One of the most difficult “tapes” I”ve had to try to erase from my time in a high demand religion is black & white thinking. “It’s” wrong or right, good or bad, perfect or imperfect, good or evil. Not only does this way of thinking lead to being a judg-y person (she’s immodest = bad….”did you see how short her shorts are?”), but it leads to limiting beliefs about self, life, and what’s possible in all areas.
I sincerely thought there was something wrong with me once I became a member. So many of the talks I would hear at church, lessons in Relief Society, or talks at conference would center around my holy calling as a mother and a wife — a helpmate to my husband. I remember thinking, “that’s it? That’s my whole call in life? To serve my kids and my husband? But I am a strong woman, I have a bunch of talents and desires to use them and ideas of businesses and reaching other people through them.” Of course I love my kids and my husband, but I had a hard time swallowing that this was supposed to be the pinnacle of my life…laying on my death bed having those around me say what a “good wife and mother I had been.”
During my time in the church, I often found myself frustrated that I didn’t fit the ‘Molly Mormon’ mold. I was told on more than one occassion my ego was my “problem” and that I wouldn’t be called into leadership positions because of it. I’m sure it wasn’t because I had a habit of questioning the brethern about “why nots” in the callings I was granted…like when I was a Young Women’s leader I peppered one of the bishopric with this doozy…”why can’t the girls have a high-adventure-like outting to fulfill a young women value like the boys in Scouts do?” He practically patted me on the head as he quickly walked away.
I tried to quiet down, to fall in line. To “humble” myself and stop thinking “highly” of the qualities I possessed that didn’t align with the Mormon version of wife and mother, but the traits that I came with didn’t like being repressed, so I started to feel shame in them. Why am I so loud? Why am I so business-minded? Why do I feel the need to accomplish big things outside of my home? I questioned myself until my thinking was solidified…wanting things outside of what I “should” be = bad. I stuggled with this literally for years. It wasn’t until some time after I that I understood the true insanity of it all. This wasn’t of God — once again — this was of man.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
~ Ephesians 2:10
God knows who I am. I am not wholly good or bad. I may make interesting choices sometimes that lead to even more interesting lessons, and even when I do, my core is not “bad”…and those traits I was trying to repress while playing “Molly Mormon”? He created those traits in me as well. Paul gives a whole sermon on it in Romans 12 and encourages us to use these gifts to their fullest and not waste them by downplaying them while we pretend to do this out of humilty. It’s not wrong to be good at something and to know you’re good at it. It’s part of God’s plan and it’s the way we help and strengthen one another in this adventure called life.
In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsiblity seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
I am so thankful my eyes were opened and I was able to walk away; that I am no longer following “man’s” word, but God’s. That I no longer have to limit my abilities or my potential to fit some ridiculous mold. I am able to use all my gifts, talents and abilities not only for my good, but for God’s glory in the lives of others.
Do I think my time in the Mormon church was a complete waste? Once upon a time I did, but I realize that, too, is black & white thinking. For me, joining was a choice. I made a decision to be there because I thought it was right – and true. It served a purpose for me at the time. My membership gave me structure, which I think I deperately needed in my life, gave me a community, gave me discipline, but it also gave me some limiting beliefs. And in that is a lesson to be found as well.
Often I’m asked if I truly left the church, then why can’t I leave it alone? I think it’s because of this experience.
Having repressed the very nature of who I am taught me not to do that again. That limiting who I am caused me a ton of stress and internal conflict. And really, who did it serve? Not my children, not my husband, not my friends or those around me, and certainly not God. But had I never repressed my nature, I might not have embraced who I am so fully. I find that when something I value is threatened that’s when the lion in me comes out to protect it. Today I am stronger than I was, more focused, more confident and for sure fiercer. I don’t stand idly by when I see injustice being done — especially to those around me who might not have a strong voice for themselves. And that is what I can’t leave alone — not the church — but the injustice it does to its members.