"The Devil is a wily one, and, until an hour before he fell, even God thought him beautiful in Heaven." -Arthur Miller, The Crucible
This will undoubtedly be the hardest post I've ever written.
And I've written some pretty heart-ringing, soul-wrenching posts in the last few months.
I have a confession to make. Something that I have kept hidden for a while now. That I have danced my way around in conversations. That I am too terrified to tell even the people I have professed to care about profusely. That I can't bring myself to admit to those who I admire, or to those whose admiration I seek. That I'm not even so sure as I write this that I really want to write in the first place.
I have not been an active member of the Church in over a year.
And I don't just mean one Sunday I slept in late and it kind of became a habit, though I wish it had been that simple. I mean that one day I made the conscious decision that I was not going to go back. One day I came home from church, kicked off my heels, plopped down in the chair in my office, and decided I was done. I was done with squirming through Gospel Doctrine classes. I was done with adding my painfully-earned insight to every Relief Society discussion. I was done dragging myself around after third-hour to collect sign-up sheets, done spending hours setting up and cleaning up enrichment activities, and done feeling burned-out and misguided. I was done ending my Sunday evening even more spiritually drained than when I'd started. I was done wondering what business I had even being there in the first place. I was done trying to make up for my mistakes.
I was done being a hypocrite.
"If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that people will forgive. But they'll rarely ever forget."
You see, I'd messed up. And I mean bad. And though I knew that I wasn't the only girl who'd ever had to go confess the error of her ways, it was certainly the first time I'd ever had to do it. In fact, I distinctly remember only a few years before sitting through a brief family interview with the new Bishop and ensuring him, "Trust me, we're good. We're not one of those families you have to worry about. This isn't our first rodeo." No, we were auxiliary leaders and priesthood leaders and teachers and mentors and member missionaries and one of the strongest families in the ward. We didn't just attend, we were somehow responsible for nearly every activity and project from food storage lessons to Girl's Camp to the Fall Hayride to the Ward Christmas Party.
And that wasn't all. Even within our own family we were doing everything we were "supposed to," from regular Family Home Evenings to scripture study to feeding the missionaries weekly. We were an inspiration to other people. I was an inspiration to other people. Not just because of what I was doing--not just because of the lessons I taught or the activities I threw together--but because of what I believed. I believed and understood and had a deep personal testimony of concepts that people spend their entire lives on the earth and never learn.
And I didn't just believe. I knew... I had seen and I had felt and I had been there.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it was all just gone.
Looking back on it now, I couldn't describe to you the path that led to my ultimate demise. I couldn't tell you the exact moment where it all went downhill, or even how long the adversary had been working on me before I ended up there. You might say that it had taken years. More likely, it had been a lifetime. But in the end the result was the same. In the end, through a series of small choices--through a dark chain of misdirection, rebellion, laziness, and pride--I fell.
I fell. And I hit hard.
At one point, I had a decision to make. I knew what I was doing was wrong and I couldn't continue on the path that I was on. At least, not in the direction I was going. But I had to make some choice about which way I would head next. Thankfully by the grace of the Almighty, I still had enough of the Spirit left with me to want to make the right choice. So I prayed. I attended Stake Conference. I listened. I got my answer. I acted on it. And that's where the real work began.
The repentance process was grueling. From having to come clean with my husband to meeting with the Bishop to skipping the Sacrament. Every moment was heart wrenching. Every week a reminder. Every day I would wake up and, for a split second, forget and then suddenly be washed over and drowned by the weight of it. Some days I didn't want to get out of bed. Most days I didn't want to wake up at all. But I tried.
I knew that this--all of this--from the loss of the Sacrament to the rift I'd caused in my family, was my doing and I was bound and determined to fix it. I threw myself into my responsibilities. I recommitted myself to my family. I took on the role of homeschool mom again. I did anything and everything I could to keep my mind off of the guilt, off of the pain of knowing what I'd done and how badly I'd hurt everyone, from building bookshelves to color-coding crayons. And I did it with such a fervency that I was sure I would earn my forgiveness. I was SURE I could make it right again.
But it didn't work. I didn't feel better. The pain didn't go away. For anyone. It just got worse.