Guest Post: Digging For Truth #ReconstructingFaith
Guest post by Mer Monson.
Mer is a writer, poet and Master Transformative Coach who plays in the space of effortless change with clients all over the world through coaching, speaking, teaching and podcasting. You can learn more about her and her work at www.mermonson.com.
A 49-year dance with this church has offered both rich and rocky soil for my soul’s first love: Digging for raw unfiltered truth. I have stayed faithful, feeling the pull to behave and belong, but I am a mystic at heart and have always longed to just take off my good-girl clothes and get into bed with God. It’s kinda beautiful how each rock, each crisis of faith, has helped me undress in some way and fall more deeply into God’s arms and into my own.
A strained relationship with my mom and desires beyond motherhood brought on an early crisis in my teens and twenties. Sitting in the gritty discomfort of believing marriage and motherhood were my only righteous options did a number on me. Watching three older sisters come out the other side of temple marriages filled with abuse, infidelity, alcoholism and drug addiction didn’t help. I’m still not sure how I managed, years later, to marry a gem of a guy and enjoy three gorgeous sons.
I also warred in those early years with feeling less than as a female—in God’s eyes, in the church’s eyes, and in my own. I must have prayed a thousand times, “God, show me your real face. Show me who I really am.” This female wrestle culminated in a pre-mission temple fiasco, which propelled me into Biblical Hebrew and every word I could get my hands on about Adam and Eve. Truth made its way to the surface, and my Dad and the Mormon God gradually disentangled themselves from the real deal. I used to feel eternally burned at the stake. Now I just wonder when the church will get it right.
Despite deep study and full activity, it wasn’t until my 30s that I learned to stop stabbing myself with what I thought was “the gospel.” I could never seem to get past the glitch that getting Jesus’ help hinged on my being worthy and good enough to get it. This loop kept me from grace, never able to put down the weight of insecurity, self flagellation and depression. During those years, a deeper knowing propelled me beyond the church to find help and healing, which I found in a hundred gorgeous souls and spaces. I stumbled upon a few ways to integrate this fresh healing with the gospel, but largely hung out in a jaded and guarded stance toward the church even as I served and stayed engaged.
And then, at 44, a grace bomb hit. A walk through cancer pushed me to the edge, and through a string of graces I fell out of my story, out of my sick body, out of my troubled mind and into a fully present God, one that is always right here, right now, in everything, in everyone, in me. No strings attached. I’m still up to my neck in human mess of course, but being alive feels very different now—less heady and more spacious, alive, steady and light.
The church and the gospel look completely different through this new lens. I see we’ve turned something profoundly simple into something ridiculously complex. I see we are intertwined with and a part of God in a way no one and nothing has the power to undo. I see there’s nothing to earn and nowhere to get to, only an ever-present God-soaked reality to wake up to. God doesn’t look like a guy out there in a beard and white robe anymore; it looks like there is nowhere and in no-one God is not. It looks like I’ve been trying to save a made-up self when my true self is already like Jesus, already made of love and wisdom and peace. It looks like sin is mere blindness and my mess ups are forever innocent, a side effect of not realizing who and what I am.
I know now that the raw unfiltered truth I’ve been mining for is bigger than any concept or belief, purer than any reaching for it here in the world of people, ideas and organizations. This knowing has allowed me to hold my religion with much looser, more metaphorical arms. I see so many things that need to change in the church, but I also see the church cannot hurt the reality of God or the truth of who I am. This gives me grace to move toward change from a wider, deeper, steadier landing, and gives me the freedom to be faithful to love and my own knowing above all else.
I still swim in the mystery of whether I belong. I do the hokey pokey, here on the edge of the inside. I crave something different and step beyond its walls to stir up fresh divinity, then circle back to the same pew, again and again, reclining into the piece of my heart that wants the familiar shape and texture of Jesus, the one I can touch in my Sunday dress. I somehow find honest words to speak without turning heads, even when standing fully in the light of what I see without making waves feels like a tug of war between my muscles and my bones. But these people, they have my heart. I cannot stop looking for God in their faces, in this wild and steady faith, in the wide streams of light beneath our cramped ideas, in the swelling cavity of my own mormon heart. I want peace with this church that’s cradled me and suffocated me, fed me and starved me, given me the world and kept me from it. I want to unearth enough truth to find a way to be here, in a larger me with a larger God, and still belong.
This post is part of the series, Reconstructing Faith. Find more from this series here.