I wrote this on 13 April 2005, two weeks after my First Essay on SGA. I feel it's a significant enough aspect of my "journey" that I wanted to throw it out there:
13 April 2005
It may seem like my first essay on SGA seemed a bit dark and confused. I'm not sure how it comes across. I feel OK now, and upbeat, but when I wrote that journal entry a couple of weeks ago, I _was_ feeling dark and confused.
It's just that there are those dark times where I have wondered what is truly real: the God I have known and loved my whole life or the idea that I'm spending so much time worrying what a potentially imaginary deity wants of my thoughts and actions that I'm not actually doing any good in the world around me...in a sense, that I'm obsessing about what's 'wrong' with me when there may not actually be _anything_ wrong with me. I can logically argue that the latter is a flawed approach, but it sure is hard to do that _during_ the hard times.
I've questioned the truth of everything. It's been unusual for me. I've never doubted like that or felt so detached from the church before. I even woke up one morning ready to leave it all behind and sort of push 'reset' on my life. I even thought of how I was going to interact with all of my friends (all LDS) when I ran into them as a newly 'inactive member.'
My journal entry from that day:
6 April 2005
Last night, as I was laying in bed, I thought I should not neglect my nighttime prayer and kneel by my bed. I did and prayed for a couple of minutes, then had a distinct feeling that I was…well, kneeling on the floor, thinking to myself, and trying to talk to someone who wasn't real except in my imagination, like talking to myself. I thought, "Hm. I'm alone in a pitch-black room on my knees, pretending someone is listening. I'm alone. Completely alone." The strange thing was that it felt peaceful. I felt calm. I woke up this morning, and for some reason, my first thought was, "What if I give up the charade and stop going to church when I don't feel it…when I don't believe it. Why be a hypocrite? Maybe I need to change my habits and become who I want to be without trying to use the church and its doctrines as a motivating factor.
Sure, family won't like it. They'll feel sad. They'll worry for my eternal welfare. But if none of it's true, there's no reason to pretend it is to save their feelings. And again, I felt a strangely serene peace. I felt free and at peace with the idea of making that decision, to not attend as long as I don't believe it, to bow out of
the church and its culture but be friendly with everyone in it. I wouldn't feel malice. I wouldn't feel a need to shout my story from the rooftops. I would respect their beliefs for what they are and live as I felt I should. I wouldn't start doing anything against the word of wisdom, and I would live a temple-worthy life, really, just without the church. I think it possible.
I don't know. It's resurfaced in my mind a few times today. I have many friends in the church, but I know so many interesting and good people outside it, too. And I have contemplated not going…it would be hard on people. I think it might even shake some people up. But in the long run, I have to do what's right, not what would avoid rocking any boats.
Though I doubted the existence of God, our relationships with family and friends are extremely meaningful, and I didn't feel like I'd be 'alone.' I felt no animosity towards the church...just a sort of bland acceptance that it would no longer be part of my life. I had to stop going if I was this unsure of its veracity, to avoid hypocrisy.
I felt more like my usual self later but still doubtful. The next day, it was pretty much behind me, but I can't shake the feeling of 'strange peace' I felt, sort of like standing in a silent field at night...it's hard to describe. But I think I caught a glimpse of what people who don't believe in religion feel like and how they approach life, or how people who stop going to church feel and what motivations some of them may feel. I do believe that experience served a purpose.
Talking about it now, it seems like a dream, which may not be far from the truth because it took place while getting out of bed.
But I feel like I've 'snapped out of it.' And it feels like I've regained perspective. There's just that occasional question: am I simply falling into a sort of spiritual auto-pilot mode for now? Am I just reverting back to what's comfortable now that I know others who are like me? Is it real change? Or did I even really ever change FROM the gospel-loving, testimony-holding me? Maybe not, deep down. Maybe I was just tired of being constantly torn and felt a sense of relief at 'ending' the conflict in SOME way, even if not the "right way"? I never pictured myself deciding I could be done with the church...and yet I always felt I had the potential to get(or decline, as you might say) to that point someday...does that make sense?
I'm inclined to think that this new, fresh, upbeat feeling is, indeed, an authentic re-awakening, but that I need to remember that there's a sort of honeymoon stage with these things, and I need to have the strength to keep it up when the newness wears off. That's the hard part...the whole 'enduring' thing, eh?