The missionaries stopped by . . .

After writing my last post. I decided it was time for me to pray to see if I should or could leave the church --Maybe it just isn't for me anymore. I felt good about that, it felt like the right thing to do. But that is not a casual prayer, I wanted to wait. I would wait for Sunday and fast, if I still had the guts to do it by then.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling a bit forlorn. (Not uncommon.) I did nothing about my decision the night before. I went about my Saturday business of cleaning, making lunch, ignoring my stinky laundry, watching a Netflix DVD (It was Wire in Blood from the BBC -- way too icky, I do not recommend it), and dreading a party I had to go to later. When I got off the phone with my friend in Texas, my mother called. We chatted and then my door unexpectedly buzzed.

"Who is it?"
"It's the missionaries."
That was not unusual. I'm always on the missionaries radar because of my semi-active state (spotty church attendance). The missionaries have played a large part in keeping me active in the church (attending). Two sisters re-activated me in the summer of 2007 by visiting me once a week.

The summer of 09, when I was in the depths of extreme despair, the sisters came by to share a scripture. It was something about surviving our trials, how the Lord will get us through. It made me cry. Then a few days later, the boy missionaries stopped by to share a message with me. They read the exact same scripture. I assumed it was something they were assigned to do that week, or what they had been studying together with the other missionaries. So I asked, and they said 'No'. That was just the one they picked to do that day. That made me cry again.

This summer when I found myself unemployed, getting food from the church storehouse, and stir crazy from being home all day, I volunteered to go on splits with the sister missionaries. ('Splits' means that you go out with them to appointments, because two women missionaries are not allowed to visit a single man without a third.)

I went out with the sisters once or twice a week. It was difficult for me because I felt weird about trying to convert people. My own belief was wavering and I knew that the single people were not likely to find the joy they were seeking. So I didn't speak. I mostly just enjoyed the girls' company. The majority of their appointments were no shows, so we just rode around in the car. That ended when the sisters were replaced by men a few months ago. I haven't had a missionary visit since they left.

So, yesterday the cute elders rang my door. They brought me a Christmas present from the ward (congregation). They apologized for forgetting to bring it on time. Then they shared a message about how all of our trials are for our own good, that we are blessed to have difficulties that will make us grow and the atonement will get us through. Then one of the elders threw in D&C 122, when Joseph Smith was in jail and pleading with the Lord to rescue him. He was told to have patience because he was not yet like Job, he still had friends. I teared up, but did not cry.

I took that as a sign that my prayer was unnecessary. The Lord knew the thoughts of my heart. What I am suffering will benefit me in the long run. --It takes a lot of faith to believe that. The verse that says, "Ye are not yet like Job . . ." has been in my mind often this year. It humbles me and I try to remember how blessed I really am. I have good friends who love me. And my family has been eager to help. My mother especially. I don't have any serious physical problems. I've been able to keep my apartment and my car. I have two awesome cats. The Lord came through with a job for me at the last minute. I'm surviving without having to take a hideous job that drives me insane. I've been able to get back on my medication and I'm stabilizing. I need to be more grateful.

Life is hard, church is hard, but that's the way it is supposed to be. I don't get a free pass from church just because I don't like it.


She said...

I know the Mormon way of looking at such a situation is that these visits from the missionaries were signs from god which confirm your belief in the religion, but there is another way to look at it. After all, the universe is a mysterious place. It could be possible that you were in a place where you needed some sort of comfort, so the universe sent you some. And it's only natural that the universe sent you comfort in a form that is familiar to you. Your friends and family may have been aware that your were going through a difficult time and were sending you good vibes, via prayer, which contributed. Who really knows? This interpretation of events is just as likely as your interpretation. It is, after all, natural for us to interpret events through the lens of the paradigm to which we subscribe... Just a thought.

SilverRain said...

I fail to see the difference between some nebulous at least semi-conscious "universe" sending comfort, and God sending comfort.

CitC, thank you for this post. I'm struggling right now, too, feeling like I must have done something wrong in order for my life to be so wrong, like I'm wearing someone else's skin, someone else's life. Job is an interesting story, because according to the account, he did nothing to deserve what happened to him.

Sometimes "counting blessings" can make things even worse for me, because I beat up on myself for not feeling more grateful, more content with what I do have.

But when you're missing something, you can't expect the other good things you have to make up for it. An amputee might count himself lucky to still have three good limbs, but that doesn't make up for the one that is missing.

Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to grieve, to realize that we ARE missing something, and that we shouldn't feel guilty or marginalized for it. Nor should we feel that we can be or do things to make up for the missing thing. I think letting go of the expectation of bliss is one of the hardest things for any of us to do, especially those of us with obvious difficulties.

City JL said...

In whatever form, we all get what we need.

I know what you mean. I often feel guilty for being unhappy, knowing that it could be worse and I do have a lot of blessings. That I'm unhappy anyway means that I'm a bad person, which makes it worse. You are right, we do have a right to our unhappiness.

But at the moment, I am really grateful. I narrowly escaped homelessness and a broken car, and came close to a looney bin commitment. Feeling my mood stabilize is allowing me a moment of peace so I'm trying to enjoy it. Unhappiness is an improvement on madness.

I know what you mean about feeling that you are living the wrong life. Sometimes I think I must have made terrible mistakes to end up where I am. Only prayer can soothe that. I had a blessing that said the Lord was pleased with the way I had lived my life. I try to cling to that. And sometimes I think I must have been a rotten soul to need all this character-building. But then I realized that I needed the challenge and would be bored if things were easier --though that is cold comfort at the worst of times.

It often seems that I am pushed to the very edge of breaking before the reprieve arrives. But the reprieve always comes.

She said...

I think my point has been missed. Perhaps I didn't make it clearly. Just because you received comfort doesn't mean the Mormon church is true and that you need to continue to abide by its precepts if they don't make you happy.

City JL said...

I know this doesn't prove anything about the church. But it means I'm in the right place for right now.

SavvyD said...

God has a sensahumah, no? (sense of humor).

So you're thinking about leaving church and the missionaries stop by.

You gotta laugh.

SilverRain said...

City—It's funny, because one thing I've experienced lately is a push to let go of the reprieve. Although in many ways, I've received reprieves, they haven't been THE reprieve, if you know what I mean. But I think we have to be careful when we start trying to tell "the universe" (or God ;) ) what we need. One thing I have found extremely comforting is knowing that there are others like me, like you, who are struggling in the same ways. I think it binds us together in a way, though we don't even know each other. And I have also found that it has given me immense compassion even for situations unlike the one I'm experiencing. And I don't know that I would have been able to learn that compassion any other way.

I just hope it's useful at some point.

She—Nothing will "prove" the Church is true, just like nothing nonphysical can be proven. I think that's part of the point.

But don't discount others experiences, either. Only the one experiencing a miracle, however minor, has the ability to interpret the meaning of it. It does no one any good to criticize another's strengthening experience, even if you don't agree with the premise of it.

Kevin Barney said...

JL, I just happened by here and saw you had several new posts up. I'm thrilled that you are in such a (relatively) good place now: a job, still an apartment, a car, meds, feeling stabilized. It seems like you've been so close to the edge for so long that this stability is cause for some genuine thanksgiving. Hang in there!