Sunday, March 28, 2010

Learning from my break

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about the repercussions of taking a month off from church. Those observations helped me realize that I really am ready to start going back, slowly of course.  I have been to sacrament meeting the last 2 weeks, and tomorrow I am helping in one of my son's primary classes. But I have decided that I really do not regret taking a break.  It was what I needed to do at the time, and I learned several things from the experience.

1. One of the main issues I was having before my "break" had to do with the fact that Scott did not go with us any more.  I was resentful of him and felt embarrased or awkward at church as a single parent. In the first couple of weeks of not going, however, I came to understand personally why Scott stopped going, and how it could be so easy to stop.  It was much easier for me than I expected it to be because of the pain and bitterness I was feeling. As I have gone back the last couple of weeks, the anger and resentment I was feeling for Scott for not going with us was gone and I knew it was what he had to do for himself.

2. I had hoped that not going to church would help save my marriage, since it would give Scott and I one more thing to help unify us. The first couple of weeks, it really seemed like it was helping, but when I realized that it really was not going to make any difference, I also realized that I was going to desperately need the support system that the members of the ward could give me through upcoming changes in my life.

3. I have been able to observe first hand what works and what doesn't when dealing with someone who is inactive, and hopefully I have learned and can remember how to be a more Christ-like and loving member of the church toward others in need; how to be a sincere friend instead of just "I'm your visiting teacher or home teacher or other leader and so here I am doing my duty with my stewardship."  That doesn't mean I think any of these people were insincere in their efforts to reach out to me.  I believe that they believe they were/are truly representing Christ and that they really do care about me.  But some of them came across differently than others, and I recognized times in my own life that I have tried to be sincere in my efforts to serve others, but unbeknown to me had really just been acting out of duty to my calling rather than with sincere love.

4.  I was hoping that by taking a break, that the wounds from some of the pain I was feeling would heal better with separation from the source and also with the passing of time.  I believe it really did work as I hoped, and although I still have some feelings of bitterness, I am renewed and more determined to continue working on forgiving certain individuals.

5. I learned that I really am capable of letting go, of setting pain aside for a while and letting it not rule and control my life. I was letting the goal of getting my temple recommend sit in the forefront of everything else, and so everything reminded me about it and made me more frustrated that I couldn't get it. But letting it go a bit (not completely, just enough so that it could be a goal in the back of my mind instead of controlling my every emotion) was so liberating.  I huge weight was lifted from my shoulders immediately.  I no longer resented the fact that my children were attending the temple without me; instead, I just rejoiced that they were able and willing to go. My recommend is now creeping forward in my mind again, probably because my father-in-law suggested that I should continue to pursue it, and I've noticed again this week since mentioning it to the bishop that letting it be so important to me does nothing but cause me pain and frustration and bitterness.  I need to find a happy medium between giving it up completely (and not really giving a damn any more about staying worthy of it), and letting the thought and goal and obsession of getting it back control my life. I can still work toward trying to figure out what I can do to be worthy of it in my leaders eyes, and most importantly stay worthy of it within my own heart, and then have faith that everything will work out, that when the time is right, I might enter those sacred walls once again.

6. I learned just how important the church really is to me, and how important I feel it is for my children.  The church as an organization is far from perfect because the people in it are not perfect, but the gospel is, and the ideas and values that the gospel teaches us about striving to be like our Savior and also about letting the atonement work in our individual lives is so important. I was raised with this attitude about the church, but now I think I understand it better, and I am hoping that as I return into activity I can remember and overlook the imperfections a bit in favor of the benefits.


Quiet Song said...

I'm glad you are coming back. Having a spouse leave the church is not an easy thing to go through, particularly as the spouse has his or her own stages they go through. Mine is currently back to attending on a fairly regular basis. He told the Kid that no one checks to see if you are gay or have a testimony at the door. This is much like other interfaith families in other religions, often one attends with the other although they don't believe. In a strange way, its been good preparation for the day if it ever comes I have an excommunicated son and son in law coming with their children. It will still be a pleasant worshipful experience even if all are not "card carrying or testimony bearing" mormons.

Ned said...

Wonderful post, Sarah. Your positive but realistic attitude reminds me of several thoughts:

"...neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
-Romans 8:38-39. So, yeah, your break was just that, a break, not a separation.

It also reminded me of Eleanor Roosevelt's famous one-liner on self-esteem: "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." This shines through as you realize that you have a great deal of control over your thoughts about your recommend, or your children attending the Temple, Scott's decisions, your leaders actions, what someone said or didn't say, etc.

Finally, your post reminded me of this idea that's been so valuable to me over the years: "We can't change the past, but we can change how we think about it." You are doing this by saying, I took a break and it had some positives and I'm chosing to move forward in ways that I think are best..."

Anyway those are the three thoughts your post brought to mind. Thanks! Hope you and all your loved ones have a great Sabbath and week ahead.

lanabanana said...

I always appreciate your thought process and your sharing it. It continually makes me think. Much love to you as you travel along your path.