It began, really, two and a half years ago, when God gave my husband and I the realization of a dream we had cherished for fifteen years: a place to live. A place where we could build a home, plant a garden, a field where our children could run and play in the grass, and a few trees to shelter the house from the wind.
I stood looking out of my kitchen windows into the drizzly morning, scrambling eggs on the little hob set on a folding table. The first breakfast I cooked in our home. Our home. The eggs smelled amazing, the moist air outside reminded me of my most favorite vacations in Oregon, and I was ready to be happy for the rest of my life. (No, really. It sounds cliché, but I was.) We had done it. We'd built a little place, were living in it, and were going to really and truly make a home in a place we chose and loved. What else was there, could there be, to happiness? This dream was fifteen years in the making, fifteen years of wandering, of hardship, and denial. We made it, and how on earth could life in the promised land be anything but fulfilling and lovely, after all we had sacrificed and worked for to get here?
It only took about 48 hours to realize that I was the only one in my family of eight that had gotten that memo. And thus began the slide into a bona-fide midlife crisis. I don't know what they call them, now . . . Google had some interesting ideas about that. But, being an overachiever most of my life, I figured 36 was close enough. And then, the deconstruction began.
It was as if, now that we had this safe place, nearly everything else was free game. Vern and I both headed into midlife crises. (I really, really don't recommend concurrent crises . . . Yeah.) Sometimes it feels as though God, in His infinite and perfect equity, expected us to give up a great number of things now that we had what we had pled for for so long. We had gone through so much to get here, to receive this blessing, I didn't expect (or think much about) what would come afterward. Early on, I consciously determined my marriage, family and faith would survive; everything else could go. I know God heard me make that distinction, because everything else did. Things I had always held as true, things and people I had always relied on (but hadn't realized how closely or heavily), things I cherished as precious. The approval and acceptance of people who I had trusted as friends. All stripped away.
But at the same time, I was gaining a friend. She was determined, that one. (Probably because it was God that told her to be my friend the day we met two years before . . . not anything that I did. I'm glad that she ended up liking me. lol) It takes me a good two years to really feel comfortable with a "new" friend, and I'm glad God made sure our paths crossed plenty ahead of time. When the rumor mill at my church would chew me up (it happened about once a year since moving here in 2009, until 2013, when it went into overdrive and I've learned a hell of a lot about what forgiveness actually means), I knew someone had my back. Someone both fierce and loyal. And fairly often, I would get glimpses into her relationship with God. And I was astounded at who He is to her.
See, I have a confession to make. I had fallen prey to the unconscionably common and wholly unconscious pride that nearly all Mormons have. It's easy to see, studying LDS history, where it comes from . . . the desperate need to cling to something to make the horrors that my people have endured in the name of following God worth it. As far as being a Latter-day Saint goes, I had that down. I could easily write something much like Paul did: Born into the covenant, raised by goodly parents, well-educated and righteous down to the last dotted i and crossed t. I knew my Book of Mormon, had read the Old and New Testaments, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, memorized the Scripture Mastery passages from Seminary, and knew every "Sunday School answer". I had graduated from Seminary, said my prayers and lived the church standards. I had "done everything right" I possibly could, and for the last two decades had been utterly confused as to why my life was (quite honestly) a wreck. My efforts had yielded well enough before I left home for BYU, but once I hit the world, my strength wasn't strong enough. I had struggled with various levels of depression from early in my college days. I watched other people in their lives, and wondered what I was doing so wrong that I didn't have in my life the promised blessings of those who love and follow the Lord. I killed myself trying, but the promised joy and peace never materialized.
In the three years leading up to moving into our place, I prayed so many times for friends. For joy. Or just for relief.
And God moved.
He worked in so many ways, arranging things in my heart and mind such that I could begin to hear Him. Sending me a friend, one outside of my religious tradition, began to open my understanding to the idea that God might be more than I had allowed Him to be. Getting those glimpses into my friend's relationship with Him, so substantially and fundamentally different from my own narrow experience, made me hungry for more. And so God put more people into my life, more testaments of His sheer joy in those who accept Him and don't put restraints on Who He Is, or what He might do in their lives.
Strip everything away, 'til all I have is You.
Undo the veils, 'til all I see is You.
I will pursue You,
Some believe that Mormons anthropomorphize God. And really, it's both too true and utterly false. Mormon culture makes God too familiar, calling Him "Heavenly Father", all while making Him far too removed and different from us in the way His perfection and omniscience and omnipotence are perceived. He is seen as the ultimate in self-control . . . as stoic deity. Always solemn and reserved, often stern. A God of incredible power from Whom we are of necessity kept distant, because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.