Over the next weeks and months, I experienced so many emotions. Many people are familiar with the old Kubler-Ross model of grieving – there being five stages of grief – but more recently, there’s been some additions to the staging and I agree that it’s more accurate, more inclusive, especially given what I experienced: denial, guilt, anger & bargaining, depression-loneness-reflection, reconstruction and working-through, and finally acceptance. I, for one, made a stop in each of these emotion-packed destinations along my journey to where I am today. If only that journey could have been nice, neat and linear. It wasn’t.
After that day in my friend’s garden I struggled. I had made the decision to leave the LDS church and I wasn’t looking back. That decision was solid. But what did life look like now. When I had begun pulling away the funny thing is, no one said anything to me. Not a one. This is an interesting tidbit and in all the stories I’ve heard of people going inactive, it is unique. The Mormon church is a proselyting faith. And believe me when I tell you, they believe in the “go in search of the one lost sheep.” The fact that in the two years prior to my final decision I had been absolutely “inactive” (i.e., stopped holding my calling, stopped tithing, stopped attending church altogether, and didn’t attend any social gatherings) and nobody had as much asked me where I was and if things were okay is, well, I have a ton of adjectives running through my head at the thought. Incomprehensible sums it up. It’s not like I hadn’t seen anyone from the church. Our closest friends in our Ward, that family that was so instrumental in my husband’s conversion, happened to now be our Bishop. We still spent time together albeit not as often, but we were still social.
There was one point when I joined this couple, another couple and another friend on a cross-state motorcycle ride. Three days, on my own, and my husband wasn’t with us. I had alone time with nearly everyone and no one asked the obvious. It was the proverbial elephant in the room.
In the early stages I was sad about this; angry even. Did no one see me? Did no one notice my absence? I felt invisible. Then I started making excuses for everyone. I am bold by nature. I figured maybe they were afraid to ask me, that I might actually tell them what was wrong and challenge them to feel the need to defend their faith. Later I thought maybe they were being “polite” and giving me my space to work through whatever was going on and they just didn’t want to be rude and ask the question. In the end, I stumbled upon Galatians 3:23 which reads:
Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
That verse removed my anger. I realized that for me, that was God’s hand, protecting me. If at any point along those two years or so someone had pushed the door open even a little bit I might have caved. All the fears, sadness, questions might have spilled forth and I was so eager for what I was learning, finding, discovering to not be true I probably would have run back to the safety of my social network, my church family, the Mormon way of life. So, in those moments, I was protected. But this verse also helped summarize my entire experience in that church.
I am a deep believer in a time, season, a reason. I don’t feel my time in searching for God was a mistake. I don’t believe that coming to the Mormons was a mistake or wasted time either. At the time I stumbled upon that church, I was needing guidance, structure even. And let me be the first to say, the Mormons are an organized bunch. They live their life in routine. Church for three, well, now two, hours on Sunday, Family Home Evening on Monday nights, youth and occasionally adult activities mid-week, scripture study encouraged at least daily, regular temple attendance and serving in your callings and others the rest of the time. The structure did me good, especially in the early years. I came to this group wholly unstructured. I rebelled against discipline, but obedience being a virtue, especially here, I changed my ways.
Today having left that religion, I am not as structured, but I understand the value of it and I do still implement it in my daily life. Writing daily takes discipline. Working out takes discipline. I do both of these things pretty much daily. Though I no longer feel the need to fill all my time with “stuff.” I think, in part, the organization as a whole is built on busy. When you are so busy you don’t have time to think much less to question what you are doing or why, you just keep doing. And the more you do the less time you have to investigate what you are feeling or questioning. It’s a helpful tool if you want to keep your population swimming along together as they always have.
Tomorrow we’ll begin talking about my journey out of the LDS religion and the road back to Church — Church being the body of Christ, not necessarily a building, though I do attend Sunday services at a great building with some pretty awesome folks these days — and that, too, is part of my story. Thanks for sticking with me thus far. We’re almost there — the current destination. Once we arrive, you’ll get to join me on where the journey takes us from there!