I wish that I could say that leaving the church has brought me increased happiness.
I wish that I could say that my life has deeper meaning and purpose.
I with that I could say that I have found a new set of beliefs to teach my children.
For a long time, I even wished that I could find another church to turn to, for comfort, answers and a sense of belonging.
But, I have not found any of that.
What I have found, is that leaving the church sucks. It sucks for so many reasons. It’s hard and it hurts, but sometimes hard things are good for you.
Reason number one:
It sucks that I don’t have any answers. I used to know the answers… or I thought I knew. I had such a perfect picture of where we came from, why we were here, and what would happen when we died. The church gave me the answers. It gave me temples, prophets, and promises of eternal families, and eternal happiness.
And then one day, I learned it wasn’t true. I, of course, didn’t like this new information, so I resisted. I didn’t want to let go of my answers. I liked my world just the way it was, so I clung to my beliefs. I held on tight, like a child clinging to her mother’s leg on the first day of school. But I couldn’t prevent growth and I couldn’t prevent truth. Just because it is scary and difficult, does not make telling a lie, right or true. I have had to learn and accept that I no longer have the answers.
I do not know why we are here, where we came from, or where we are going after we die. No one knows. We hope, and we believe that there is more, but we do not know.
Reason number two:
It sucks that I don’t know how to be a good parent. I used to know exactly what to do to be a good parent. I had a little hand book that told me. I had a list of 13 things that I needed to focus on. I was supposed to read, pray, sing and discuss these things with my kids every day. I taught them what they couldn’t drink (coffee), couldn’t wear (tank tops), couldn’t say (swear words), couldn’t do (masturbate), couldn’t view (rated R movies) or couldn’t be (gay). The world was so black and white. I knew how to raise my kids and I had lots of other adults helping me. They taught my kids in Sunday classes, weekly activities, summer camps, and early morning lessons. I even had a bishop regularly questioning my kids to make sure they were following all of the rules.
Now my husband and I have to come up with all of the rules of parenting by ourselves. We have to figure out what to teach our kids, and we have to do it all by ourselves.
Reason number three:
It sucks that leaving my religion has caused a significant amount of distance between me and my family, in-laws and friends. We all used to be in the same club. We all shared the same culture. We had the same goals for our kids and for ourselves. We agreed on what was right and what was wrong. We were all on God’s team.
Now, my Mormon friends and family believe that we are wrong. They think that we are making a terrible mistake that will eternally affect us. They believe that we will not be able to get into heaven because we revoked our temple promises. They believe that we are preventing our kids from having a deeply meaningful life.
How can I have a real relationship with someone who believes that I am living in a way that will keep me and my family out of heaven? I can’t. They can’t. Our conversations are all superficial because it hurts too much to be honest. It causes deep heartache and sadness.
Reason number four:
It sucks that my Mormon friends and family cannot fully accept my gay son. They are not allowed to. The belief that homosexuality is wrong is constantly preached, even today. They can not fully love and support someone whom they believe is living contrary to God’s plan.
What really sucks, is that they cannot see how perfect he is. They can not accept that my son’s sexuality is not a sin. It hurts me to my core. My husband and I are virtually the only adults in my son’s extended family that truly believe that his gayness is not inherently evil, sinful or wrong.
But…it doesn’t all suck
I am not always happy, but I do have my family.
I didn’t force my husband to leave, and he didn’t force me. We waited until it was right for both of us. We didn’t tell our kids to stop going to church, instead we offered to keep going to church with them. They chose to stop attending church, they chose to learn and grow and change with us. They chose to love and support their gay brother.
My family struggles together, laughs together, and fights over who’s turn it is to do the dishes, but we are happy. We are searching for new purpose and meaning together.
I don’t always know what is right and what is wrong, but I love making my own decisions, like an adult.
Sometimes I make a terrible choice… and then my teenager has to tell me that I acted inappropriately, and then have to apologize and make a mental note to avoid doing that thing again, but at least it was my choice. I can decided what is right and wrong for me. I can choose what I want to believe.
I have accepted that I don’t need to find a deep meaning and purpose to this life, all I really care about is love. Just love. That’s the only thing we have control over anyway; whom we choose to love and how we show that love.
I have not found new beliefs and rules to teach my children and I don’t need to.
Everyone of my kids is different, and I need to parent them all differently. I want to teach them to know that the world is diverse and full of grey, not just black and white. I want them to know how to work, how to be safe, how to make healthy choices, and above all, how to be kind. I get to make the rules, bend the rules or change the rules. I can parent however I want.
Leaving the church sucks, it’s hard and it hurts. Some days are worse than others, but it’s getting better. I am learning and growing from all of it. Sometimes I just have to accept that doing the right thing sucks.