Waiting for the ram in the thicket

Girl-on-Bench

Like most fiancées, I was pretty certain that our marriage would be everything that I wanted it to be. I knew we would have hard times and I knew that we would have disagreements, but I also had been promised that any two righteous people could make a good marriage happen. I knew we were both good people–anxious to accomplish the Lord’s will for us–and so, we could definitely make it work. The fact that my then-fiancé had disclosed that he was gay (at the time, he used the phrase “same-sex attracted”) just seemed a small hurdle, one that the Lord would surely help us to overcome. In fact, my very own stake president–who was aware of my husband’s attractions and sexual orientation–promised us that the Lord would not only help us, He would use us to do incredible things if only we stayed true to our faith. Bright-eyed and full of faith, we moved forward with our marriage plans and prepared to give everything to the Lord. We were full of promise that we would certainly have a wonderful marriage as nothing could shake our faith.

Until it could…

Years of wading through and struggling in a mixed-orientation marriage brought us to the point of doubting everything. If we could be promised such grand things in the name of following the Lord’s commandments, then why were those promises not being fulfilled? We had sacrificed everything we had to give upon the altar of our faith. When we married, my husband sacrificed a life of true love and compatibility, I sacrificed the opportunity for a return on the love and attraction I felt. We had children when we felt called upon to have them. We got degrees we felt God (and the church) sanctioned. We moved out of the country as we felt God direct us. We continued to serve and pay tithing as we were instructed. We gave our time and talents to our callings. We did all that we were supposed to in order to have the marriage we were promised upon our faithfulness, and yet the promise remained elusive.

As we sought out help from our leaders and requested to begin a support group for other couples in similar situations, we were denied the opportunity to do so. LDS Family Services had declared that support groups, firesides and other similar activities that congregated known LGBT persons together in one place should not be encouraged. As the tears flowed and I asked that our names please be passed along to other couples in similar situations who were looking for support, I was told that “most people want to keep these things private.” My request for love, support and guidance fell upon deaf ears and we were asked to go back into our closet of shame and isolation.

But I continued on because I had faith. I knew the Lord’s commandments, I knew the Truth.

Until I didn’t…

And then nothing made sense anymore. The faith that we worked so hard to keep alive and the marriage that was built upon that faith, all-too-quickly started to crumble.  No longer did things make sense the way they once did. And so what before felt like waiting for a ram in the thicket suddenly became about waiting for Godot.

As I look back on the years of waiting and praying for the blessings we had been promised, contingent upon our faith, it occurred to me that we were not asked to sacrifice as Abraham, we were asked to sacrifice as Isaac. Like Isaac, we had not grown into full maturity before consenting to lay our lives upon the altar of “traditional marriage.” We did not realize that our happiness was being sacrificed upon the altar of tokenism and political battles.

Whenever we tell the story of Abraham and Isaac, we speak of Abraham’s great faith, of his close relationship with God, and for his willingness to sacrifice everything to uphold God’s commandments. However, we often miss the most disturbing and critical part of this story. This wasn’t about Abraham being willing to give up everything to God, this was about Abraham being willing to give up Isaac’s everything to God. It’s one thing to lay our own lives on the line to witness our obedience to God and commandments, it’s quite another to bargain another’s life to demonstrate that.

Perhaps we need to assess if it is God requiring these sacrifice after all…

Amy

Mother, writer, dreamer, hopeless romantic, opera singer, reader, researcher, lover of Jesus, Mormon and a feminist. I spend my days taming toddler tantrums and kissing boo boos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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11 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    Wow. This is so thought provoking. I love how you’ve flipped the Abraham and Isaac story. Amy I am going to be chewing on this for a long time. Thank you.

  2. Ziff says:

    Wow! Great conclusion, Amy. This is a much sillier example, but it reminds me of Lord Farquaad’s statement in Shrek: “Some of you may die, but it is a sacrifice *I* am willing to make.”

  3. mraynes says:

    Oh Amy, this post is at once stunning and devastating. As someone who is a byproduct of a mixed orientation marriage I know intimately the sacrifice of Isaac that my parents have made. I also know how that sacrifice has extended into my own life and the lives of my siblings and it is impossible to fully articulate the pain this it has caused my all of us. I wholeheartedly believe that this is not a sacrifice that God has required but one that a few have demanded out of fear and ignorance. Thank you for putting that into words so powerfully.

  4. Margo says:

    Honest. Forthright. Real. True.
    Words that no formal religious institution will be or offer.

  5. For me, the conclusion was “some sacrifices will not be resolved in this life”. We’ve never been promised a “ram in the thicket”. Abraham didn’t go expecting a way out; he just knew that God had everything in hand, even if the result was something Abraham would not have chosen.

    I’m really struggling with how to not come across as condescending or wandering into “mansplain” territory. But I do know that while there may be a solution in my lifetime, for my own chronic physical pains and my own spiritual struggles with how women are placed in the Church and the perceptions we have of gender, that it’s likely not to be resolved til after I’m twinkled (translated).

    I wish you both well in your journey, and pray you may find whatever direction you can that will give you peace.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story, Amy. Self-sacrifice is a decision no one makes lightly, and yet, we sometimes carelessly sacrifice others to satisfy our own ideologies. A wise person once told me not to take reckless advice from a third party that won’t have to suffer the consequences of the decision, and yet, we often teach our young people to do just that and trust in the promises of priesthood leaders who come and go. I am sorry such a thing happened to you.

  7. Cami says:

    In my opinion there is a very good reason that the federal government and some state governments are considering making conversion therapy against the law. I do not believe it has any long term affect on changing anyone’s orientation. There may some temporary “progress” but no permanent change. The LDS church is a form of conversion therapy. I say that as a transgendered person who is a life long member of the church. It has been my experience that, in a situation where emotion trumps reality, leaders make representations they should not be making. Many times this results in individuals become even more skeptical about “religious” guidance. The Mormon way of rationalizing this dissemination of misguided information is to say you didn’t try hard enough or wait long enough. I feel that is nonsense but that is my view.

  8. Shannon Guymon says:

    I just ache for you. I pray for your peace and for your solution.

  9. Jeanette says:

    Thanks for sharing this Amy and I’m sorry for your heartbreak.

    And I agree that we need to rethink what sacrifices are required (and to stop giving each other assurances of positive outcomes if we make such sacrifices, when we are in no position to guarantee that).

    My interpretation of the Abraham and Isaac story forever changed when, several years ago in a Sunday School class on this topic, a wise person raised the possibility that perhaps Abraham failed his test. Perhaps he was supposed to refuse to sacrifice his child for the sake of strict obedience to God. Or perhaps he misunderstood God’s instructions. (see, e.g. http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2013/09/03/akeidah-abraham-failed-gods-test-god-loved-him-anyway). The ram in the thicket was to save Abraham from his own failure.

    I had never thought of such an interpretation, but apparently many others have.

    I don’t know what the story of Abraham is supposed to teach us, but I do think that life brings us enough difficult choices on its own without God having to create tests of self-sacrifice for us.

  10. Galdralag says:

    Thank you so much for this – for sharing something so raw and vulnerable. I wish you peace, solace, and healing as you navigate the next steps of your journey, wherever they lead.

    The older I get the more I am troubled at the danger inherent in the oft-repeated Abrahamic (Isaacic?) Joseph Smith quote: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” When is a person’s sacrifice enough? “All” the things is *a lot*, and can leave people broken and despairing. Just how much pain and suffering are required?

    And I am possibly even more concerned by the implications of this quote for those whose faith dissipates through the course of their trials. I am troubled that some believe that the answer is just to sacrifice more and more; I can’t accept that God would demand that his children be ground down to nothing.

  11. SUE says:

    Little nervous about making a comment here, and I deeply feel for Amy in her mixed orientation family, because I too have lived this. I believe relationships can get better, and happier, but that depends on a lot of factors that require mutual desire. It is hard work, but so are most marriages. If either spouse chooses to leave the marriage, that doesn’t make either of them a failure or the family less important. I am fortunate to have a gay husband who sacrificed for me and I for him. We got through some hard times and are now happy most days. Have there been problems? Of course, but they have helped refine us. Will we be together forever? I hope so, but that’s in the Lords hands, as well as our own. My husband is my best friend. I do feel sad to think that our mixed marriage may have hurt our children, but hopefully what we have all learnt will help us believe in unconditional love, and to treasure our family commitments. I do not promote mixed orientation marriage, but I am thankful for mine.

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