30 January 2012

However Hard and Long the Road

It isn't often that I write publicly about something relating to my more personal trials, particularly when they are trials of faith. Mostly I find that that type of writing is best saved for journaling and not nearly as conducive to the healthy dose of snark and cheek I like to include in my public writing. (Does mentioning "snark and cheek" in and of itself count? I don't think so.)

But I'm standing on the edge of something that is making me nervous, and I'll never sleep tonight until I write. And since I so rarely share my feelings of faith - I figure now is as good a time as any to start.

From when I was very small, I was told - like many Latter-Day Saints before me, that going to the temple was an important goal. The temple is a very sacred place for members of my church. We believe that temples - there are more than 100 around the world - are the physical representation of God's home on earth. It is where we make covenants with God to live a righteous life and learn more about Him. It is where families are sealed together so that they can be families not just on this earth, but after death as well. It is where we perform sacred ordinances for those who have died so that they too can receive the blessings of covenants. It is a place of prayer and worship and service.

Because of the sacred nature of temples, members are not allowed to enter without first declaring their worthiness before local clergy members. What's more, there are age requirements. Youth can enter at 12 to do baptisms for the dead, but not to make their own covenants or do other work. The rest of the temple is reserved for older members.

As a child, I assumed that I would go to the temple before a mission (at 21) or when I was married (before I graduated from college like everyone else, obviously.) Well, 21 came and went. A mission didn't feel right for me. I watched boys go through at 19 in preparation for their own missions and swallowed a little bit of my frustration, but figured I wouldn't have to wait long.

But 21 came and went, followed by 22. . . 23. . . my fridge was littered with an assortment of wedding invitations that rotated in and out as (what feels like) all of my friends married and I remained home on the weekends more or less content with a me-date of reading and movies. It got harder to be denied a chance to go to the temple, something that I could do, at least, because I was worthy, not because I was waiting on the agency of someone else.

Girls aren't typically recommended to go through the entire temple until they are married, go on a mission or reach the ripe old age of 25 (which honestly, to me, always felt like a subtle euphemism from the church as a woman past hope of ever getting married, so they may as well be sent through.)

Not that this stopped me from asking my leaders to consider anyway. I'm stubborn like that, I suppose. I have always been active in my church. I have lived away from my immediate family for nearly a decade and have remained active on my own in all of that time. I believe that my church is true and good and has blessed my life. I honor the covenants I have made and strive my best to lead the life the Lord would have me lead. But each time I approached a leader I was told without much conversation at all that they wouldn't consider it until I was 25. No conversation about why, or time to think about my worthiness - just a no. So I have a hard time swallowing the pill of watching the circumstances of everyone else be a good enough reason for temple attendance, while my lack of circumstances but great desire has not been sufficient. It has hurt. Greatly.

I do feel a little guilty hurting, actually. You hear so many triumphant stories of starving families in third world countries selling everything they own to go to the temple just once in their lives while I, who know I will eventually get to go at little/no financial inconvenience hundreds of times in my life am only asked to wait until I'm "old". And I know that a good dose of my frustration is that part of my personality speaking that absolutely despises being left behind, particularly when it feels unjust. I also feel that feminist part of my soul just annoyed at the sheer number of immature boys who go through the temple simply because they are going on missions, and spend their whole life just expecting it to happen, so it does. (And then I feel guilty about that too, because missionaries do great things and ought to be blessed in that way no matter their age.) ((And then there are the 18-19 year old girls marrying the boys and that gets my gander up even more. But I digress.))

That quarter-century mark is just around the corner for me. I made my appeal again. This time I was (finally) put through to speak with the Stake President. He gave me about 600 pages of reading to do. Somehow in the middle of working what is essentially two full time jobs and assistant directing the school musical and, you know, trying to keep my sanity, I found time to read it all in about three weeks. This Sunday I will have the chance to speak with the Stake President again to determine my fate.

I'm nervous.

Nervous about getting my hopes up too high after years of disappointment. I'm scared to even hope. Hope is equivalent to joy and I don't dare even let myself think about flying on the wings of anticipation this time because the thud is unthinkable. Honestly, I'm actually praying mostly for the Lord to tell me if it is the wrong choice in advance so that I can have my privacy as I try to move on, instead of having to face someone else with that grief. I know that I am too strong and stubborn to let a "no" break my testimony of the church, but I'm terrified of what will happen if he asks me to wait longer after all the work I have done to prepare and all the prayers I've offered begging for answers, because deep down I know that it isn't my choice to make, or the Stake President's choice - it's His.

In the middle of all this I am hoping either way for a bit of understanding. I don't understand why it has been this way. I don't know why these blessings seem to come as easily as putting socks on in the morning for some people and feel like wandering in the desert with the Children of Israel for me. But with every last fingernail of faith I can find I am clinging to the belief that someday this will all make sense to me, and that I'll have the courage to accept whatever solution is reached on Sunday.

In the mean time: I'm watching this.


Bill said...

*hug* :)

That's most of what I want to say. Except to add that it's natural to feel nervous, even if it is unnecessary. Just know it will all turn out as it's supposed to.

You're amazing. :)

elliespen said...

Sending prayers and good thoughts your way.

Nanakat said...

Hi. I watched the video after reading your blog post, and it occurred to me that perhaps the sacrifice being asked of you isn't hard labor or money, but time and patience and obedience.

Among the hardest things we have to deal with are the things that are required of us that we don't understand.

When I have struggled with such things, I have had to tell myself that, if nothing else, my willingness to obey is being tested. And if I can learn to obey when it doesn't make sense, I will be blessed.

And I have always been deeply blessed so far.


Daniel and Belinda said...

I find it interesting that you have been made to wait so long to go through the temple. I remember when I went through the first time, there was a 19 year old girl also going through for the first time. Not getting married, not going on a mission, she asked to go through, and was told yes. I did think that 19 was young, but who knows what her reasons where. All I know, is that going through the temple is an amazing experience, and whether it be sooner or later for you, you just got to hold on. I wish you all the very best on Sunday!