“Death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance”*
I’ve experienced a death, a death of a life I knew and trusted for 29 years. Perhaps it’s dramatic to describe the loss of faith as a death, but part of my previous life is gone, never to be recovered. And as with any death, a period of grieving begins.
My grief comes in spurts, most of the time brought on by random sometimes unrelated stimuli. Each time, after a major downpour of tears and sadness, I feel cleansed, like I’m a little closer to accepting the loss of a life of certainty and comfort.
Book of Mormon Stories
I’m enjoying a lazy, Saturday morning by lying in bed reading Facebook. A post in the Mormon Stories group asks what Book of Mormon scripture we still find valuable in our post-Mormon life. Surely I still find meaning in a book I cherished for years. It had been over a year since I’d forced myself to read it. Moroni had failed me miserably after the last read through, and I gave up, throwing my marked up, rumpled blue copy of the Book of Mormon on the floor beside my bed.
I searched for my once-trusted, well-read copy beneath the bed and found it covered in dust. I blew off the months of neglect and disbelief and began flipping through it searching for meaning. I skimmed my once favorite and multi-colored, marked up chapters all covered in notes like “Be nicer to my Mom” and “the Lord is on my side – accept His will & HAVE FAITH!”… it all felt meaningless to me now. Or, more accurately, its meaning had changed dramatically. And the deep connection I once felt to these words was now hollow and unrecognizable.
And before I knew it, I was shaking and uncontrollably, crying in my bed feeling so alone and lost. So much of my life had been devoted to this book, to reading its pages, to marking the words of Christ. Now, it was simply a story, one that had the potential for meaning, but left me feeling empty.
Like a Rolling Stone
It’s late spring, and I’m out running in the heat and humidity that’s settling in this time of year. Already suffering, I’m nearing the 2.5 mile mark of my planned 3 mile run. Almost there, almost there.
Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” starts playing on my iPod, a song I’ve loved since I was a teenager. However, I haven’t listened to it all that intently in a long time. I pay close attention to the lyrics to take my mind off of the discomfort, and I start to realize how much this song speaks to my present state with the church and my faith.
This verse hits me:
“You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?”**
And right there on the running trail, I lose it and cry. I cry so hard I have to stop running. I feel the weight of having so much of my life taken from me, ruled for me, without having much of a say. And I deeply feel the pain of not having a home, a place I don’t feel lost, a safe haven free from judgement and fear. And I grieve that loss.
Even if ye can no more than desire to believe
I sit in Relief Society today listening to others talk with assurance about how they KNOW God knows them personally, loves them, and will help them through any earthly trial. I long that for certainty. We read Alma 32, and I contemplate exercising “a particle of faith” and simply desiring to believe…and I find that I cannot.
I cannot know anymore. I cannot find comfort in a personal God, for if he exists, he has forsaken me. But I desire to believe in God and in this gospel that’s still ingrained deep within me. Is that enough? I plead with myself, let it be enough! Let that desire work in you! It can all go back to normal again…
But in that moment, I acknowledge the reality that it’s nearly impossible for me to go back, for my faith to be sufficient, for me to KNOW that there is a God and that he knows me.
“Coldest day is here, skies are clear
Except your blinding constellation
Still you fall behind the west
Except this beating tune in my chest
Everywhere I go I look for you
Do you look for me where you go, too?”***
Each of these grieving sessions has been both a heartbreaking and cleansing experience for me. I know there is more grieving to come, more facets of my lost faith to explore and reconcile. It’s good grief, good for my soul and my mind. Good for my past and the uncertain future I face.