I have written before about how important a transformational God is to me, and how much more consistent an all-loving God feels in allowing for the establishment of peace in this world and not just the next one. It feels like freedom. Except the transactional God of my youth keeps begging me to take him back.
It makes sense. We have all the same friends, friends that I’m totally unwilling to part with. I can’t really go anywhere and not hear about him. Many still have a great and helpful relationship with him, and it doesn’t feel right to discount that just because I had to break up with him. I’m just trying to work things through and root out all the old narratives. New wine into new bottles, ya know?
I feel the most settled when I read the scriptures and pray. When I read about the beautiful gospel and when I practice mindfulness. When I am present to the people right in front of me, and go for a nice long walk. I feel God reaching out to me and showing me his unconditional love. I feel motivated to have grace and patience. I feel invigorated to live a full life of loving all whom I cross paths with.
The other day I was doing really well. I was coming up with all sorts of ideas of things I can do with the youth I serve with. I was talking with my kids about the things they’d like to experience, and how they’d like to challenge themselves. It was just hope and love in every direction. Then, I had a couple of meetings back to back that asked for more meetings, wanted more structure, gave more boxes to check, and needed it to look a certain way. It was nobody’s fault. I didn’t speak up and share my thoughts. My frustration has to be only with myself.
Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I say it felt like too much and I’d love to see how things come up organically? Why didn’t I ask for more time and space, for myself and the girls? I guess it just felt like the whole thing was just too big for me. How could I possibly think I have any ideas worth sharing when clearly there is an organization and order that is much bigger than me? I stayed silent. Then I crumbled under the pressure.
There was only one way out. I had to go back to the transactional God. I had to go back to believing there was going to be a reward for me if I’m just obedient. I couldn’t see any other way to survive. I cried for a day and a half, and I prayed to God and said goodbye. I told him that I couldn’t keep up in a narrative of sacrifice and obedience without believing in an ATM-style deity. I literally told him that I would need to say goodbye and let him go. “Thanks for the beautiful glimpses of a loving world, but its not sustainable.”
I felt his warm embrace. “I hear you. I get it. Do what you need to do. I’ll be here.” It felt comforting and stabbing all at once. Why would I let go of such love in exchange for the speed of checklist discipleship? Can anyone ever be good enough? Why am I choosing that?!
I fought it. Hard. I didn’t want to give up on what I knew had touched my heart. But how else could I keep doing what I had always done? I vented on social media:
The pace at which the church life drives us is unnatural to me. The only way to survive is by believing in a god that is holding a reward for me at the end of it if I can keep up. This is why I needed to let go of the unconditionally benevolent universe and graciously loving God that was calling to me. I told him last night I needed to say goodbye and go back to the transactional god that makes the pace of church life bearable. He seemed to be big enough and took it fine. I’m just not strong enough to hold the tension there anymore. I’m tired. If you need me I’ll be vegging out today except for all of the things I need to get done for my calling. Somehow I feel less motivated to live a full life with this quid-pro-quo god, but at least all the boxes will get checked and I’ll be more helpful to my leaders as they try to check theirs. I don’t know any other way to do this yet. It’s all Covid’s fault. Gave me too much time to actually sit with things. Well, now the sabbath is over and I’m going back into the trenches. Bring on the stress, shame, and anxiety. There better be a god-sized brownie in it for me at the end of this.
Someone replied, told me I should be able to put my family first and shouldn’t have to put other people’s kids above my own. Except my vent wasn’t even about that. I adore the girls I get to be with. All of them. And I’d invite them over just to hang out even without a calling. I sincerely love them and think they are awesome. This isn’t really me versus them, whoever them is. It’s me versus me. How am I going to navigate this?
I think I just have more emptying to do. The answer can’t be to give up on the path my heart is being drawn to and trying to fit some mold that has never felt authentic to me. I need to settle back into the things that bring me joy and peace and let everything else go. So, here it goes…
I believe in a benevolent universe and a loving God, neither of whom need us to be anything, and who create space for us to become everything.
I believe Jesus is Christ, that he lived and died to show us what being Christ as fully human looks like so we can be it too, and that it’s in this way that he brings us into union with God, also known as atonement.
I believe God lovingly consents to our attempts to draw near to him, whatever that looks like, including ordinances, temples, sacraments, sacrifices, etc… even though union with God is really just surrendering and being willing to empty our egos and be filled with Christ.
I believe that being filled with Christ leads us to do good in the world, that doing good in the world invites experiences with Christ that leads to more filling as long as there is room for it in our hearts, and that neither way is better than the other.
I believe God participates in our lives in mysterious and powerful ways, and that if we seek him we will find him because he’s always there all the time.
I believe that Joseph Smith, at a young age, felt drawn to something more than the religions of his day could offer him, and that some really beautiful things came out of that desire.
I believe that the Book of Mormon contains some really awesome stories of God’s love showing up for people and that, regardless of historicity, it is a valuable contribution to the history of humanity.
I believe beliefs are less important than faith. Beliefs are statements we arrive at when we try to put words to our interpretations of experiences with the divine, and they can change. Faith is our deepest truest divine selves reaching out to the divinity of all things and having connecting experiences that transform us, and often there are no words.
I believe the temple is a beautiful place where we can intentionally seek to have embodied experiences with the divine, that God meets us there because he comes when we call, and that the connections we have with others, even strangers, in the temple show us glimpses of eternity because of that intention.
I believe that the priesthood is a word we’ve assigned to the unspeakable power of God, which, if there are words, would be described as love, gentleness, meekness, kindness, honesty, sincerity, and the authority of authenticity, and that the priesthood does not operate through exclusivity and keys. The organization of the church might necessitate the division of labor, but there are literally no locked doors that need keys in the kingdom of God.
I believe that unity is not the same as uniformity, and that revelation does not need to be correlated to be true and helpful.
I believe that commandments as rules are small stepping stones in a whole world of union with the divine, that what we call commandments are sometimes God expressing his own nature to us as a way to draw us in, and more often are our own best ideas about how to draw near on our own when we don’t sense his presence which has always already been there, and that things like tithing, dietary restrictions, sabbath rules, and so on are helpful, until they’re not, and it is between us and God to know the difference.
I believe God does not need a restoration of old practices and policies to guide and lead his children, that any ongoing restoration is really new revelation for us today, that we shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not anyone has done it this way before, and that all things that turn our hearts to God are sacred.
I believe the church, the body of Christ, is a fluid and borderless communion of souls whose hearts are knit together with love, compassion, grace, hope, and faith, and that there are as many ways to find God as there are people who have ever come to earth.
I believe that no one needs to agree with every part of these beliefs, and that even I may not always agree with every part of these beliefs, and I’m okay with not knowing because it is in the not knowing that faith finds her stage, and her show is beautiful and exciting and worth living for.
I love my church family. I see their hearts and intentions and am never not uplifted by who they are. Really, I really, really love them. And because I love them, I hope that I’ll always be able to find a place in community with them, even though our beliefs may not always be exactly the same. I hope that I’ll be able to find healing from narratives that have become unhelpful to me so that I don’t react so poorly when others share their own journeys. I hope I’ll be more forgiving and grateful. I hope I’ll be brave enough to share what is in my heart the way I would want them to share what’s in theirs. How else can we knit our hearts together?
I don’t know what lies in store for me, or how I’m going to navigate membership in my church, but I do know that stressing about it isn’t helping me. At all. Trying to put words to subtle distinctions can be helpful to myself and others, but it’s not the only way to grow. I don’t need to force it, I can surrender to it. It’s safe. Periods of transition can be difficult, but if I’m going to empty so I can be filled, then I’ve really got to let go. There is peace here. I don’t need to have everything figured out. Now, I’ve just to find a way to remember, and a way to be compassionate to myself when I forget.