Sunday, June 7, 2009

3rd Week Back: Sad

Preparing to go to church today was hard. I hated to go alone. Then I thought of people whose spouses are not mormons yet they go to church. Mind you, all the people that I personally know in this position have children. Maybe having children to take to church makes going to church easier for some people.

When I got to church I sat down in one row and the woman in front of me was counting rows to see if the number would accomodate the number of families that they were expecting. She told me that each family likes to have their own row. I wondered if that means I'd be sitting alone or in the wrong row. I ended up sitting alone. That was uncomfortalbe although I never really cared before. It really bothered me today. When the RS president was done playing the organ in sacrament she came and sat beside me. She could have gone to sit with her SS teacher husband, married in the temple son and daughter-in-law, and recently returned missionary son, but she sat with me instead. It felt good to have her sit with me; I didn't feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb as much.

The rest of the block went well. While I heard nothing that really frustrated me I just felt so insecure. I felt like I was being judged for taking the sacrament even though I know that I am within my rights to do so. I've never felt bad about taking sacrament before either. And there is a part of me that feels that I don't have much to offer this church. When I was a young adult I remember feeling like I could be an effective leader, similar to my roles as a missionary, and do so much for good in this church. Now I feel like I suck the energy out of people. They're very nice, but I feel like they know that they have to be so careful with me. I feel like I'll never be anybody's source of strength. I feel like I'm on the fringe looking like I need to be supported more than I can actually be a support.

I'm scared about what this church can do to mess me up. I'm afraid that I'm going to become upset about the life I chose and become disillusioned about my marriage b/c it doesn't look like the typical mormon marriage/family. My husband is a good man. He is a loyal, funny, and thoughtful man. He works hard to take care of his home, me and his kids in many ways. How can I lose faith that he and I are as good for each other as we've been for 8 years? If I don't fit in with the church I'm afraid that I'm going to resent my life outside of it. It brings me to tears to think that being involved with the church again is going to change my outlook on a marriage that I am happy in b/c I'll never amount to anything more than what I am in the church. It seems like a conflict. There is so much to reconcile. I wonder if I have it in me. It's been an emotional day. My husband and I even argued, which fueled fear of me losing faith in my marriage outside of the church. Maybe I'm giving the church too much power. Sorry that this post seems so down.

13 comments:

  1. Wow, you were really hard on yourself today. Please email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com. I think I know of a resource that can help you out.

    I was single into my 30's and I know well the uncomfortable feeling of sitting alone in a family church. It is a struggle, but I do believe your head made up many judgments that just are not true, such as the following FALSE statements you made,

    "I felt like I was being judged for taking the sacrament.

    "there is a part of me that feels that I don't have much to offer this church.


    I know you had a rough day. Perhaps you didn't have much to offer today, but as your testimony grows, you WILL have much to offer this church. Don't beat yourself up.

    Let me point out some TRUE STATEMENTS. You have been an effective leader, so your statement "I could be an effective leader is absolutely true. Focus on the positive. You were a source of spiritual strength on your mission, but you've let your spiritual muscles get weak. It's time to get back on a spiritual exercise program again. You were strong once, you can do it again.

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  2. I agree with MH, you were awfully hard on yourself. But I've probably had all of the thoughts that you just touched on, so I know how hard it is to sit there -- alone -- and to think positive.

    "I felt like I was being judged for taking the sacrament even though I know that I am within my rights to do so. I've never felt bad about taking sacrament before either."


    About 2 or 3 years ago, when I started having negative thoughts and doubts about the Church, I quit taking the sacrament. In a branch of about 15 or 20 people, I'm sure it didn't go unnoticed. I had seen other people decline the sacrement before, some of them were active, "faithful" members in my eyes, so I would wonder to myself why they didn't take it. But the bottom line is that it's none of my business and it's none of their business why I didn't take it. No one ever asked. If they did, I would have just said it was personal. The reason why I quit taking it was because I had a lot of anger over the missionaries putting pressure on my husband to get baptized, which led to him quitting attending church with me. Eventually, I started taking the sacrament again and I usually have, even through all my doubts and angry periods. I believe in Christ and I feel that I'm living my baptismal covenants. It may not be in all the same ways that everyone else does, but I usually feel at peace with God in the matter and I think that's all that should matter.

    "And there is a part of me that feels that I don't have much to offer this church. When I was a young adult I remember feeling like I could be an effective leader, similar to my roles as a missionary, and do so much for good in this church. Now I feel like I suck the energy out of people."


    I think that you're probably being too harsh on yourself thinking that you're sucking the energy out of people, but I think that it's good that you recognize the potential for that to happen because when we feel bogged down by negativity or are easily offended and seem stand-offish to other members, all we have to do is try to put ourselves in their place to know what it must be like for them. Nobody wants to be around a sourpuss. It's something that I'm working on because I know I can come across as a bit stand-offish or downright cold when I get into a negative mode. I try to remember to be respectful and polite above all else, even while I'm saying "no" or disagreeing with someone else. I think that's the way to gain people's respect -- even if they can't really understand you. So I'm working at this and sometimes it can be difficult. When I feel offended, I feel tempted to get sarcastic. But I think it's always hard to go wrong as long as we try really hard to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

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  3. As far as feeling like you have nothing to offer this Church, blogging has made me realize that I do have something to offer. It's just not in the traditional sense. In a more traditional sense, I'm not closed to doing what I feel I can do. For example, although I don't feel that I can accept any leadership or teaching callings at the present time, I design a monthly branch newsletter that is sent out to all the members, including the many inactives. I can also help out some of the older members with their genealogy on the computer so that they can go to the temple.

    But I feel that perhaps my biggest contribution to the Church is what no one in my branch sees. It's the support and perspective that I can bring to those who are struggling with the same things that you and I are. And whatever I "give" seems to be returned to me tenfold. The great people I've met online have been a huge reason for my decision to stay in the Church and to find my "niche" so to speak. The Church needs people like us in order to be truly diverse, which is why I think the Church needs gay members, just as it needed black members to be "pioneers" before change came to pass.

    "I feel like I'll never be anybody's source of strength. I feel like I'm on the fringe looking like I need to be supported more than I can actually be a support."


    I think you will find out how and why you will be someone else's source of strength in due time. Just be yourself, hold on to the values you hold dear, and be agreeable when you disagree. I think you did a great job of exactly that when you made those comments during that discussion about mental illness with the stake president. You may not even be aware of who you touched on that day.

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  4. "I'm scared about what this church can do to mess me up. I'm afraid that I'm going to become upset about the life I chose and become disillusioned about my marriage b/c it doesn't look like the typical mormon marriage/family."


    You and I are in the same boat here. I used to be really bothered about all the pressure about temple marriage and family. I admit that I still struggle with it at times. However, I've come to realize that it only gets to me when I let the pressure and talks from church leaders override my personal truth and that is that I believe full-heartedly that I married the man that God wanted me to. I had a very powerful experience which I believe was a personal confirmation before I decided to marry my husband. And now I think I see more than ever just why he was the man for me. I've thought many times that if I had been married to a TBM in the temple, the stress from my crisis of faith would have just been compounded and I'm not sure our marriage would have survived. But my husband has given me all the space I've needed to deal with all my doubts without any pressure. If he decides to join someday and we get sealed in the temple, great. But it's not something that I feel has to happen in this life. In fact, I don't really understand all the pressure since we don't even believe that this life is the end. And I think that God has a purpose for people like my husband and yours, and it may not necessarily be what the Church thinks it should be. I came across a really interesting quote that I blogged about a while back. Perhaps they are fulfilling some divine purpose in their non-belief or lack of desire to commit to a religion. It's one of God's many mysteries, I guess.

    It may be helpful for you to sit and write down all the reasons why you married your husband, why you love him, why he is a good man and husband, and why you are happy in your life together with him. Once you do this, never let anything or anyone come in between what you know in your heart to be true regarding him. People in the Church may try to apply guilt or pressure in order to convince you that you need a "better marriage." They may make you feel like your marriage is inferior. Try to realize that these people probably mean well, but they have not had the experiences you have and their path is not necessarily yours. It sounds like you have a good man, so hang on to him and always respect his spiritual space, just as it seems he does with you. I used to feel offended or sad whenever my husband said anything slightly critical of the Church or members. But now I can usually answer that yes, he's right. (And really, he usually is right. Sometimes it's really important to get an outside perspective, and his has been invaluable to me.) But then I can reiterate some of the positives, such as something that I learned from a fellow blogger, or the advantages of having a network of people at church who share common values and a desire to serve others. And I know he sees the positives in that.

    I used to hate going to church alone as well. I will admit that it still sometimes feels a bit lonely, after so many years of attending with my whole family and my husband the first years of our marriage. But in a way, I kind of like it now. Maybe I feel that I have more space, I no longer have to worry about anyone pressuring my husband, I'm literally going to church just for me.

    (Sorry about the multiple posts, for some reason it would let me post everything at once. :)

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  5. Later on in the day, I was listening to one of the Mormon Stories podcasts and I thought you would find it helpful too, especially in regards to your husband and worrying about the Church making you someday feel disillusioned about marriage. Listen to the story of this couple and how/why the husband knew that she was the right one for him. I really really liked the advice that his bishop gave him.

    On the Mormon Stories archive, it's #010, Finding Our Way Back Home, Pt. 1.

    I still have to listen to Part 2. :)

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  6. Thank you MH and FD. I really appreciate your words and things to read and listen to. MH, I'll be in touch to get the resource that you're talking about. :)

    FD, what a quote from 1929! Maybe the leaders weren't as staunch and strict back then as I thought. Some of the best and most open-minded talks that I've read have been from back then! Thanks for that.

    I love the thought that people are needed outside of the church as much as in the church. Mother Theresa being one example. This morning I read the hymn called "Be Still, My Soul" and one of the scripture references is DC 101:16. It says, "...let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God". Like you, I believe that truth is truth. There is no race to the finish line for "all flesh is in God's hands". What will be will be and God is good, which may be why not everyone needs to be mormon in this life to enter the celestial kingdom. For now, my man is needed elsewhere and our time to see truth together will come. Having said that, maybe I didn't "fall away". Maybe I was needed elsewhere for a time. Now I feel stronger. I guess I'm exercising those "spiritual muscles"! :)

    Again, thank you both for your thoughts.

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