I was angry that church didn't seem like a place of peace. In fact, church was just exhausting.
Maybe this faith struggle is news to you and maybe it isn't but tonight, I want to dive into it a little bit deeper than I usually do. I want to reminisce on how I became this person that I am today.
I can remember being a 5 or 6 year old in my primary class and learning about prayer and how we all have the ability to speak with God whenever we want. This amazed my young mind. I would often pray and have long conversations with God. I would tell Him about my day, about the boys I liked, about the friends I had, etc. He was my friend.
As I got a little older, church started to become more difficult. I was teased and left out a lot of the time. I began to resent church because I didn't want to be around so many fake people who preached about love and acceptance but weren't very kind to me.
My teenage years were especially hard. I was enrolled in seminary in high school and although I secretly enjoyed so many things about seminary, I was struggling with feeling accepted and loved. I was the rebellious teen and I knew a lot of my church peers would talk about me behind my back. Luckily, during this time, I made friends with a new girl in my ward who I related to so well.
I don't believe I ever stopped believing in God or His gospel but I didn't really understand the extent of the church. I had witnessed a lot of incidences that I cannot deny which cemented my testimony in God but I had never studied the Book of Mormon or the Bible on my own.
In fact, I don't ever remember reading the Book of Mormon all the way through on my own.
I was married in the temple and my testimony in the LDS faith seemed to be really strong but there was always something missing, a personal conviction that I had yet to witness.
It's hard to explain because I don't feel like I've just been going through the motions for years. I have received answers to prayers, seen miracles, and felt the Spirit with me when I needed it most. I have seen the power of the Priesthood work in my life and have felt some pretty incredible things during General Conference and my regular Sunday meetings.
But in the past year, I've struggled with my faith.
I've questioned my purpose, the purpose of a God, the purpose of a church, etc. I've had times where I decided I would not be going back to church because it is just too hard to be there and hear the lessons and wrangle my children for an hour before they go to their classes.
My main concern has been what my friends and family will think about me if I choose to leave the church.
And I think when I realized this, I realized that this is where my faith crisis was creeping in.
I wasn't going to church for myself. I was doing it for everybody else.
Since recognizing that, I've been analyzing my personal reasons for not giving up on my church and I feel like the more I focus on that, the stronger I become.
I also gave myself a challenge this past month. I felt like it was my last hurrah before deciding what I wanted and what was most important to me in this life.
A friend had challenged me to read the Book of Mormon with her in 90 days and I told her I would love to do this.
Within the first week, I was almost halfway done because I was listening to it during work.
By the end of the second week, I had only a few chapters left.
Today I finished the Book of Mormon.
I listened to the Book of Mormon in less than 3 weeks and I loved so much of it.
I loved listening to Nephi as he spoke of the things God was asking of him. In fact, a lot of the stories of Nephi and Lehi are now my favorites because I relate to them so much.
I loved listening to King Benjamin's address to his people. As I listened to his compassion and love and humbleness, I sat in my work office and just kept nodding my head over and over, agreeing with the words he was saying.
Did I retain everything that I listened to? No. But I can honestly tell you that if I were to read the Book of Mormon, I wouldn't retain much more. My lovely ADHD makes it difficult to focus on reading sometimes.
As I finished today, I started to think about what kind of example I want to be for my kids.
A month ago when I was struggling with some pretty messy things that had happened in my life and I told my mom I didn't want to go to church anymore, she reminded me to think of the future with my children before making my final decision.
And she was right.
I want them to know they have a purpose on this earth, just as each of us does.
And for me, the most important thing I want them to know is that God doesn't just love people who are perfect or close to it. He will love them when they fall, when they make really dumb decisions, and when they question His existence.
In fact, I can tell you that is one of the most amazing things I have witnessed this past month. I spent a good portion of a particular Thursday yelling at God---full on yelling at the top of my lungs until my voice was hoarse. I let all of my anger out and told Him everything that was wrong. I told Him that in order for me to feel Him, He would need to send me a sign. My body could not physically feel His comfort because I was in so much pain and I was so confused and I think I might have actually demanded He send me a sign.
I didn't deserve a sign. I didn't deserve an answer or miracle that brought comfort.
But He sent it anyway. He sent it in the form of a text from a friend and although it was "just a text", it was anything but "just a text".
It was everything.
He knew that my anger was fear. He knew that I needed to yell. And when I yelled, He just sent more love.
Friends, that is the type of person I want to be. I want to be the type of person that loves when people hurt her, that doesn't judge others when they act selfishly or rudely.
Everyone has a story and a reason behind their choices. God knows it because He is God but what if we knew it? What if we could look at others and see all of their pain? What if we could understand their motive behind their decisions? I can bet we wouldn't judge as much. I can bet we would find ourselves with a lot more patience.
Tonight I am a little bit wiser and my faith is a little bit stronger. It isn't going to fall into place in a day but I certainly have found a few of the puzzle pieces I was missing before.
I believe in God. I know He is real.
And I know He loves me.