Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Building Bridges

Wow. I know it has been forever. So, so busy with job and five kids. And I guess I kind of abandoned the blog after one of the comments called me whiny. And I now have other "secret" forums where I am more likely to vent the whiny stuff.

But I have to share a quick experience.

I've been attempting this month to go back to church on my terms. I've managed to make it at minimum to Relief Society and at most the entire three hours for the past four weeks. When there is a lesson I'm not really into, I distract myself with my phone, or grading papers, or last week, crocheting flowers. :) Or if the teacher is one that I know in particular is difficult for me to listen to, then I will just find someone in the hall or library to talk to and sluff that portion. I really think I am probably going back more for the community and the friends and less for the gospel messages, but I get a bit of spiritual nourishment in the process.

Over the last year to 18 months I have probably averaged attending at least one meeting or class at church about once a month. And the times that I have been most reluctant to go back have been when I've felt inclined to make a comment that lead to awkwardness and sometimes a feeling of conflict within the room. So over the past month, I have pretty much kept my mouth shut.

This past Sunday the lesson in Relief Society was from the 2012 October General Conference: "I know it. I live it. I love it," by Ann M. Dibb. The teacher was a substitute and a sister in the ward that I don't really know. She indicated that she liked her lessons to be more of a discussion, so she asked questions and expected participation. One of the main topics she threw out to us toward the beginning of the lesson was whether or not any of us had been in a circumstance where we had a difficult time admitting that we are Mormon. As I pondered the question I thought, well yeah, now I think I sometimes don't want to admit it. But it's not really admitting it as much as it is that I am in a different place with Mormonism--less active and not believing everything any more. So sometimes I will say that I am sort of Mormon, or I'm honest and say I am Mormon but that I don't go to church very often. I never would have hesitated admitting my religious affiliation at all before my crisis of faith.

Anyway, I was sorta thinking through all this when a thought went through my mind and I decided that maybe I should share it. I hesitated at first, but that was okay because there were lots of other ladies participating and sharing their stories. Finally I raised my hand bravely and shared something like this:

"Many of you know that I have gay friends that I would stand up for. I am the adviser of a gay-straight alliance at the high school where I teach. Inevitably the topic of Mormons comes up once in a while with these students, and the Mormon-bashing begins. When that happens, I stand up for Mormonism by telling them that I am a Mormon and that I don't judge them and they know that I love them."

For once I said something that did not seem to make everyone awkward. In fact, the teacher began sharing a story about a gay man at her work that was hesitant to get to know her at first, that he might have expected that based on her age and religion that she would be judgmental of him. But soon he learned that she wasn't at all what he expected and they became good friends.

Another lady (that I also didn't know) shared another story about a gay friend of hers. I was amazed! I had used the "g" word in the room, and it did not catch on fire. The spirit didn't leave, and no one appeared to get tense and uncomfortable. I've always felt like I wanted to get people in my ward talking about the gay issue. Not about what is right and what is wrong and what is sin and what is happening to the morals of this world we live in. But about people. About love. About acceptance. About children of God.

This positive experience makes me want to continue to go back and to watch for opportunities to build bridges.