Last summer, I was at the point of questioning my belief in God. I was questioning whether any of it was real. I couldn't figure out how to decide if the whole religion thing was just a big scam. My kids were asking if they could live with their dad on a 50/50 plan. That would mean one week with me, one week with dad. And here I was, so far from God I knew I could not talk to Him. I hurt in a deep and dark place at the thought of losing even more time with my children. I had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to.
And then, my friend invited me to go on a mission trip. I decided to make a choice. I decided to stop questioning and take a leap of faith. I decided that I was going to believe in God, and I was going to follow Him, and listen for Him in my life.
I went on the misison trip. I went to devotional every night with my team- an entire group of Baptists. I spent every day serving the people in a remote town in Guatemala. And something happened. I quit thinking about the pain of the decision I had to make. When it tried to come into my mind, I just thought to myself, "God, I am giving this to you. I am not strong enough to live with this pain." I focused on serving others. I focused on sharing God's love with the sweet people I met. I listened to these Baptists (who I had always been annoyed by) share their testimonies of God in their lives. And somewhere along the way, I was converted back to Christianity. I was able to feel God's love in my heart. I was able to see God's love in the actions and words of those around me. I was able to give up my selfish concerns and worries and focus on God's work. And, I was happy. I knew great joy. And then it was time to come home.
I came home and realized my decision was made. Somewhere in the backwoods of Guatemala, when I gave the weight of the burden to God, He made the decision for me and took the pain from my heart. I would let my children go 50 percent of the time. The burden of this ache would not be mine to bear.
I came home and realized that I was a Christian once more. I had allowed God into my heart and felt His words flow through me once again. I was able to think of scriptures and songs that I hadn't heard or used in years.
I came home and had a new love for the Baptists. The people who I had never been able to understand were now my friends. They were now people that I could appreciate and love.
I don't know that my idea of God and religion has changed completely, but I now have a clearer view, a stronger spirit, and a new theory on religion.
In the months that I have been home, I have started attending church again. I have gone to a few new churches, trying to find a church home that I can feel comfortable with. I am not quite at home in any of them, and the ache for my old home in the Mormon church remains. My children have asked me to go to church with them, and so I do. It makes them happy, and it gives me time with them.
I have a hard time sitting in the chapel during sacrament meeting. I don't agree with much of what is said. I don't like the boredome that ensues when uneducated or ignorant or poor-planning speakers stand up there droning on for 20 minutes. I grow frustrated in the few Sunday School classes I have attended where half the time is spent with people chattering on about inconsequential things. The two times I have tried Relief Society, I have been biting my tongue the entire time. I often spend time reading in the Scriptures, looking up things on the phone, or walking out of class to stand in the hall.
On the one hand, it feels like I am home- not loved and safe and welcomed- but in the house with the people I once loved and pretending that everything is okay. On the other hand, we are just pretending. I can feel them trying to reel me in; they are constantly finding ways to keep me at church for something-something about one of my kids. I don't know if they think I am coming back to them, if they think I am there just for my kids, or what. Frankly, I don't know exactly what my main goal is in being there.
I haven't quit missing my church home. I haven't lost the ache of its absence. I haven't found anywhere else to belong, but I know I will never be safe here. I know I will never send my children into this building or to an activity with the people without a slight edge of hesitation and worry.
Today, a friend's daughter was in a Sunday School class where the teacher said that "gays are an abomination." Apparently, when this young girl stated otherwise, the entire class started gay-bashing. I am appalled, even now, hours after finding this out. I try. I give them the benfit of the doubt. And every time, every time, there is something that I just can't live with.
And always, always, I compare what is happening within the church with my beliefs.
Today, during the insanely boring speaker in Sacrament, I decided to search out the scripture to define my beliefs. I found it:
Mark 12:30-31: And though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
I believe that we should, at the very least, love each other. We should not just love the people in our ward, the people who are "like" us financially or socially. We should love everyone, especially those who are not in our church building with us on Sunday.
To truly be a follower of Christ, we must serve each other. We must spend our time, money, and energies to make life better for others.
I maintain my simple belief that the best life to live is a life lived trying to emulate Jesus Christ. He is the one great Exemplar we must follow to return to our mutual Father. When we truly believe in the divinity of Christ, and in humility, accept his grace, we gain faith. When we have true faith, there is no other way to live an honest life except to follow His example.
Jesus did not spend His time with the wealthy and the well-known. Jesus spent his time with the common man and the sinner.
We must step outside of our safe churches and serve those who are not within the walls. We must answer the cry of the woman on the street and the man in despair.
We must love.
We must serve.
We must do better.
We must put Christ back into His church.
We must not be afraid, for it is our children and our future that we prepare the way for.