He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;
Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
The last couple of years have been a hard time for my life in the Church; the last several months, particularly hard. A few weeks ago, to my own surprise, I came to the edge of my ability to go on. I broke with certain of my conceptions about the relationship between the norms of the human community and the will of God, telephoned my stake president, and asked to be released from my calling.
Although almost no one there even knows about my current trials with the Church, somehow I just haven’t been able to face my own ward. The first week after my break, I stayed home. But I always miss church when I don’t go, so the next week, I drove across town to attend a ward where I could be relatively anonymous. I sat in the foyer, which is where I like to sit at church, and I sat alone, which is is how I like to be at church. I went mostly to take the sacrament, which wasn’t brought out. I almost left. But I couldn’t bring myself to walk out and drive the twenty minutes back home without anything to show for my pains.
The talks were all on the Great Apostasy. There were the liberal quotations from Bruce R. McConkie, the rhapsodies to Luther and Tyndall and Wyclif, and an extended analysis of the Catholic Church’s various doctrinal failings. I all but groaned aloud. The casual demolishment of Catholicism’s nonsensicalities, the unqualified veneration of the Reformation, the equally unqualified denigration of the dark Dark Ages–it seemed all the evidence that I needed to prove to myself, yet again, that the church is not for me.
At times over the past few months, and especially this past month, when everything connected with church has been so hard, when the endless Relief Society announcements in my inbox look like they came from the Mars of Babyshower Land written in the Greek of Motherese, it’s been like watching myself crash down a well whose bottom I cannot see, periodically clanking against the sides as I hurtle into the dark. How far will I go? I’ve find myself picking up cheddar-beer soup in the grocery store or looking at the array of coffees standing in line for hot chocolate at school and thinking, in self-pity and exhaustion, why not? Who cares? My husband’s long gone from the church. I have no children to set an example for. What difference does it make what I do? Why should I try to keep living and living this strange and hopeless Christian life, why should I observe these bizarre customs–the alcohol and coffee prohibitions, the seemingly endless activities and service projects, the funny underwear?
Sitting there in the foyer by myself on that bleak February afternoon, listening to talks I couldn’t decide if I believed a word of, I felt the strangest, most unaccountable sense of mercy. There were no answers to the complexities of the Great Apostasy, or to the more pressing, personal complexities of how on earth it is that I am to go on in this Church. There was no sense of clarity about what to do or even what to think. There was just a sense of not being alone in my aloneness, as if some divine, compassionate hand had brushed the tears from my cheek. There were no answers. Only grace.
At moments like that, I recall the scriptures that claim for the quiet voice of God an endurance beyond the heavens and the earth created by its still power, and I remember the voice that calls me, that never ceases to call me beneath the tumult of the world and my daily cares and sins and sorrows, that calls me in the name of Christ. I want to kneel and press my ear to the earth to hear the voice that never ceases beneath it, that indeed founded it, the voice the speaks with the unwavering constancy of song, of a single note sustained and sustained, too deep and piercing for human words. I want to hear that voice with such resolution, such devotion that I cannot waver in any other consideration. I have been so foolish and so wrong. I have mistaken the voices of well-meaning human men and women for the voice of God.
As I try to rebuild my spiritual life from yet another of these inevitable minor crises that constitute a human one, I want to cast away the last shreds of my concerns with what others think of me, with their praise or blame, with the conformity to expectations and the dishonest consent to which I have wrongly believed God has called me. I want to hear true, the truth of God and the truth of my own life with an entirety that disallows every hint of polite and empty lies, of false and timorous conformity. I want to fill my ears with nothing but that voice of fierce truth as it resounds and resounds in my own quailing, human heart.
- 23 March 2007