Impossibly Hard

It can be impossibly hard not to judge somebody for making a choice you never would. Or, maybe withholding judgment isn’t that hard, but refraining from projecting your feelings about the choice onto them is.

I recently found out that a friend of mine had an abortion four years ago. I’m as pro-choice as the next feminist, but I felt sad when I found out. Sad for her, about how hard that choice must have been, and how hard it must still be. And then I thought, maybe it wasn’t as hard for her as it would have been for me. I mean, the circumstances under which I found out lead me to believe it was/is that hard for her. But maybe it wouldn’t be for everybody and my near-automatic sorrow would be unwelcome.

Maybe you don’t like the abortion lead-in. But I’m going to stick with it.

When I tell other LDS people that Husband is not a member of our faith, they often don’t know what to say. They look back at me, with pity written in their eyes. Sometimes they even ask me how I do it, how can I drag myself to church every week and sit in the pews alone, surrounded by happy families. And that always make me think, if going to church is a chore unless your spouse is involved, maybe your relationship with God isn’t as rock solid as you think.

Before we got married, before we even got engaged, way back when our love was young and new, but not quite new enough that I didn’t worry about the future, I couldn’t imagine myself worshiping alone, week after week, and praying alone, day after day, knowing the person closest to me did not share, did not even understand, the thing that matters most to me. I looked at future-me with pity written in my eyes. But when I made the decision to spend my life with Husband, before we got married, before we even got engaged, something changed. Sometimes Husband goes to church with me and sometimes he does not, but Sundays are still my favorite day. My relationship and my faith grow bigger every day, not always at the same rate, or following the same path, but their trajectories stick close together because good things love good things.

If I could open my mouth to all the friendly faces with the sad, concerned eyes, here is what I would say:

My relationship with God is deeply personal. I share it with others, but I do not depend on my family. This is essential in a world where people, even those closest to us, even our spouses, lose faith themselves, or leave, for whatever reason. Worshipping alone, week after week, day after day, hour after hour, cultivated this faith in me. Consciously choosing to stay a member of a church that many leave when they reach the point that I did — because they can’t believe in a God that would force them to choose between love and faith, or because they don’t feel strong enough to live a life with both, or because they don’t feel worthy or feared rejection, having chosen one over the other — cultivated this faith in me. And it did so in a way that happily, readily walking into the temple never would have.

And I’d say one more thing, also. I would say that Husband may not understand the thing that matters most to me, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t share it. Our differences enrich our lives, such that we understand more about people, love, and faith than we would if we’d married somebody more like ourselves.

I wish I could go back and tell myself not to worry. That I would find great joy in my marriage and my religion, despite their apparent incompatibility. But I couldn’t do that and expect it to turn out the same. Because it was worshiping alone, week after week, siting in the pews surrounded by happy families, that shaped me into a person who can find joy in this life I live.

It can be impossibly hard not to judge somebody for making a choice you never would. It can be impossibly easy to think we know how other people feel, especially when we’re talking about things that are as universal as they are personal: love, marriage, birth, and death. These things are personal, though. They’re intimate. Which is not to say that they shouldn’t be talked about, but that we should do so carefully, and honestly, recognizing our own limitations.

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7 Responses to Impossibly Hard

  1. UK Yankee says:

    Is it weird that this is only our 2nd post together and I want to give you a big hug? Thank you for saying all that! I’ve been married for 5 years and my husband has only come to church with me since last fall. I was one of the ones dragging myself alone every week, and it was harder for me; I got really angry that I was in that situation. But then that anger calmed down into acceptance and I started to see how I was stronger for – like you said – consciously choosing to keep my faith when others would have left. So thank you for writing about this and sharing this with us! This post is beautiful!

    • Sandy says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words and for sharing your story! I’ve been thinking about posting something like this since I started the blog, but always hesitated, because I couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say, and it seemed too personal and also unrelatable. Your comment yesterday motivated me to finally write and post it, though. I’m so glad we found each other!

  2. Brady says:

    Sandy- This post is great! Thanks for the reminder that faith is personal and my relationship with God is my relationship with God, and no one elses. I struggle a lot remembering that, worrying about what other people think about me and my “failure” to marry yet.

    Thanks for being so open with these thoughts.

    • Sandy says:

      Thanks, Brady! I felt hesitant about posting this, because I wasn’t sure if anybody would be able to relate to it. Your comment is a good reminder that we don’t have to be situated in exactly the same way in our lives to understand each other.

  3. Melanie Carbine says:

    You know what I think of the Mormon fairy tale. There’s a fourth option I left out: Sister Oaks and Sheri Dew. Everyone thinks Sheri Dew is inspirational but I bet lots of people wouldn’t make the choice to be alone either.

    Being someone that would make the same choice as you, I feel conflicted that I didn’t. Was I not strong enough to do what you’re doing? What was it about those relationships that weren’t entirely fulfilling because I don’t really think it was the religion part? Why can’t I go to Chicago and be with someone who already knows he loves me? Why am I going to DC in hopes of something more fairy tale like? Incidentally, I should be coming through Chicago early July.

    ..I think it’s time I start following your blog.

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