fit a mold and I wasn’t showing up as myself. It felt like work. It doesn’t feel like it would be work anymore. And everyone needs a good ashram, warts and all. I love the sacrament and its symbolism, especially in the church setting as a reflection of the body of Christ, even though most of the doctrinal narrative of it has changed for me.
I still really, really, really love the temple. I love the spirit that is there. I love the people that are there. I love the trek of intention to get there, even the 405 (thanks Los Angeles). I love bringing my kids there. I never want to lose that opportunity. I wish more people were allowed to have it. I honestly don’t know yet what I’m going to do the next time I need a temple recommend interview. It’s going to have to be a Nephi moment, not knowing beforehand. I’m okay with that. I do feel like I could rationalize my way into authentically answering the questions the way I’m expected to, but I’m not going to lie to anyone if the moment calls for something else. I’m just going to trust and let it be.
Really, that’s what all of this boils down to. Trusting God and letting it be. Mary, Mother of Contemplatives, I think I get it now. I’ve tasted the joy of the good fruit, and the gospel is actually a lot easier to live than I thought.
I thought that it was going to be my job to try to introduce and reintroduce a truly loving God, and all of the subsequent theology that comes with that reality, to the church in whatever way I could. Holding that tension and waiting for the church to shift felt exhausting and frustrating. When I finally cried out in exasperation to my God, complaining about the bad fruit and why I had to be the one to do the pruning, he replied, “Who told you I need you to do any of that?”
Um, I guess no one. I just thought that’s what people do. Well, it is what people do. But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do all the time. Come to find out, God can do his own work. All he needs from me is for me to just be me. Authenticity alone is enough. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s all he needs from any of us. If we just remember who we are, honestly desire to seek after good fruit, and live a full life of love, mistakes and everything, that is more than enough to hold space for any shifting that needs to happen in the world around us. That’s going to look like something a little different for each of us, and that’s exactly the point. Church or no church, work on yourself and show up in your own life.
So, I’ve been taking all of this way too seriously. And that’s what my break-up was all about. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, it’s a little bit you. But it’s me too. I’ve changed. I’m happy with the change. And I don’t need you to change, though I hope for your sake that you think about it. We all need change, but your change isn’t my job. God will be God. Thank God. Acceptance, Reclamation, Openness, Healing, this is where I live now. Let’s be friends.
There are some who believe you can love Christ while despising the body of Christ. They are wrong. To be a cynic is not prophetic. To be a cynic is easy — it requires nothing but disdain. To be prophetic requires that you deeply love the community you critique and call to repentance. I know the church is often unfaithful; nevertheless Jesus does not condone stoning her. ~Brian Zahnd
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! ~Moses (Numbers 11:29)
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. ~Paul (Romans 12:5–13)
Update – July 31, 2020: I have been released from my calling and encouraged to work within the framework of the church to change my beliefs so that I’ll be able to fully support church doctrine and keep my temple recommend when it comes due. Initially heartbroken, I’m okay. Like I said, I’m finding it much easier to move through the initial emotional reactions I have to things with grace. And I mostly feel comforted and okay. I’ve decided to take down many of my more controversial posts for the time being in an effort to support my Bishop and the new YW President in their callings. I’m tickled pink by who they’ve chosen and know she’ll do an amazing job.
The overwhelming response by those who have read them was gratitude for being brave enough to both say out loud what so many are thinking and feeling and gracious enough to still want to be a part of and serve the church. I believe there is a bridge there, an important bridge. And I believe being able to create safe spaces to be honest about our faith with each other is important to the body of Christ. As Paul said, “Love without dissimulation.”
Someday I’ll re-post them all, but far less publicly. Sometimes the moment calls for discretion, like Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus. Right now, taking a step back to give space for the feelings of those who felt they needed to report me is the most loving thing I can think of to do. And above all, I want to love as Christ loves. Always.