Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Religious Ruminations

I am a Latter Day Saint. To most of the world, I am more commonly known as a Mormon.

Let's clear some ridiculous notions up:
I do not have horns. And yes, for hellz sake, we celebrate birthdays and are allowed to have parties, (that might have been one of the most ludicrous things I’d ever heard) we don’t, in fact, drive around in covered wagons, and my husband has only one wife. ME. No men that belong to our church have more than one wife. If Big B did, I’d give him a swift kick to the nutters and walk away.

I have never outright mentioned my religion on my blog. I’m not sure why. Certainly not because I am ashamed of it. More because I write about my daily shenanigans and occurrences, and my beliefs are usually an integral part of that; of me.

I always grew up going to church, every Sunday, for the entire three hour block. I liked church. My parents were (and still are) very active members of our church, so I was taught the principles of our beliefs at a very early age. I was baptized when I was eight years old. In junior high and high school, I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, and I didn’t roll doobies out behind the school. I was a Good Girl. I got straight A’s, was a member of the seminary council in high school. I prayed morning and night. I read my scriptures every evening.

And then, when I was a senior in high school, I was shipped off to treatment for anorexia. And that is when my faith began to falter. Why would God allow me to hurt so much, I wondered? Did He care? I still believed in Him and His gospel, unequivocally, but began to doubt that I was worthy of His love or attention. I didn’t think I was any good.

But still, I went to church. I was no longer as enthusiastic about it, because I felt wrong, out of place in a roomful of people that I thought must be so spiritual, so much closer to God. I did not realize, as I do now, that we all hurt. We are all imperfect. But the beauty of all that is that God does not discriminate. He is not a vengeful god, or a spiteful one, looking for any opportunity to punish us. He is loving. And that is all encompassing, whether you be a sinner or a saint.

So for the past few years, that is how I have remained. A Cafeteria Mormon, I called myself. I did what I could, picked this or that, but wasn’t a member that had my heart and soul into every meeting, every activity, and every aspect of church. In fact, if I could get there in time, with Cade’s untidy hair combed, and with his slacks relatively wrinkle and stain free, it was a Good Sunday. But as the years passed, and as my eating disorder continued to corrode both body and soul, my faith wavered. Not in God, but in myself. I questioned if I was good enough, if I deserved blessings that He wanted to give me if I would only ask. I almost completely stopped praying, because I did not know how to pray for myself. I was alone, as I felt I deserved.

But last night.

Last night I was hurting. It was a degree of mental anguish that any words I could ever try to write to you, my dear readers, would be a severe underestimation. My anxiety over the course of the past month has become almost incapacitating. There are so many changes happening in the near future. I am trying desperately to eat and recover. I’m trying to be Good. A good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good employee, a good human being. And yet I feel that I am failing utterly at all the responsibilities I have or have been given.

So last night, as I sat at my desk, staring blankly at my computer screen, legs tapping a mile a minute, tears stinging my eyes, I got down on my knees.

And I prayed.

It was a selfish prayer of me, really. I did not categorically thank Him for everything that I have. I simply asked – no, begged – for relief. I asked for Him to slow my heart and my body and my mind, to allow me to sleep. I asked for peace. I asked for faith to replace my fear. And, as I was closing my prayer, I said, “I know that I do not deserve your help and your love, but I am asking anyway. I'm so sorry.” And as I said that sentence, something hit me. Something glowing, and soft, and warm, and inviting. And I felt in my heart, something that might have said, “You are deserving of good things. I am not disappointed in you. I am glad you are finally asking for help. I have been waiting. I have been waiting for a very, very long time.

And then I burst into tears. Brandon was out on the sofa and I came to him, crying. I crawled on his lap and sobbed like a baby. What is the matter honey, he asked me, alarmed?

And I said, nothing, honey, nothing.
These are tears of happiness.

Of relief.
Of peace.

35 comments:

The Gentry Family said...

You don't know me, but I have been reading your blog for a long time. I LOVE it! I read it every single day. I want you to know how much I have grown to respect you and like you. I love this post! I am so happy that you are finally seeing what all of us have been seeing for a long time! You are so loved and you deserve to be happy. :)

Cammy said...

I was very religious when I was in high school, at the height of my ED, and I often struggled with the question of "what did I do to deserve this, why am I being punished and why can't I be good enough to redeem myself?" I lived in the heart of the Bible Belt, which meant my Catholicism was considered to be just one rung above an actual cult (we had vandalism at the church almost every week). I know that that does not compare to the misunderstand and assumptions that LDS is often subject to, but I think I have at least an inkling of how that feels.

Second, I have a close friend here that is VERY Mormon, he did a mission for two years where he rode his bike to people's houses every day, when we go on research trips he checks out our itinerary ahead of time so he always knows where he can go to worship services, even in the backhills of Mexico. He is definitely devout, and he is also one of the most intelligent, compassionate, interesting and cool guys I have met. Probably a great example of why people should intermingle with others of different faiths, so they don't buy into the stereotypes the media feeds us.

Last and most importantly, I am sorry you had a hard day yesterday but am glad that you were able to find comfort. I think that there is way too much squabbling over the details of faith, and people overlook the entire point, which I believe in even though I'm no longer religious: peace, acceptance, relief. I am very, very happy that you were able to find some of that last night, and hope that you'll be able to tap into that when you need it in the future as well.
[hugs]

Cammy said...

I just realized how up-PC it looks to say "VERY Mormon." Didn't mean that badly, just trying to convey that his devotion to his church is a very large and important part of his life.

brie said...

Cammy, you know what? I believe I like you very, very much. :) Thank you so much for this comment, and for your comments on my blog yesterday. And - no worries. I thought nothing at all about the whole "VERY mormon" thing. Not uncouth at all. :)

Gentry Family, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment, too.

xo

tawny said...

I think Brie, that was one of the most beautiful posts you have ever written.

That's exactly what our church is about, love, self-worth, and knowing who WE ARE.

I really appreciated your honesty in that post b/c that helped me too. I felt so much of the same many times...

thanks for reminding me that we are EACH so divinely important. I really loved your words. xoxo

THE CREATION OF A BEAUTIFUL LIFE said...

Brie-

This may just be my favorite posting yet. So beautiful. Heatfelt and touching.

I too have been suffering for massive, almost life consuming anxiety for the past few months. It often seems hard to see past it all or to want to keep pushing forward. Your posting today encouraged me to get down on my knees and pray. Pray for myself. Pray for help.

Thank you for this posting.

God Bless!!

XOXO,
L.H.

inthemainstream said...

[hugs] I'm glad you got that wonderful feeling of peace. It takes a load off, no?

I've always found it fascinating that people of the non-religious sort (and of the religious sort as well) talk about how we've got this majority in Christianity, etc. etc. etc., but then there are so many people who just don't talk about their faith for fear of looking like nuts.

It's actually not unlike mental health, you know? We always talk about how we're a country of crazy pants, but the people who need the help the most never speak out for help because of the few bad seeds.

Weird.

Regardless, I'm glad your heart got a reprieve.

Krista said...

Thanks Brie! I needed to read this today.

Krystle said...

This is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Courtney said...

Sometimes when I read your blogs I feel like we're the same person (though in NO way would I claim to be even half as cool as you!). I have been dealing with a lot of this same stuff lately--anxiety so bad some days I'm surprised I'm still alive, lots of change, uncertainty, and also those brief moments of clarity where somehow everything is ok. This is one of those experiences that you've got to tuck away and hold on to when things get hard again (because they always do). I just finished reading this book called "The Continuous Atonement" by Brad Wilcox and even though I sometimes get overwhelmed by church books this one was AWESOME. Seriously, you should check it out or let me know if you want to borrow it.

I also have to comment on your last post...I've been experiencing the same phenomenon lately and though it boggles my mind that I can run so far so effortlessly I have to say it is sure a great feeling! I agree with what everyone else said, but I also have a couple of my own theories. For such a long time our bodies had to work so hard to function on so little, but when we start feeding and nourishing our bodies consistently it's like we have all this extra energy that can do amazing things.

People may totally disagree with me, and I would NEVER say starving yourself is a good way to get to this state because it does much more harm than good, but it's almost like our bodies adapted to being malnourished and it took the energy of a marathon runner just to walk up the stairs. But now that our bodies are healing we sometimes have the energy of a marathon runner. I also get a lot of energy when I'm anxious that some days I feel superhuman, but you have to be careful not to overdo it when you're anxious because if you burn all that energy physically it can leave you feeling pretty spent. My final theory is that once an athlete, always an athlete. You might go through phases where you're not in as great of shape, but it's always a lot easier for someone who's run a marathon (even if it was 10-15 years prior) to train for another one than for someone who has never run.

Sorry for the novel, but you really got me thinking today! :)

Hayley said...

i hear you. Oh so profoundly.

Jodi said...

Beautifully said Brie. What a beautiful experience.

Maeve said...

You don't know me, but I have been reading your blog for quite awhile. It is nice to hear you speak so openly about your religious beliefs.

I am so happy to hear that in your prayer you found the relief you needed. I do hope that can continue to comfort and help you on the path to recovery.

Telstaar said...

Oh my dear Miss B, my heart is exploding with love and joy for you. When I saw the heading of your blog I kinda held my breath (due to content from a particular recent email) but.... wow! What you write is so so true.

I will email more soon.

I love you, but more importantly HE loves you! Amen.

Love Telly xo

Dena said...

I am so happy for you. Isn't it funny how we can look at someone else and know that of course, they are deserving of the Lord's love, but it is so hard for us to recognize that in ourselves. You have just reminded me that I too am deserving of His love. Thank you.

Melisa said...

Thank you for being so open to share such an amazing experience. You have a gift with words and I couldn't help but be touched by your true honesty. I am so happy for you:)

licketysplit said...

Thank you so much for this. I have been in such conflict for so long in my feelings towards the church, and I identify with so much of what you wrote. I think that the moments I've had similar to the one you wrote of last night are what keeps me clinging to it despite any doubts I may have. Those feelings are undeniable. So glad you were able to find some peace amidst the turmoil. :)

Cammy said...

Ouch, I just reread my comment and was very ashamed at the typos, I was on my way out the door to work. So, belatedly, *misunderstanding*, and when I said he "rode his bike to people's houses" I was attempting to explain that he went door-to-door talking to people about converting. Sheesh. I do be having a brain, I promise. ;)

Who, me, perfectionist? :p Anywho I hope you are having a fantabulous day, Ms. Brie, take care and treat yourself kindly.

Penny said...

I love the end of your blog: "These are tears of happiness. of relief.
of peace. Beautifiul words that change my life too as you share them with everyone. This blog I will never forget for you have touched my heart as no other. Thank you.

Jackie said...

I am so glad you felt peace honey - this was a beautiful post and a beautiful experience. I just wanted to give you a big hug. Love you so much.

Marissa said...

I'm sitting here babysitting Jackson and Claire and I read your blog and I burst into tears. And then Jackson looked at me with his little eyes and positively cackled at me. And then I started laughing so hard that I cried again.

I guess my point is . . .

I can relate to this, on so many levels. And thank you for expressing it in a way that I still can't. Thank you for being so open and so giving. Just reading this post makes me feel what I can only imagine is just shadow of that peace you felt. I'm so glad you've found relief at last, and I love you.

And, as a really anticlimactic ending to this comment: we should totally hang sometime. I can't believe I haven't seen you all summer!

Love forever--Mari

Kara said...

I really needed this post today. Thank you so much. I can really relate.

bananas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerri said...

I am not religious, we just didn't grow up with the church at all (because my Dad 'was' catholic but got a divorce at a young age, then married my Mom)So, that gets you kicked out of the Catholic world and my brother and I weren't ever exposed to it, or any other religion. When I was younger, religious people actually made me nervous, but it was mostly because I never knew what they were talking about, or more so, because I was afraid of saying the 'wrong thing'. Despite having belonging to no particular religion, I do believe in God, if just in my own way. I don't belong to a church because I am not sure if my views would ever fit with one in particular and I would always feel on the outside. All that said, I can fully appreciate where you are coming from with this post and it makes me happy that you can feel that happy with all you have been through. I won't lie, I have had some negative views of Mormons, but this is more or less to not knowing any personally, with my only exposure being visits to my house. Which (partly due to my social anxiety) made me uncomfortable, to be honest. Your post reminds me though that even though I feel uncomfortable, most people with a strong faith are not going to be insulted by what I try to say, they just want to be accepted for who they are and what they believe in as I do.

brie said...

Everyone, thanks so much for your comments. It means the world to me, it really does, and I am happy that you may have found some relief from this post, too.

Kerri, thanks for your comment. I hope you can see (as we ALL should!) that people of all different faiths are trying, at least, to be good. People of the LDS faith, in general, are wonderful people. I'm sorry if you've had a "bad" experience with one of them. But take care!

sona said...

Hi brie

Im always commenting on your blog, and I never thought to let you know (as the gentry family did) that you don't actually know me :) Im from Ireland and Ive been reading your blog for the past few months and find it truly inspiring.

Thanks for this lovely post

Sona, XXX

Lindsay said...

Brie

I don't know if you remember me but I worked at CFC a few years ago (lindsay lovell back then, now Lindsay Foley). I love reading your blog. I had tears rolling down my cheeks when I read this post because I have felt what you have felt so many times! I love that we DO deserve God's love and grace, but so easily we forget that! Thanks for your blog (Haha...I totally blog stalk you!! Found your blog through Whitney) We have our first baby on the way and I have had so many fears, but also have had so many experiences similar to the prayer you offered. Anyway...thanks!! You are great. I have no clue if you remember me, but I love seeing (reading) about some of your "adventures" you truly do have an amazing gift!

Kerri said...

Brie,

I don't want to leave the wrong impression! Not a bad experience, because it wasn't their fault I was uncomfortable. I mean, no one is really to know when someone has social anxiety, and my lack of experience with the church is what made it more nerve wracking. I definitely don't think poorly of anyone for speaking about what they believe in. I think it is more my anxiety issues that made it somehow worse for me. Anyway, I just wanted to clarify, I tend to be a foot in mouth kind of girl unfortunately, and again, I always worry I said the wrong thing!

alriggells said...

Simply I just want to say Thank You.

Misty said...

That was the most beautiful blog I have ever read. God is always there. You are adorable and I love you tons!

brie said...

Kerri, you didn't leave the "wrong impression" no worries, honey!

Taren said...

thank you for sharing! i keep thinking i need to mention religion more on my blog because it is such a powerful subject! and such a big part of my life. i loved what you wrote, thanks again!

Brooke said...

Wow. Thanks for that post. No one knows how much I've thought about what you have been through with our religion. I have been to hell. I'm not sure that I'm near back yet. It will take a long time to heal from pain of wondering where God was when I was in so much pain. And then the after thoughts of dealing with why would I deserve his love. I relate.

I'm happy for you. Thanks for sharing such an intimate moment.
Love ya...Brooke :) Especially since we grew up in the same environment too.

Brett said...

Hey twin -

thanks for sharing your experience. I'm happy you were able to feel how much God cares for you and all of us. It's a comforting feeling during times of need.

Brett said...

Hey twin -

thanks for sharing your experience. I'm happy you were able to feel how much God cares for you and all of us. It's a comforting feeling during times of need.