My faith has been a little fragile for the last 18 months or so. I had some very low months, questioning if God even existed, wondering what I was doing wrong to feel so far away. In the midst of that, I had two distinct and powerful experiences. The first assured me that Jesus Christ was my savior. The second assured me I had a Heavenly Father and Mother who loved me. Those two experiences kept me praying, kept me teaching my children, kept me going to church.
But though I had a teeny tiny glowing ball of hope, I felt like I needed to protect it for a while. I needed to box it up and crawl inside with it and just sit for a while making sure nothing could hurt it. It was fragile and I was fragile and we both needed to gain some of our own strength before we could venture out again. I scaled back my expectations of myself and my expectations of church. I did the bare minimum of activity and instead did a lot of thinking. I had many long talks with trusted friends, family, and of course Sam. I cried. I only said what I was sure of to my children.
Honestly, I'm not really sure what happened over that time. Maybe nothing did. Maybe it was just time passing. But a couple weeks ago, I gave a talk in church. I only said what I thought was true, and it felt good. Other people told me it felt good to them, too. A new friend at church, who's only been a member for a few years, called me to ask for advice on lesson she was teaching. I heard myself suggesting stories from the scriptures she could share, stories I hadn't thought about since seminary. I read them later and that felt good.
Today, I told myself I was going to open up to the talks and lessons at church. The woman who spoke started her talk by saying, "The most important aspect of the gospel is love. Love like the Savior had for us. The best thing we can do in this life is to love other people." And then she taught how she saw love working through the church. The man who spoke talked about becoming selfless, about opening his eyes and heart to the people around him and finally seeing them. In Sunday School our teacher shared stories of his grandparents and grandchildren. In Relief Society our (clearly nervous) teacher gave a great lesson about being missionaries and sharing what we know to be true.
Now, before today when I decided to open my box a little, those talks on missionary work were so frightening to me. I knew I would not be able to share my faith with someone when it was so fragile. I couldn't invite someone to church when going myself involved adding some extra fortifications to my box, making sure it was nice and tight. But today was different somehow. Today I thought, "I could tell someone about how I felt today and I would be telling the truth. I could tell them God loves us. I could tell them the people here are good and trying to do the right thing. I could tell them that I really do believe there is priesthood authority in our church."
The full-time missionaries, the ones with white shirts and name tags, came over unannounced this week right at bedtime. I was so frustrated. The kids needed to get to bed. I hadn't had the chance to get mentally prepared for being patient with 18 year old boys, or for saying yes to what I knew they would ask us to do. But since they were standing on my doorstep in the dark, I invited them in. We don't have anything to sit on in our living room so we stood around and they asked us to give a Book of Mormon to someone. They used the word awesome way too many times and I found their enthusiasm a little forced, but we said yes anyway. I think I said it just to get them out. Sam probably said yes since he's been in their shoes. We haven't talked about it since they came.
But today at church I thought maybe, just maybe, I could open myself up to that. I could open my box a little a bit more and maybe it will feel good. I hope it does.