Note on today's post: As my blog header states, I am striving to find my true voice and speak clearly. Today's post is of a spiritual nature and is very much of the "true voice" mindset. I make no apologies for my views or for stating them, but absolutely honor your right to believe otherwise...
I had a profound experience this morning that moved me to tears. Martha Beck - life coach and author - wrote an article for O magazine about miracles, which I have just finished reading.
As I finished reading, I felt a little piece of my heart and soul that has been missing in action for the past twenty years return home. There are no words available to me to adequately convey the emotions that I feel right now.
The backstory: I was raised by Mormon parents whose families both go way back in Mormon history. My father's great-great-great grandfather Charles Shumway owned the first wagon train that crossed the river leaving Nauvoo, Illinois on the epic journey west to Utah. My maternal grandparents were born in Oaxaca, Mexico in the polygamist colonies founded by the Mormons when polygamy was declared illegal in the United States.
As the Mormon roots ran so deep, it followed naturally that Mormon theology would figure prominently in my upbringing. The Mormon religion is not just a doctrine, but an all-encompassing way of life. Pretty much every aspect of one's life is guided - some would say dictated - by Mormon doctrine and the guidance of the leadership of the Church.*
For the first thirty-five years of my life, this was my reality. Everything I believed and everything I did was in line with Mormon belief (except for the usual, typical missteps of youth). I never questioned the doctrine, but rather found great comfort in it and believed with all my heart. Hymns could move me to tears, I saw God's hand in everything, and felt that I was a part of something bigger and better than myself.
Then came my divorce. Things had gradually gone from bad to worse in my marriage. I would hear a talk (Mormons do not use the word sermon, but the concept is the same) in church that addressed an issue I was dealing with at home and I would think, "My husband needs to hear this", but every time I had that thought, my husband was absent. He would be on a promotional trip or recording with the band or what-have-you, but he was not beside me in church hearing the instructions that might save our marriage if he heeded them.
Eventually things got bad enough that - for me - they were intolerable. Our relationship was starting to have negative effects on our children and I knew that something had to change. My thought was - literally - that these children needed a different father.
Things almost never go the way you expect them to, even if you're naive enough to think that they will. I had stayed long enough in a bad situation that I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally and was incapable of making sound choices. I had no employment history or skills, no education to speak of beyond high school, and was ill-prepared to be a single mother of six.
Friends involved in the situation, trying to be helpful, only confused the matter and turned it into something other than what it was really about. Church leaders were confused, as well, and were ineffective at best, and harmful at worst, in dealing with any of it or trying to provide guidance.
The long and short of it is that - through a series of very odd circumstances that I could not understand except in hindsight many years later - my children did not get a new father, they got a new mother. I was completely displaced and adrift. I went from being a full-time, stay-at-home mom (for fifteen years) to not being a mom at all. The scope of that devastation has repercussions to this day.
I had been taught all my life that my purpose here on earth was to provide physical bodies for God's spiritual children (in the sanctity of a temple marriage, of course) and raise them in righteousness. Now that I wasn't doing that, I felt that I had no purpose - no reason to be here at all. Dark days, those...
I truly felt that God had turned His back on me, if there even was a God, and I entered a non-believer phase. Well, not truly non-believer, more doubt and questioning and where-the-hell-do-I-stand now?
In my new paradigm, I was open to new ideas and began to study other belief systems, healing arts, self-help, New Age and other such things. Any time I came across a thought or idea that resonated as Truth, I adopted it into my belief system, and this became my "religion".
Even so, the core of magic and miracles and deep resonance with the Universe was missing. Where I used to look all around me and see God's hand everywhere, I now just saw objects. The closest I can come to explaining the difference is to compare it to a stained-glass window with no light shining through it. The window is still there, and still beautiful, but the full glory is missing without that glow.
I missed God. I missed my faith. I missed the surety of knowing that I was on the right path, that I was doing the right thing. I missed my spirituality. I knew that there was something operating in the Universe, and I've never believed in "coincidence"; I'm very much of the "everything happens for a reason" school of thought. But the reassurance that there was something - someone - aware of me, supporting me, available to me - was still missing.
This morning as I read Martha Beck's article it hit home that whether I use the label "God" or "Universe" or "higher power" doesn't matter. Whether there is one being or a collective entity of caring souls or some as-yet undefined power doesn't matter. What matters is that we are watched and guided and supported and that miracles do happen. What matters is that experiences that I doubted and questioned were real, after all. What matters is that I am wholehearted again. Amen.
*Although I do not now and will probably never again consider myself a Mormon, I am still incredibly grateful for the foundation that my religious upbringing gave me, and have nothing but genuine respect for those who find the Church and its teachings viable. I very much believe that it is imperative to follow whichever path resonates with your heart, and I very much believe that all paths lead to the same destination, anyway...