I have that desire to write something again, which is frustrating as I am rather tired and was excited to try this thing called "go to sleep before 1 AM," but...alas...
I went on a date last week, and we met up with a group of his friends to see a movie, and he warned me beforehand that one of them would more than likely try to hit on me.
And in his process of hitting on me, he asked me if I'd been raised LDS. I told him yes.
"Is that why you believe it?"
"That's part of it."
He then asked me what the other part was, and I felt that awkward emptiness that comes when testifying of truth without having your whole heart in it; for a second I felt like I was saying what I needed to say, not what I felt to say.
I don’t feel like I failed or anything; he wasn’t sincerely asking anyway so it’s not as if anything I said would have brought a chorus of angels raining down upon him, but I couldn’t help but obtain a notion of my inadequacy.
So I’m fixing it.
And I’m fixing it in the way my stream of consciousness wants me to, which is like this:
At Christmas time I had a guy ask me out. Let me rephrase that. At Christmas time I had a guy chat with me on Facebook, give me his number, text me until later than I wanted (I worked at six at the bakery the following morning), and in a roundabout way ask me out.
To coax me to talk longer after I quickly vetoed a midnight phone call with someone I’d only seen once in person on a day when I was quite preoccupied by others in my proximity, he asked me a series of questions. One of which was something like “Tell me five essential things to know about you.”
I typed in my love of Mraz, my writing and theatre and…
What else could I say?
I really didn’t have anything.
And then a voice, a voice I wasn’t used to hearing and was starting to vaguely notice in the recesses of my dusty, encumbered mind, said “Tell him you’re a Mormon.”
So I did. I told him I belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that I was very devoted to my religion.
From that moment I had a rush of feelings shooting through me, each little buzz reiterating the fact that I needed to talk about religion with him. I needed to explain where I stood. Because though for so long I’d been limply abiding by my religious precepts, it’s something I could never blatantly forsake.
He asked me to ask him questions.
I did. And one of them was his religious affiliations.
He told me he’d been raised LDS and still believed the principles and “understood” it more than most, but he just had a problem with organized religion.
I’ve seen that problem manifested in an older brother who was an entirely different person—and I say that quite literally—in his days of distance from “organized religion” verses his time now spent actively trying to follow Christ’s plan. I’ve seen the difference in countenance between one who claims to appreciate the gospel and “knows” it’s true and one who embodies the doctrine they know so well. I’ve lived the difference between striving to fulfill God’s purpose for me on earth verses laying in bed acknowledging that God is good, but that I don’t need to do anything about it.
I was still clawing my way out of the pit I’d spent over a year digging.
I wasn’t falling in it again.
And all the feelings twittering in my arms like miniscule bees affirmed that if I went on a date with that boy I’d never get out of that relationship, and I wouldn’t be at all where I needed to.
Because I’d met someone who made me realize that forever isn’t as far away as I anticipated in the midst of my numb roaming of the world. He made me realize I didn’t have time to waste, because that righteous boy who could take me to the temple could turn up any instant, and what would be my course if I wasn’t ready for him? Where would I be? What eternity of good would I miss from one instant not acknowledging my Maker or Savior, ignoring and forsaking that I have the ability to breathe, the agency to lay in bed, because of one plan I chose to follow and abide by? Why should I be blessed with someone like that when I can’t even manage to mumble a prayer in an uneventful or calm moment?
He asked me if the religion thing threw me off the idea of a date.
And I thought of that someone who woke me up, whose mere personable spirit carried so firmly the light of Christ that I couldn’t be around him without the buzzing in my arms to do good. To constantly do good.
I talk about this a lot and I’ve probably told the equivalent of everyone but him that he gave me my conversion moment. His lack of shyness with the gospel pulled me to the realization that all the beautiful things I’ve ever had in my life came from a God who dearly loved me, and that by not taking a moment to put effort toward His cause I was wasting my time—wasting my life. And that’s why He took the words away.
I remembered a time I’d felt blessed, peculiar and chosen, and how I wasn’t that person anymore. I wasn’t that adolescent constantly abuzz with what she’d read in scripture the night before; I wasn’t that girl who hoped on Christ. I was that girl who went through the motions, followed routine, and had bouts of panicked faith in high-stress moments. Not even literally almost dying, locked in a freezer, brought me to realize my error. No heartache or blessing brought me to the knowledge of my God; nothing humbled me into seeing it is through Him all is possible.
Until this boy.
And it all hit me as I lay in bed texting the non-religious gent, and I knew I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to sound judgmental and prudish and “holier-than-thou” but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to say no to him. I had take a stand for once in my life, had to remember a tear-stained aunt telling me not to date anyone I didn’t plan on marrying because she’d never intended on marrying a Catholic, but she dated him anyway and fell in love and now what? I had to remember the petite paragraph in my patriarchal blessing that talks about a husband and the church. I had to remember those statements of rearing children in Christ, of that celestial marriage and eternity I want and deserve. I had started working so hard for it, and I couldn’t compromise.
So I didn’t.
And I won’t.
I told the boy I was sorry, but I couldn’t. I was flattered, but I couldn’t. I did the difficult thing and said no.
And blessing started pouring through.
And more are coming. I have to keep remembering that. I often think of that story President Monson tells about himself as a young bishop being in a stake meeting of sorts with the distinct impression to visit a ward member in the hospital but he continued to push it aside, seeing it inappropriate to get up and leave. And by the time he ran into the hospital he was informed by a nurse that the patient had been asking for him just before he died.
President Monson says he vowed at that moment to never again hesitate with spiritual promptings.
I’m trying. I really am. And sometimes they’re not what you want to hear, and sometimes they’re so difficult that I literally feel nauseous. But it’s worth it, I think, to count myself on the Lord’s side. To know that I’m chalking up points that He’ll repay in the fullest of fashions. It’s worth it to know I’m in cahoots with someone on the inside—and not just that, but with the person running the show. He has the cheat codes. He has the answers. He has the words and He has the strength. And maybe I’m still shaky at saying no when I need to and instantaneously saying yes when He asks. Maybe I’m still selfish and ignorant and stubborn.
But I’m trying not to be. And I think that’s the point. And maybe I haven’t tried other religions. Maybe I’ve only sat in one Baptist church meeting, and only went for my public speaking class. Maybe I haven’t tested other sources.
But I haven’t needed to, and that’s what I should have told the guy at the movie theatre. I haven’t needed to compare, because I’ve felt the fullness with which this gospel, this religion, brings me to Christ. I’ve watched His love envelop and change the very appearance of a person. I’ve watched sharp edges grow soft and harsh lines become smooth. I’ve felt His hand and I’ve felt His absence.
I believe you can feel Christ’s spirit anywhere. I believe the Holy Ghost helps those who haven’t received it; but I feel that spirit most with the Mormons. I feel that spirit most with the Plan of Salvation and the temple and the Book of Mormon. I don’t doubt God exists in other religions, I just know He dwells in mine.
And I’m thankful every day for being raised LDS. I’m thankful every day for being fully converted. I’m thankful to that friend for living his testimony in so full a way that it inspired me to don mine as a more public garment. I’m grateful God listens and loves me, that Christ set selfishness aside and atoned for my sins, pains, heartbreaks and concerns. I’m grateful I have a Redeemer to lean on, a crucified hand to hold, and a knowledge that we are eternal. And a desire to act upon it.
And you know what? It’s a testimony, so I’m ending it like one.
And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.