August 29, 2006

The hand of the Lord

I talked to my brother recently, a few weeks after my sudden disillusionment with the LDS church happened. He was surprised that I had never heard all that stuff about the church. "Is this the first time you've heard that stuff?? Wow." What surprised me was when he described that he still basically believed the church is true, even though he hasn't been to church in years. He (I think) still believes the church is true. If I'm wrong, hopefully he'll read this and correct me. I do remember he said that he's felt the hand of the Lord many times in his life, and he can't deny it. I think he was implying by this that the church is true, even though he chooses not to go.

I've been thinking a lot about this statement. I too have felt the hand of the Lord in my life. But then I wonder, was that the hand of the Lord, or was it the Holy Spirit, or was it just fate? Could I be reliving the same basic life over and over ~ in reincarnation? Is that why I sometimes felt like I was being led to do things? Does my brother mean that he believes that because he's felt the hand of the Lord then that means the church is basically true? I disagree with that. I think if there is a God then He loves us and sometimes helps us on our path, regardless of what religion we are.

Some episodes in my life that felt like the hand of the Lord:

1. One day I was sitting in class (my junior year) waiting for class to start, when the announcements came over the loudspeaker. "All those students interested in being foreign exchange students should come to the AFS meeting scheduled this evening at 5:30." I sat straight up in my desk and my heart started racing, hard, and I knew I had to be at that meeting. Had I ever before cared about the foreign exchange program? No. Did I know some foreign exchange students in my school? Yes. Did I care before that moment about being an exchange student? No. But when that announcement was read, I had an instant, strong, burning feeling that I was supposed to be there. I told my mom and dragged her to the meeting with me. I had such an urgent feeling that I needed to apply to this, that her worries of how expensive and impossible it would be fell on deaf ears. I convinced her it would be OK, and I applied for financial aid. We had a large family of 7 kids with only one parent working, and I got a scholarship that paid for $3,000 of the $5,000 fee for the year-long exchange program. I swore I'd work to earn the rest, and I worked full time to earn it. There were 5 other students my age who applied, and they all got their placements quickly. I applied to go to these countries, in order of preference: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Yugoslavia. Basically I wanted to go to a German speaking country and any country beyond that didn't matter. But my assignment never came. Then one day my bishop told me he'd had a call from the "leader of the church in Austria" who asked him about me and what kind of girl I was. I got excited then because that meant that my application wasn't lost like I thought! About a month later I got my application back "approved" to go to Austria, and my host family was the stake president of Austria and his family. I knew it must have been the Lord who sent me there. Especially after finding out that they'd had an exchange student from the USA a year earlier, and the kid was so rude and non-social and it was such a bad experience that they swore they'd never have an exchange student again. But the AFS office in Vienna was so desperate for host families that they begged and told my host family that they could hand-pick which applicant they wanted, if any. So my host family found my application, saw I was LDS, and called my bishop first, then they prayed about it and decided to give it one more shot. My year in Austria was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

2. Growing up I had an awful experience in 4th grade where I was ostracized, quite publicly, by my 2 best friends. I was so hurt and humiliated by this that I literally had no friends besides my siblings until the 9th grade. I was super shy and didn't get out much. I liked to sing, so in 9th grade I took chorus, but the teacher made us all sing solos in class as part of our grade. I was extremely shy and hated doing solos, so they were always a flop. Therefore, I got a B in this class both semesters. In 10th grade I decided that I didn't really want my GPA to suffer (yes I'm a nerd and got good grades!), so I took Art 1 to fulfil my performing and visual arts requirement. Obviously I wasn't going to take speech or drama! It was there that I discovered that I could draw and paint, and that I could do it well. This wasn't something I knew about myself before. The way I see the hand of the Lord in this instance: I feel like my talent was God-given. I didn't do anything to get good at it, it was already there. Practice makes me better, of course, but it was truly already there. It was art that helped me to break out of my shell of low self-esteem and to feel like I was good in some way. This was (and still is) huge to me.

3. My kids. Of course, the first time I had a child it was under less-than-ideal circumstances. I got pregnant while at BYU, so I had to make up a reason (lie) to tell my roommates about why I was dropping out, and I went home with my tail between my legs to start a new life. It was such a miracle, though, giving birth. I know that is a trite thing to say, because almost every woman feels that way, but I felt it both times. I will also say that I felt like I was seriously blessed by Heavenly Father to find and marry my husband who already had a daughter from his first marriage. She has been such a wonderful daughter to have, and I can't help but feel like the Lord sent her to me. Lucky, lucky mom.

4. This sounds strange and horrible, but oh well. Before I suddenly and abruptly found out the real history and discovered that the church isn't true, I was torn up inside about going to the temple without my husband's true support or approval. I knew he really didn't want me to go and that if I did, it was only because I'd gotten his written permission by threatening divorce. I was feeling torn because I had the desire to go to the temple and be good, and I had the desire to also follow the church's rule that I should only go if my husband supported it. So I wondered what I should do. I began to wonder if divorce was what I was expected to do in order to have the eternal life I was taught to desire. I hate the thought of divorce and I really wanted to just have it all, my man as well as the temple blessings. In my angst, I began praying hard each day to know what I should do concerning my marriage and I prayed to have an answer so I would know what to do. Then I discovered the stories and truths in the history of the church and I felt immediately liberated in my love for my husband and in my life I've created for myself with my family. I honestly feel like it was the Lord who guided me to discover the truth for myself in this timely way. My husband may read this and think I'm crazy, but it's what I was going through for while there, as unpretty as it is. I'm greatly ashamed I harbored divorce thoughts in the name of "righteousness."

I'm sure there are other examples in my memory archives of times I felt like the Lord was arranging certain things to happen to me. It may be fate, or coincidence, but I still feel blessed in many ways.

Even if I don't think the church is true anymore.


Just one of many said...

Dear SML,
I feel truly blessed. Whether it is by God, Allah, or some unnamed diety. I choose to live my life now based upon the greastet teaching ever: "Love one another". I try not to do anything that would bring hurt to another. For me, I will never be able to find God again in the Mormon church. I choose to believe that a God that has created so much diversity in the world can be that fickle as to prefer on church over another.

Karma said...

It's not a matter of the "church" being true or not, it's a matter of believing in the Lord. Receiving blessings and having the Lords hand in your life, I believe has nothing to do with church.

I love your blog BTW... I have been reading it from oldest post on up since I found it a few hours ago.

Beat Dad said...

I can understand the conclusion you came to, I felt drawn "by the Lord" to Eastern Religions. That was right after I left the church.

I think of it as mental clarity now, you know when something feels right and it does not seem to just come from your mind.

I say that but, there was a time when I felt prompted, ignored it, and regreted it later.

I was working the night shift at a bakery in Napa California; a few hours after I came home to sleep my sons mom (ex-gf) came over to ask if she could borrow my car.

My feeling was a very strong no, but that would not lead to a quick response from her which included an exit and my guaranteed, continued sleep.

Ignoring my very strong feeling, I said yes, threw the keys at her, and told her to leave.

A few hours later, and an hour before I had to work she calls and tell me that they had gotten into an accident.

It did not turn out well for me; my son did not get hurt and neither did she, which is fortunate. But I ended up paying for a car I did not have plus no car to replace it. So, I don't know is that divine intervention I ignored? I suppose it depends on how that is defined.

I like this post; how do you look at this sort of thing now?