Friday, February 7, 2014

Post from Shannon: stepping out of my comfort zone

Hey my 2 followers!
I'm taking a risk in writing today because I don't know what the outcome will be.  But I'm going to open myself up to you and anyone else that ever comes across this blog and this post.  Please read with an open mind and an open heart while I share something very personal and heartfelt with you; my life.

The last year or so has been the biggest life changing time of my life.  And to be honest, they have been the best I have had in a long time.
I've been finding myself. I'm not there yet. I have a long way to go. But I'm getting closer.
Yes I've lost a bunch of weight.  And yes I've been working my butt off getting an education.  But that isn't what I want to write about today.

I'll preface this with a disclaimer.  What I'm writing is only for me.  And my journey.  Not my kids, not my husbands.  Just mine and mine alone.

For 33 years, I've been a part of something that was great.  Great for millions of people.  Something that brings peace and happiness.  Something that is beautiful. 
Something that I never felt was for me.
I will never regret the experiences I have had because without being a part of this, I would have never met my husband.  I would then never have had my amazing children.  I wouldn't have met some great people that I hope will remain my friends throughout all this.  So it will always remain a part of my life.

This is where the change comes in.
Deep Breath...
I know many of you already know this but for those that don't,

I no longer believe in the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I have had many spiritual experiences in my life that I will forever cherish.  And those experiences I can't discount as coming from a higher power to soften my heart and keep me believing and to have a greater understanding of Gods love for me. 
I always assumed I had these because of the organization I was a part of. 
But for me, that is no longer true. 

God loves me because I'm a good person.
I don't have to be a part of a man made organization to know that. 

How do I know this? 

Well....I used to be extremely judgmental. 
*I* used to think that being a part of this organization was the only way anyone could return to live with God again. And not just a part of it but an active time and money giving, rule following, long underwear wearing, no coffee or alcohol drinking, guarded tolerance of others who are different, perfect submissive homemaker and mother part of it.
Please understand that not every member is like this.. but this is how I felt I had to be in order to be with my family again after this life in the highest kingdom of eternity.
And I was failing.  Miserably.
And I was/am depressed.  Zoloft daily depressed.
Going to church was painful.  Listening to the lessons from people saying that all I needed to do was pray and read my scriptures and have faith (faith in what??) and everything would work out left me with anger because what was wrong with me that doing those things wasn't working.  Why wasn't I happy then?
And that lead me to wonder other things....
Maybe I wasn't happy because I was in a bubble that was holding me down. 
That I don't have to be all those things.
It just wasn't me.

So I took a deep breath and started climbing out of the bubble. 
I started asking questions of WHY I was supposed to do all those things to gain my eternal salvation when all God asks of us is to love HIM and love my neighbors. 
Where did these rules come from?  Were they truly from God or from someone trying to gain some sort of control by making me think this was the only way to be with my family again? 
And why was I not happy when I was told by doing those things, that is the only way I'll be happy?
Why would God require them from me and those in this one particular organization but to hell (literally) with everyone else?

That lead me to other questions...
Patriarchy in the organization
Revelations vs. Social change and pressure (ie blacks in priesthood, women's rights)
Polygamy in the beginning and how it's still practiced today (it is..)
Polyandry (look it up)
Brigham Young... ohhhhh that man!
Views on homosexuality
Peep stones
Book of Abraham
Plagiarism in the BofM
Early temple ceremonies
Current temple ceremonies
etc etc etc

So I would ask but could never get a real answer other than to not ask.  And to just have faith. And that asking or questioning is bad and I should never do it.
But if this is all so true, why is asking questions bad?  There should be nothing to hide. Right?
Why am I expected to give my life and everything that goes with it without knowing why?

So needless to say, I started looking for answers on my own.  I've gotten a lot of criticism for that too. 

But asking and finding some answers has brought me to where I am now.

I've realized that I don't know what's true and wasn't isn't.
And that's ok.
I'll never stop asking questions that I want the answers for.  That's just who I am.
And I'm going to live my life the way I want to. 
And to love others UNconditionally. 
And to accept people for who they are. 
And to be tolerant.

This is what the God I want to know asks of me. 

So I'm cutting the ties that bind and I am going to get to know God without the restraint that I had put on myself.
I'm going to accept and love myself.  It's going to take time but I'm going to get there. 
I'm not going to feel guilty anymore for things I have no control of.
This is a struggle though.  Because for 33years, I've let myself think that God will punish me for eternity if I do certain things or think certain things or feel certain things.  But honestly how can such a merciful and loving God do that to me when I am still a good person?  If we are created in His image and our ultimate goal is to become like Him, is that the person I want to be?  So I don't think God is this way.  And the only way for me to come to terms with this is to separate myself from the source of these feelings.
And like I said, I have let myself feel this way.  They didn't make me.  I did it. 

Because there is a HUGE difference for me between spirituality and religious and I have become a more spiritual person the less religious I have become.

So what do I believe?

I believe that we are all equal in the eyes of the creator. Equal.  He loves us ALL.  The creator that I want to believe in anyways.

I believe that if we live a good full life, we will be entitled to what God has for us in the eternities.  He won't keep me from my family because I indulge in a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or decide to go swimming on Sunday.  He won't keep my sister from her husband because they were married in Vegas and he's Jewish. 

I believe there's potential for good in everyone.  Well most everyone.  Even the jerkoff who broke into my car.  But people who hurt children... well that's another story. 

I believe in the laws of the land as sucky as some can be.  No one is above them even if they think they are.  No church, no politician, no one.

I believe that we are entitled to happiness.  I believe in happiness.  And the pursuit of happiness.

And I believe that beliefs can change.  And it's okay.  It's progressive.  We are creatures of change.  It's constant.  Just embrace it and don't hide from it.  Own the change and own the past.  It's ours!

One thing I do want to clear up though.  There's a common misconception among the church community in which they think those that walk away from the organization do it because:
*they are offended
*desire to "sin"
*faithless and lazy
I know this because I have thought the same things.  And maybe for some that's the case.  But for many, this is just not true.  And for me it's not at all.  My need to step back is based on my desire for truth and personal happiness that I was unable to find within the religion.  That's not to say it will always be this way.  And that's not to say I won't go to church at all ever again.  I will go when I feel I need it.  Not because I'm obligated to.  I will go if my children want to go because I won't deny them their own quest for knowledge and happiness.

So there you have it friend(s).  I know some people will think I'm a lost cause. 
And that's okay. 
But I know I'm not. 
And those that truly love me and care about me will always love me and care about me. 
No Matter What!
This was not a decision taken lightly.  Many tears and prayers have gone into learning what I have and feeling as I do. 



Hyder Ali said...

Oh Shannon! I have goosebumps! Your feelings were so well stated. You are such an amazing and wonderful person, and you have a tremendous amount of courage. I too am no longer a member. If you ever want to chat or whatever, please don't hesitate.

Cait said...

*applause* WOO yay for happiness.

And Zoloft.

Fleming Family said...

Shannon, I love your ability to work through the struggles you had in finding happiness. Everyone deserves happiness! I get your questions and feelings of not finding answers, I had some of the same questions, but have found answers differently. :) I know how amazing you are and know that your journey will be what is best for your path. I will always cherish our friendship. I'm so glad we met for the short time I had in Nashville. I pray you may continue to figure things out for yourself and find true joy along the way!!

MarknSheilaJo McBryant said...

I love you, my dear friend. I think I remember you telling me about your blog back when we first met at school.
I remember the times we reconnected and I've always felt loved by you and never judged even though you knew my struggles.
We are very much alike in our desire to "know" the why's to all of our questions about the gospel and it's history and our present.
I'm still very complacent. I'm probably what others call stagnate. I don't mean to be for them..... it is just how it is for me, and, like you, I'm okay with it.
I want to move forward and progress in my journey where the gospel is concerned but it seems every single time I move a chess piece.... I am blocked.
I haven't left. I don't have that desire, though I understand what it feels like to be want to be free of something you aren't quite sure of anymore. I'm not faithless and I don't believe you are either.
I realize you wrote this a long time ago, but I know we didn't get to talk in depth about it all though we promised we would.
I really just came in here because I wanted you to know that I love you. I wanted you to know that I respect your right to mourn in your own way and I believe you will and that it will be painful and healing all at the same time but not all in the same time frame....what I mean is that I believe when you look back and see these days and hours that you've mourned the loss of your dear husband that you will see some growth in yourself and you will love yourself all the more for it.
Come here, hurt, write, cry and do it all knowing that you are loved.
I realize this isn't posted to your most current post and the reason you came back to your blog but I think you can understand that I wanted to know more about you because I love you and because we have that connection we have that we can't quite place.

Oh, and please don't hate me for all of my run-on sentences..... xoxo