So, I’ve been having a hard time with all things church-related for about six months now. Not in an angst-driven way (the anger/hurt of last year has subsided), but in a I-just-don’t-want-to-be-religious-for-no-explicable-reason kind of way. I did know that I wanted a bit of distance from God after what happened last year, but this past week, as I thought through why I was skipping church yet again, and as I thought about where I am with my dating life, it all finally clicked for me.
I’m struggling with the law of sacrifice. But let me back up just a bit.
I’ve always believed that my dedication to the church and my pursuit of relationships and marriage should go hand in hand. Even when dating was a struggle (i.e. there was no one for me to date), I believed that if I was patient, the right man would come along, we’d get married in the temple, etc., etc. The path of commitment to the church and the path to a relationship with a man were one and the same.
When I met my ex, everything seemed to be falling into place. Not only did I feel right about pursuing a relationship with him, I had other meaningful spiritual experiences, unconnected with him, that led me to believe he was the man I was supposed to marry. Everything felt orchestrated by God. I took that as a sign, and I stayed in the relationship even after things got way more difficult than they should have been because I firmly believed that I was being guided by God. While I still believe God played a role in what happened, I ended up in a very different place than I expected.
Because of everything that’s happened, I now feel a bit differently about my life path. And what I realized this past Sunday was that right now it feels like my commitment to the church and my desire for a relationship/marriage/family are currently different paths.
One of the things I want most in my life is marriage and family, and I honestly don’t think I’m going to find someone by doing what I’ve always done–wait around and hope that at some point I find an LDS guy I’m compatible with; maybe sign up for an LDS dating site but not make too much progress because I’m just not compatible with most of the men on the site. Doing this for the last decade of my life has led to one relationship, and while it was an extremely meaningful one, I’ve pretty much experienced a dearth of dating otherwise.
And here’s the thing. I don’t want to be single for the next decade of my life. If that’s how things play out, then that’s how they play out, but if I am not able to find a long-term relationship, it’s not going to be from lack of effort on my part. And as I’ve written elsewhere, I think right now what makes the most sense to me is to expand my dating horizons and date non-LDS men. I feel really good about this decision, but it’s also raised some tricky questions.
Many non-LDS men are going to have a hard time with my LDS-ness. I refuse to date anyone who doesn’t respect my religious tradition and my personal spiritual journey, but even if I find someone who respects these things, I know there are going to be tensions that pull me away from my commitment to the church. As I pursue dating non-LDS men, things are likely to get complicated quickly.
Which brings me to the topic with which I started the post: sacrifice. Right now I strongly believe that to maintain my previous attitude towards the church means sacrificing my chance for relationships, marriage, etc. Perhaps this is not true, but I feel like it would be unhealthy for me to follow the path I’ve already followed–tie up my expectations for marriage so closely with my relationship with God and the church that I end up with enormous hurt when those expectations aren’t met. And maybe I’m not being faithful enough, but I am not willing to sacrifice my chance at a relationship in this life for a total commitment to the church and for a hope in promised blessings at some point in the eternities (I don’t mean to denigrate this as a choice, it’s just one that will not currently work for me).
This means I will be pursuing a path that could potentially lead me away from my commitment to the church to a certain extent. And right now I’d rather risk that path than put my hope in blessings that may never materialize (and I’d like to think I have some evidence this is a possibility). Right now I’m not willing to sacrifice what I want in the here and now for blessings down the road. Also, while I truly believe there are some desires that are bad for us (and should be sacrificed in our attempts to perfect ourselves), in this situation, what I want in the here and now is a good thing, and I’m not ready to sacrifice that to God. Hence, my struggle with this law.
On a final note, I think I’ve been skipping church because if I distance myself, then it won’t be quite so painful if I get pulled in different directions. But my other realization of this past week was that I need to stop making decisions out of a fear of being hurt. So, I’m going to attempt to reconnect with God, knowing that at some point in the near or distant future, I could end up torn. While I don’t relish this prospect, I think being grounded in my religious beliefs and my relationship with God is the best way for me to figure out the messiness with dating and relationships that I see coming on the horizon.