The last few years have been full of ups and downs testimony-wise. Actually, a few months ago I was at my lowest point; not only doubting the truth of the LDS church, but also questioning the existence of God. There have been a series of events since that time that have slowly but surely turned me back to the path that I was on before. I am back to believing in the existence of God and believing that He is aware of me and deliberately has inspired people to come into my life who can help me in my spiritual journey.
Unrelated to my quest for a testimony, I decided to take a World Religions class this semester. I just thought it would be interesting to learn more about religions and cultures that I was unfamiliar with. I didn't realize that of course I would automatically hold each set of beliefs up against those I was raised with to see how they compared. I guess you could say that the thoughts and feelings I have experienced are due to the fact that people tend to return to whatever is familiar to them, because it is comfortable. I can't really argue with that. All I know is that it has been fascinating to learn about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Indigenous religions, Atheism, Islam and Christianity. There are elements of each that are really wonderful and attractive. Also, there are many things that don't make any sense to me. As I take a look at these other faiths and listen to speakers who practice those faiths describe their doctrines and listen to the comments and questions of my peers, I keep on feeling stronger and stronger that The Church of Jesus Christ just makes sense. Ok, I don't get all of it and I could dwell on nitpicking all of the things I don't understand and get lost in them. But instead I am choosing to focus on how exciting it is to rediscover truths that I have been taught since birth and always taken for granted.
I've never had a problem with being LDS, and have for most of my life happily accepted its part in my life. I used to be very closed off to other faiths and belief systems. A naive part of me believed that if I opened myself up too much, I would be corrupted and weakened somehow. Well, my insatiable love for meeting interesting people and learning and collecting all of their stories didn't allow me to isolate myself for long. As I came into more frequent contact with "skaters" and "goths" and other Christians and atheists and agnostics, etc etc I fell in love with many of them and tucked my own beliefs out of sight, not out of disbelief or shame, but because I wanted to make all my new friends feel comfortable enough to share everything about themselves with me. Parading my beliefs only led to abrupt ends of conversations, or to battles attempting to convert one another.
If you tuck something away for long enough, you lose it little by little. I think that's part of what happened to me. But I really truly loved being able to adapt to different situations and form genuine and lasting relationships with people so different from myself. I don't regret it. What I am discovering, in part thanks to the class I'm taking, is that I don't have to hide my beliefs to maintain valuable and diverse relationships. And really, aren't I cheating if I expect others to reveal themselves completely to me but diminish a huge part of who I am for their "benefit"?
I'm loving life again, for a lot of different reasons. I'm feeling more like my old social self...no more panic attacks at the thought of having to sit next to strangers in class or attend church functions where I don't know anyone. I am seeing an amazing counselor who is helping me dissect myself--my present and my past--and after examining the pieces, put them back together in a much more understanding and optimistic way. I made the same mistakes that I always do in school this semester, but guess what? Instead of giving in to feelings of failure and shame I squared my shoulders and held my head high and because of that I'm finishing successfully. I thought drugs and therapy would "fix" me and my definition of being fixed was to stop making mistakes, or at least to stop making the same ones over and over. Imagine my surprise as I've learned the key isn't to stop making mistakes (although that's still a worthy goal, eventually) but instead to shift my reactions to those mistakes once they've been made. It's not about what we do wrong, but whether or not we keep fighting to do right and learn and grow and pick ourselves up each time we fall down. I'm not losing because I'm fighting a lot of the same battles. I would be losing if I had given into each of those weaknesses and had moved on to deeper and darker problems with no hope of ever recovering. But instead, I'm learning to recognize that I am a winner precisely because I have picked myself up 1,569,231 times and will continue to do so. One day I will be able to take those weaknesses, one by one, and offer them up to someone better able to permanently erase them. Until I've mastered that part of the Atonement, I'll keep fighting and winning the only way I can.
I'm rediscovering the things about myself that I used to recognize and own with confidence. One of these is my natural curiosity and ability to ask questions in church and in world religion and in biology and among friends that prompt meaningful answers. I think that asking good questions is an art, and I believe it's one of my talents. I feel confident speaking in front of my peers, and believe the things I have to say have value. I haven't believed I had anything valuable to offer for a few years now, so this is huge for me. For a long time I've been going through the motions, so on the surface most people couldn't tell just how much I was hating life and myself. I'm a really good actress. My actions haven't changed a whole lot, on the surface, but now that I am falling in love with me again I can OWN my actions and my strengths and so while others may not notice, to me I am a different person. I AM, instead of TRYING TO APPEAR TO BE.
Back to the original topic, along with falling in love with me again, I am also falling in love with the testimony that I had hidden away and almost lost, as puny as it is right now. I have never been in a serious relationship, but I imagine what I am feeling now is similar to a love-struck teenager. I can't get enough of the scriptures, I get lost for hours on LDS.org, I LOVE conversations with people of other religions who enrich my faith because of our common beliefs. I hope to have this euphoric love mature into something deep and penetrating and steadfast. I still struggle with the idea of having the ability to build a personal relationship with God. I don't think I love me quite enough yet to believe He wants to listen to my silly prayers and watch my silly life. But I sure do believe He loves my friends and family, because I love them so so much and see exactly why God would too. So, as I work on loving myself more, and reaquainting myself with old beliefs about God and His Son and the Atonement, I hope that in time a personal relationship will come. I also hope I can start to figure out the tricky business of being worthy of promptings from the Holy Ghost and of recognizing them when they come.
I know I've been all over the place in this post tonight, but I can't slow my mind or heart or fingers so I've just let everything spill out the way it wanted to. I feel full of life, and that is something I've been craving for a very long time. Thank you to all of my friends and to my family who do and don't read this. For loving me when I don't love myself because in all honesty there have been dark times when without you I would not have been able to find any motivation to keep going. And for being my link to God because I can't see or hear or feel Him, but I sure can see and hear and feel you guys and I think He knows that and uses it to help me as I limp along day by day. I appreciate your patience with me and all of my silliness and depressingness and searching.
I have no good way to end this, so I guess I'll just say Good Night.