Guest Post: Caught in the Middle. Again.
Guest Post by anonymous, who is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is trying to figure out ways to navigate her faith and her grief. She is the mother of 4 children, 3 living. She is married to a great partner who embraces her and her outlandish ideas. She works full-time for the judicial system to strengthen collaborations with community partners and develop special projects related to domestic and sexual violence issues. She has a B.S. from Brigham Young University in Women’s Studies and Psychology.
Caught in the middle. Again.
When I was eight years old My parents got divorced. Technically, I might’ve been nine. One of the last pictures I remember of me and my nuclear family was at my baptism. Regardless. I was born and raised by good pioneer Mormon stock and my parents’ divorce seemed to send a ripple through the extended family. My mother is one of nine children and she was the first to get divorced.
It probably seems strange to a lot of people that the divorce would garner any attention, but in my community, my church, my school, and in our family, divorce was totally foreign. When the divorce was finalized my mom, sister and I moved to North Carolina. Keep in mind, I had grown up in Provo my whole life and North Carolina was as foreign to me as divorce. I had a tough time fitting in. I remember one of my first nights there my new grandma made biscuits and lima beans for dinner. I’m sure we had other things but those were the only two things I got in trouble for so that’s what I recall. I asked for jam to go on my biscuit (which I mistakenly called “a roll”) and I was told, “Jam is for breakfast! We don’t serve jam at dinner in the South.” I was also told I had to finish my lima beans. These new, foreign, salty alien eyes staring back at me from my plate. I was lost. I needed direction, light and knowledge from an earthly father that never came. My stepdad was very young when he and my mom got married. He definitely was not prepared to parent the two children she brought with her.
When my mom moved us across the country to start her new family my biological dad stayed in UT and from then on we only spent summers with him. Back then, full custody didn’t go to dads, unless it was on TV. Plus, I’m not sure he’d have been equipped to parent us anyway. He suffered from undiagnosed depression and anxiety, family history that never showed up in my genealogy research. Family history he would never acknowledge. So he too decided to find himself a young wife and they adopted two boys and they started their own life as well. Summers were spent feeling like I was an addendum to my dad‘s family. Caught in the middle of two worlds. The rest of the year at my mom’s I often felt like a visitor in my own home. My relationship with my father figures was complicated.
Several years back I had a moment when I realized that perhaps I didn’t understand how to interact with my Heavenly Father very well because I’d had no proper examples of fatherly relationships with my earthly dads. Maybe it was why my prayers to a Heavenly Father were always so difficult. Prayer seemed more about seeking grants to wishes rather than having a conversation or developing a relationship with a Father figure.
I believe in the concept of prayer. I taught my children to pray. My prayers were mildly rote, but there was comfort in routine. Lacking an understanding of fatherly interactions, I turned to my Heavenly Father and navigated it the best I could. I developed a relationship with my Heavenly Father that was intimate to me, but at an arm’s length for sure.
Until my son died.
I remember standing in the mirror at the hospital laying it all out on the table with my Heavenly Father. I put all my faith on the line. I begged and I pleaded and I stared into my soul and I said, “God I know you can do this, Father, you can save this child of mine. This child of yours can have life. You have moved mountains. You have saved children before. You have created worlds. You have created life. You can sustain One tiny cell a meager time longer. You can do this, I. Have. Faith. In. You. Father.”
My son died the next day.
I’ve always been a bit of a newbie when it comes to Heavenly Mother. When I was a teenager, it was one of the doctrines that helped me hang on to my faith, even when my faith was challenged. I remember being in a job interview once and the interviewer asked how I reconciled my faith and my feminism. I had a great explanation. I talked about Relief Society and the ways our church was focused on meeting the needs of the Sisters. I talked about Heavenly Mother and our view of Eve and it was all very clear to me. I’m not sure they were sold, but I did get the job.
I don’t think Heavenly Mother became part of my regular vernacular until I had a daughter of my own. Three sons and She was on the periphery, but suddenly having a daughter She was central to my worship.
And actually, even as I write that, I know it’s a lie. I wanted her to be central to my worship but I didn’t know how to make that happen. “Yes, seek Her,” some say. “No, don’t ask or wonder or search or pray,” say others. Looking for answers about Her almost felt like looking up a dirty word on the Internet, like I was going to get caught in my search history and unforgiven. Then occasionally I would read an article, hear a story, read about Her and I would latch on for dear life. But I wasn’t really sure what I was latching on to. Yes. Yes, we believe in Her, but she is “so sacred we don’t talk about her.” Insert all the other confusions we are taught about Her. I sought wisdom about Her and realized I usually heard more about what I should not seek than what actual doctrine was available for me to consume. I read prophets and apostles who mentioned Her and I thought, “Maybe it is OK to seek the feminine divine.”
I want access to God and to the comfort that He can give me, but I don’t know if I’m in a place where I can worship just Him anymore. My fathers left me to flounder. I needed my mother as a child, and I need my Mother now. I feel like He’s broken my trust a little and as I navigate my way back, I need another guide. I need my Mother to help me reconstruct my relationship with my Father.. How am I even saying this out loud right now? Blasphemy for sure. I feel like I’m waiting for lightning to strike me or something as I type these words.
As I was writing these words down, I got up to get a tissue to dry my tears and I heard my sweet gentle husband talking to our daughter. He was calming her fears about something mundane. He’s kind and sweet. Loving and tender. I am more calculated, more analytical. He is the yin to my yang and he helps me understand a foreign concept: an affectionate, doting, loving father. An idea that eluded me until I was married. In that moment I am reminded of the importance of balance. I realize that in my spiritual life my worship has been too imbalanced. No feminine to my masculine divine.
In my current relationship with my Heavenly Parents and my worship, I again feel lost, my spiritual homeostasis can’t set itself right. Here I am, feeling caught between two parents. Again.
I don’t know what this means for me. I know I want to stay and figure this out with my LDS lens in my LDS space because it is what I know. I am not ready to walk away, but I am also not ready to just accept things as they are. I want to be an “obedient” disciple. But to whom am I obedient? That is what I’m still trying to figure out.
This post is part of a series, Contemplating Heavenly Mother. Find more from this series here.