"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-wringing, 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.
Spiraling to Rock Bottom
So that's when I gave up. After months and months of trying, after working myself to physical and emotional exhaustion, after giving up on my writing, and after walking away from everything that made me me with little to no results, I was done. I had come to one conclusion:
Some bones will never set.
Some wounds will never heal.
And, no matter how hard you try, some mistakes can never go back to the way they were before.
It was over. The damage--on a grand, eternal scale--was irrevocably done. I had failed my personal mission, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had to accept my reality...
"You can't do this, Misty.
You aren't good enough.
And you never will be."
I walked away from everything I believed in. If I could put my trust in faith and make the "right choice," then why did it continue to hurt so badly? Why were things still so very, very messed up? Why, when I was doing everything I had been told and everything I was supposed to do, wasn't the repentance process working? What was wrong with me? That's when I decided I had been entirely too much of a disappointment. That I had fallen past the point of no return. And that's when I quit. I no longer had a testimony. Of anything. I had no idea who I was, what I was doing, or why I was even here. I gave up, not just on the concepts I'd known and believed in my entire life. I gave up on me. I gave up on mortality. I was done.
My love for my family was the only thing that kept me going. Regardless of what I believed, I had still made commitments to them. So I tried my best to keep myself, my home, and my family together. But I had to do it with little to no motivation, little to no faith in myself or anything else, and eventually--like an engine running on nothing but fumes--I burned out. I sputtered and I choked and--through a downward spiral of unrealistic expectations, depression, anxiety, and uncontrollable mood swings--landed myself in an Intensive Care Unit for three days. That's when I had to admit I wasn't just emotionally and spiritually done. I was physiologically done as well. I'd literally ran myself into the ground. Into a deep, dark, dingy hole. And there was nowhere left to go but up.
Starting to Rebuild
It was then that I finally began to heal. The ultimate diagnosis? Severe panic disorder, spotted with bouts of high anxiety, and exasperated by radically fluctuating hormones. I'd become so preoccupied with living up to everyone's expectations (including my own) that it, quite literally, terrified me not to meet them. I somehow talked my way out of inpatient care, promised to see an OB, a therapist, and a psychiatrist. I scowled my way through sessions, subjected myself to rather uncomfortable testings and treatments, showed up religiously (sometimes several times a week) to therapies to discuss my "sordid childhood" and "just how it made me feel" and practice "coping" techniques, and endured roller-coaster results. I acquiesced to letting others make decisions for me, put on a happy face so as not to tip anyone outside of my husband off to my struggles, and took my various medications like a good little patient.
And eventually, to my great surprise, it began to work. Slowly I got my life back. I had to make sacrifices, alter my lifestyle and diet, change perceptions, and let go of expectations, but it was working. I was feeling better than I had in a very, very long time. After a few months the panic attacks had all but stopped, there were very few triggers left, and everything seemed to be coming together.
Well, almost everything.
Something was still missing. No matter how much better I felt, my husband was still miserable, and we still struggled to get back the dear, sweet connection we once had. Not that I didn't know deep down inside what the culprit was. Josh had expressed several times his desire to go back to church, to have that spiritual reinforcement. But as far as I was concerned, I was doing better than I had ever been as an active member and the last thing I wanted to deal with was more obligations and expectations, especially when I had finally found a balance to the ones I already had. Or, at least, that's how I thought I felt.
The truth was, I still didn't feel worthy. Sure, I could run a house like a well-oiled machine, "mother hen" like nobody's business, and look smokin' hot in curls and a Wonder Woman t-shirt for date night, but I was no longer "Molly Mormon" enough. I could no longer get through a Relief Society discussion without crumpling into panicky fits of hyperventilation. I could no longer feel the Spirit during Sacrament. I was no longer one of the "elites" that the Bishop "didn't have to worry about." Inside I had accepted the fact that I was never going to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. As far as the outside world was concerned, however, I was Super Woman, and I didn't want to have to admit I really wasn't.
Finding Hope Again
It wasn't until I was inadvertently forced by a dear friend to take a long, hard look at what it was that I was still so desperately seeking--that I was inexplicably reaching out to find. It wasn't until I had no choice but to analyze his perceptions that I ultimately had to face my own. And as I did so, two words continued to ring out from the very Stake Conference talk that President Keogh had gotten up to give nearly 18 months before. The very talk that had answered my prayer and inspired me to make the right choice in the first place. "Let go of what you think you want," he'd said.
Two simple little words that, for me, held so much meaning. It was time to finally let go. To admit that I had been right so many months ago. That I wasn't good enough, and I never would be. That no matter how "together" I thought I was, I couldn't really do this.
And that was ok.
"You can't do this, Misty
You aren't good enough.
And you never will be...
At least, NOT ON YOUR OWN."
I once read that the reason that Satan is so good at deception is because he uses the truth to deceive. The truth, sprinkled with one simple, little lie. For me, that lie was that I had to do it on my own. That if I couldn't stand on my own, that if I couldn't get through mortality by my own devices, then I was a failure. That I was good enough...that I was special enough...that I was elite enough...and that I was different enough that I could "lean on my own understanding." That I--in my fallible, flawed, prideful, mortal thinking--knew better than He did. That I was in control.
What was I thinking?
I do need Him! I do need the Gospel. And I ABSOLUTELY need the Spirit. I CAN do this. But not the mortal me. Not the one that thinks she's so awesome and knows everything. The divine me. The eternal me that's trapped inside this imperfect body and waiting desperately to be spiritually fortified. The me that I was always meant to be.
Establishing Peace with My Imperfections
And to get there, I first have to let go. I have to let go of what I think I want. I have to let go of my vision of the way things are supposed to be. I have to let go of my expectations and inhibitions. I have to let go of my understandings and interpretations. I have to let go of my imaginary control. I have to let go of how I think things should play out and trust that the person who is in charge knows what He's doing.
I never understood until the moment I came to that realization, what it truly meant to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Because of my prideful and rebellious personality, I quite literally had to be slammed against the shore before I'd ever figure it out. Ultimately, I left the Church because I thought I wasn't good enough. What I didn't know was, I wasn't there because I was a leader or an inspiration. I wasn't there just so that others could learn from me. I wasn't there to share my vast knowledge and insight. I wasn't there because I was perfect.
I was there because I wasn't.
And I was there because, through Him, I still could be.
Misty is a wife and mother of two, a homeschooler, a prepper, an agrarian, a hardcore home-economist, an Emergency Management major, and (when she finds the time) an author of everything from apocalyptic fiction to preparedness curriculum for kids. She and her family enjoy spending their days in the beautiful and thriving area of Northwest Arkansas, where they hope to ride out the no doubt ensuing zombie apocalypse with their equally quirky (and just as well trained) closest friends. You can follow them in all their roller-coaster "attempts to keep the family afloat” atwww.fightingtherain.com.