A few months after “The Big Reveal,” a new friend suggested I might be interested in attending a Christian Women’s Retreat with her. The theme of which was Our Identity in Christ. Well, if anyone needed to know what an identity in Christ looked like, it was me! I felt as if I was walking on spiritual quicksand and often found myself sinking as I struggled to discern truth from error. I began to consider the possibility of attending such an event, and the logistics of what would need to occur to make it happen.
Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by the guest speaker with the request that I share a bit of my story at the retreat. To say I was flabbergasted at the invitation would be an understatement! What would a recovering Mormon have to offer that would be of any value to group of Christian women? But I was learning to trust God. It would take a miracle only He could perform in order to make the opportunity a reality, so I put it in His hands and let go. When the miracle occurred a few days before the retreat, I accepted the invitation and packed.
I arrived with an unfinished presentation. The words were all wrong. My thoughts were jumbled. I was scared and frustrated! Then it became clear that I couldn’t write because I wasn’t listening to what God wanted me to say. When I realized what He intended for me to share, I was terrified! There was no way I was speaking my long-held secrets out loud to a group of women I didn’t even know! And yet, hadn’t I promised to follow Him? No matter what He asked? Was I going to break my promise so early in my walk with Him? After He’d performed the necessary miracle that allowed me to attend?
And so it was with noticeable trembling and a feeling of sheer terror that I stood at the microphone in front of that group of strangers, and spoke the words He had given me just hours before.
Who Am I?
I was my father’s favorite. I know this to be true because he told me so, as did my mother. My role in the family was to keep everybody happy by meeting his needs. I was the bandage, pacifier, and sacrificial lamb offered on the altar of a “forever family.” I was the Super Glue needed for peace and family unity. I had value because I was doing my part in creating an eternal family and complying with God’s command to “honor and obey” my parents.
I’m the thorn in my mother’s side. In her own words, I’m the “other woman” who slept with her husband. I am the source of her anger and guilt, the recipient of her neglect. But I’m useful as a babysitter, housekeeper, and as a distraction for my father while she serves in church callings.
Who am I? I am a necessary evil.
I love my grandpa and am loved by him in return. He lets me tag along as he works, and then treats me to a box of Cracker Jacks at the corner grocery store. The sweetest tasting oranges are the ones he plucks from his own tree, then cuts in half and trims around the sides with his pocket knife just for me. Once Grandpa invited me along on the Big Cousins camping trip and took me fishing in a little canoe. He baited my first hook with a wiggly worm, but the fish managed to get the worm without getting caught. When he said I’d have to bait the next hook, my fishing days were over. Shortly after that trip, he was gone. I was ten years old…and brokenhearted.
Who am I? I am a beloved granddaughter who misses her sole source of unconditional love.
Eventually my family moved across the state, away from my father. And my mother returned to working full-time. I’m the surrogate mother and homemaker in her absence. When the school day ends, I care for the younger children, fix dinner, do the laundry, and keep up the house…along with doing my homework, practicing the piano, and serving in my own church leadership callings. My mother needs me!
Who am I? I am an integral part of creating a safe and stable home life for our broken family.
Our family dynamics shift again with the addition of a stepfather and four younger step-siblings. I love having additional brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins! But the new patriarch and priesthood holder in the home rules with an iron fist. Everything I think, say, and do seems to rub him the wrong way. I am never good enough. My past experiences and current attitude make me unfit to associate too often with his children. I’m forced to walk several paces behind the family on the way to church so my filthiness doesn’t contaminate his precious daughters. There are only two opinions in our home: his and the wrong one. So of course, I’m always wrong. My thoughts, feelings, concerns, needs, and wants are inconsequential. My attempts to express myself are labeled as “backtalk” and a “bad attitude.” One evening, after voicing my opinion over what I considered to be an unfair distribution of chores, he glared at me and stated, “If you don’t stop that backtalk and turn your attitude around, I’ll send you back to live with your dad so fast it will make your head spin.” I looked to my mother who was standing next to him and asked, “You wouldn’t let him do that to me, would you?” To which she replied, “He is the Patriarch and Priesthood Leader in our home. I will do whatever he says.”
Who am I? I am an indentured servant who must pay for protection from a pedophile father.
I married a returned missionary in the temple with the dream of creating a happy eternal family. But as our family grew, so did his pornography addiction and the emotional abuse. I was reminded often of my brokenness and inability to make him happy. The words he spoke tore at my already wounded heart, “If you were a car, you’d be a lemon; but a least I could trade you in for a better one.” He was right. I would never be what he wanted.
And so after 29 years of marriage, I do as he demands, and I walk away. I leave the home I’ve built, the friends I’ve loved, and lose the affection of my children. This is NOT the way my life is supposed to look! I have to start over, but how do I do that in a church that harshly judges my decision to walk away from my eternal family? But at least I’ve kept my covenants and am a member in good standing. Somehow, someday, God will show me the way.
Who am I? I’m a lonely and isolated emotional leper who destroyed her family…again.
The Year 2015:
It’s been five years since the divorce. Though I know I did the right thing, my heart still hurts. I kneel by my bed and cry out, “Father in Heaven, for years I’ve been doing everything I know to do and I’m still so anxious and depressed. I can’t live like this anymore. What am I missing? What else am I supposed to DO? I don’t care what it is, just TELL ME!” To which He gently replies, “Come…follow me.” But isn’t that what I’ve been doing for the last 50 years? Again, I hear the invitation, “Follow ME.”
Who am I? I’m a broken, confused, lost and lonely sheep in need of rescue.
And then comes the “Big Reveal.” A dear friend shares her newly-gained knowledge, and everything I thought I knew to be true exploded into nothingness! The world as I knew it came crashing down around me. I no longer know who I am, or who God is. I no longer trust anyone or anything, even myself. I’m crawling out of the dark rubble of lies and distortions into light and truth. Hour by hour, day by day, I’m learning to trust God and His word. Little by little, the broken pieces are healing. Until today, I didn’t know the truth of who I am.
Who am I? I am the Beloved, Abba’s Child, in whom Christ dwells and delights.
(Written for and presented at a Women’s Christian Retreat in Idaho on May 2, 2015)
P.S. And what was the miracle that allowed me to attend? It was the safe and (3 weeks) early delivery of a high-risk grandbaby. Praise be to the Giver of Life!