Everyone knows how difficult my past year has been as I made the impossible decision to get divorced. But there has been an even bigger source of pain in my life that I kept carefully hidden away. Today I am ready to share it with the world.
For many years, I have struggled with what I believe. Doubts constantly crept in and I spent hours on my knees in heartfelt prayer asking God what I was doing wrong. Why couldn't I get the testimony that I wanted? I was living my life exactly as I was supposed to, but the promised blessings didn't come. I searched my soul to understand what sin was causing me not to believe. The guilt was tremendous.
Then came the fears. What if it all really wasn't true? What if there was nothing after death? What if this is the only life I will really ever get? To someone who has always lived with the promise that this life really isn't important in the eternal scheme, losing the comfort of an afterlife was terrifying. I had a lot of anxiety attacks where I was afraid to fall asleep at night because I didn't know if I would ever wake up.
I struggled and prayed and felt terrible until I had given 1000% to the effort. Last year, crying on my knees, I finally realized how empty I felt. I had nothing more to give. So I looked at the situation practically. If God exists, He wants me to live the best life I can in whatever form I can and he KNOWS I have given 1000% to try. If I go to hell, there is nothing more I can do to stop that. But my religion also teaches that even sinners will go to heaven--just a lower form of heaven. I'll tell you something: if I die and find out there is life after death, I will be so thrilled to EXIST that I won't care what form of heaven I go to. That's the bottom line.
I handed my temple recommend to my Bishop about a year ago and have been gradually trying to live with the pain and uncertainty that comes with my lack of faith. I feel like I have lost everything. I lost all my comfort, my world view, my self identity, the socialization of my amazing neighbors, and soon I will have to tell my children. I am devastated to think of how their opinion of me will change.
I remember how I viewed "apostates" as a child. They were some kind of other species--one that couldn't be trusted or understood. They were the worst people in the world to my young mind. I'm scared my children will reject me, even though I'm exactly the same person I was before. I'm just more honest and more true to myself. I feel like, if anything, I am a better person now that I am not living a lie.
Sometimes I feel very close to God. And sometimes I think that is just my normal psychological reaction to the world around me. But I can say that those times when I feel close to God, I feel he is prouder of me now than ever before. I know that if God exists, He is proud of me for the life I am living. It is harder to live a good life without the promised blessings of a religion, but I am doing it. I think that counts for more. I'm not obeying laws just for the sake of a reward--I am living a good life because I actually believe that's the right way to live. When I told a Stake President about my doubts a few years ago, he looked at me with clear admiration and said, "I don't know if I could keep living that kind of life without a testimony." The validation I felt buoyed me up for a long time.
Still, this has been the most devastating thing in my life. Losing my religion and my marriage in the same year has crushed me. And no, they were not related at all. My husband knew of my religious concerns for years and was completely supportive of me in my search for truth. It was never an issue in our relationship then, and it is not now.
I find myself too stressed out to live a normal life right now. I feel like I've lost more than any person should have to lose in a single year. Losing religion is not like losing a house or a car--it's like realizing one day that you live in a world that makes no sense anymore. And people around you look at you distrustfully, as though you chose this path. It wasn't my choice. If I could force myself to believe, I would do it. In an instant. I want that comfort in my life. And that's why I want my children to be raised religiously. But I also want them to know that I will support them and not judge them whatever their beliefs--Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, Baha'i.
I hope that some of the people who read this post will do the same for me--love me and support me through this painful time of my life without trying to quote scriptures, convince me of my mistakes, or judge me.