I have some thoughts to share on a particular phenomenon I've observed during my short stint in Divorced Mormon Land. When a person crosses over into this place of desolation, one of the many, many things that can happen is that the entire operating system on which he has been running his life goes on the fritz. Here's an example for you.
I remember one day when I was in massage school in California I was chatting up a woman who was in her mid 40s and living life divorced. While petrisaging a trapezius I glibly spouted off my simplistic theory regarding how to have a successful marriage. I should know, after all, I had been married two seconds by that point. These are the words I recall toppling out of my mouth.
"Well, I just think... I mean... okay. You ask God, is this the guy for me? And then you wait for your answer. If He says it's okay, then it must be. I mean, two people can work anything out with God, right? So unless he, like, hits you or something, then you just work it out. And you can, because God will help you. He wouldn't let you have a trial you can't handle, you know?"
Luckily, the woman was kind and gracious and gave me a somewhat knowing half smile, then let it slide.
I tell you what though, I believed it. I had served a mission based off a variation of that kind of faith. I'd picked life paths and made major decisions retaining in remembrance these ideas. I'd deliberately stepped out into the great unknown again and again in little and big ways trying and testing this theory. I believed it so much by that 25th year of my life that I had it inscribed on our wedding rings. His, fashioned after birch bark and mine, a mother of pearl inlaid leaf. "If the root be Holy" and "So are the branches" respectively; a verse from Romans. This wasn't a passing thought for me, it was sinew.
Divorce derails our operating system for life like nothing else I know. What else can possibly cause a person to feel so incredibly rejected, confused, broken hearted and alone all at once? What else can leave a soul so scared and unable to trust for a time? When we hit this moment, or maybe it feels like this moment hits us, what do we do?
Well, I don't know about everyone, but I know about me. I called into question everything I had once thought to be solid and reexamined it with a fine toothed comb. In this numb kind of stupor I thought for hours and hours on end while watching nauseating amounts of Netflix and knitting 702 scarfs for Christmas gifts: Is that real? Was I wrong about that too? Is anything worth working for? Investing in? Can anything be trusted?
This process cannot be undertaken without addressing the most epic and fundamental of LDS doctrines and beliefs, and yes, I went there too.
I had a companion on my mission that remains to this day the most like Jesus (sans beard) of any human I have ever met. I love her in a way I have never loved any other person. She used to say to me, "Truth is Truth...that's what makes it Truth," and even after all these shananagins, I agree. Truth is distinct. Truth is discernible. Truth resonates. Truth can be trusted. And if you are searching for it, Truth wins out in the end. Because of this I am never afraid to pause, when life demands it, and reevaluate or double check my math in making this most epic of all commitments to be a fully active Latter Day Saint. A woman doesn't give up her sexy underwear willie nilly. There is a good deal of thought that goes into this, even still, and in all this thought, I've come again and again to this:
There is doctrine, corroborated, Godly, Spiritually sound and trustable. Then, there's what people think is doctrine. One will, in fact, sustain you. The other will confuse you when rubber hits the road, and maybe break your heart. My favorite example is in the above title of this post. Find me the verse that says, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it" and I will buy you a pie. It's not in there. Neither is, "God will not give us any trial we can't handle" (it's temptation, there is a difference) or "Everything happens for a reason". These can be lovely, doubtlessly well intended sentiments, but if having my world rocked a few times by seriously difficult things has taught me anything it's the following.
If you want to make it through the extremities of what human beings can put each other through, you better know your religion. Warm fuzzies from Young Women's lessons are intended to be a gateway drug, not long term sustenance. The world we live in requires us to be mentally present enough to be discerning, to be thoughtful and engaged and introspective about what we are doing with our daily lives. Thank God (literally) we have something that can be put to the test and not found wanting. Thank God for the Book of Mormon, for the Bible, for His Spirit, for prayer, and for every conference address Elder Holland has ever given. (I'm almost through them all now. I have an awesome app for that. Ask me!) Thank God that the Plan of Salvation, even if it or our leaders don't discuss divorce explicitly, explains where we should look and what we should do when life kicks us in the teeth. I used to think of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something pretty to look at, but obsolete in moments that shook me to the depth of my character. Thank God I learned better.
The statement's half true. Christ didn't say it would be easy, because He knew intimately how insanely difficult it could be. He lived through the moment where, even in the presence of an angel sent to strengthen Him, "being in agony He (Jesus Christ Himself) prayed more earnestly." (Luke 22:44) That was for you and that was for me.
In the broken down moments, the moments of previously unfathomable distress and despair, in the moments where all our best selves can think to do is pray more earnestly, we have a choice. We can ruminate on what a well intended teacher spouted off in a thoughtless moment that now seems sickeningly saccharine. We can delve into the areas we all have of our testimonies that are yet green, perhaps dark, underdeveloped or unexplored. Or, we can reach for light, for truth, for stability and safety. This is not some desperate act of a delusional, wounded being to lie his way into a false sense of security. It is an act of clarity and incalculable courage--commendable and brave. We can reach for God and watch brilliant truth resonate it's way into our souls, one moment at a time, luminescent and satiating.
That truth, that light changes us into beings capable of love where once all we could feel was pain. It heals the things we do not believe can be healed, and if we cling to it, live for it, sacrifice for it, it will change us into beings so full of love that we become capable of abiding a celestial glory. In the end, that, I would say, is worth it.