Thursday, September 28, 2006

A way to heal

What makes a mother get to the point where all she can say about her daughter is "we learned we have to trust the Lord in our mistakes"?

She's a good mother, and I am a good daughter. So how can it get to the point where her life history reports only that I'm a mistake? She's still alive... there is still time to change history.

When she goes to church on Sundays, she hears people from the pulpit saying "there is no greater joy than seeing all your children in the temple" or something very similar. In fact, she herself used to be one to speak of how joyful it was to have one hundred percent success with righteous children. Of course, my parents were never so proud as to take credit for the righteousness of their children (publicly anyhow). No, it was their faithfulness to church teachings like Family Home Evening, and blessings, that led to the perfect family.

I have never had the desire to rebel. Even when I disagreed with my parents, rebellion has never been an action that has crossed my mind. I didn't want to make them unhappy. The rules made sense. My parents were great examples and I enjoyed being brought up by them. I would try to show my love not only through my words, but through my actions. I wouldn't do things that would disappoint them, if I could help it. In fact, acting in a way that would disappoint my parents was the biggest cause of any guilt I've ever experienced and had to overcome.

My parents believe that there are certain actions we must choose to take in this life in order to be "exalted" in the next. These include baptism into the right church, and marriage in the right way. Being "sealed" in the temple is not just between husband and wife - it's a bond between entire families. A sealed family will be together eternally, in the "highest degree of glory." You can perform these rites, and still fall short of these eternal blessings if you don't live the proper moral life. However, the reverse is not true. You can live a proper, moral life, but if you choose not to perform these rites, you are damned - cut short of eternal progression and the opportunity to remain together.

Despite the best efforts of my parents, I have grown into an adult who does not share their religious beliefs. I do not believe in the necessity of ritual in this life to progress to a higher afterlife. As much as I would like to please my parents, I also must live an authentic life, and therefore cannot ascribe to a religion to appease my family. Now, no matter how moral my actions are, they can never be good enough to "save my soul."

Now, every time my parents hear someone say "there is no greater joy than..." they feel the painful sting of having a child who has made the choice to abandon them eternally.
Every time they hear that family is central to their religion, they will ache with pain.
Every time they hear the promise that if they "train up a child in the way he should go . . . when he is old he will not depart from it" they wonder what they did wrong.

It's guilt.
They feel responsible for my agency.
It's how I know that although they would not admit a sense of ownership over my "righteous" behavior, they cannot help but feel guilt and ownership for my lack of it.
I have become the black sheep. The prodigal. The mistake.

My parents also believe in a God who is a spiritual Father to all who live on this planet. What reigned supreme in the plan for our existence was to give agency to his children, the ability to choose their own way. They believe this God is perfect. They believe this God loves ALL his children, even those who "go astray."

My parents raised us to be "independent adults, not dependent children." In other words, they wanted us to be able to think for ourselves, and make our own choices. They chose to give us agency.

Following the example of a God they believe to be perfect, I hope one day they will be able to look beyond "their mistake" and simply love. Forgiving themselves will be the only way we can heal the relationship that religious belief has severed.