1) The process I went through to come to a place where I felt peace in living authentically, in choosing to date and ultimately marry the one I love. That process isn't clearly outlined in this blog. It seems I went from stalwart, faithful member, to choosing to throw that all away in an instant. It didn't happen quite like that.
2) How I've come to find peace outside the confines of a religion that defined all I was for 40+ years.
3) Where I am now, and the continuing lessons and learning I see before me.
This is all too much for one blog post. And probably too much for my soul and emotions to process in one sitting. So I will just do what I can over the next few days to work through these points.
So, the first thing on my mind:
If you have read through my blog, I hope there is no doubt about how deep and real my faith and testimony in the LDS Church was, and especially in the Lord. Everything I did, said, thought, reflected on was colored by the lens of the LDS Church and its teaching. And I loved that. I found hope and peace and comfort in that. Even as I worked through the conflicting challenges of being gay and Mormon, I sought the clarity, answers, hope and peace by living as I believed I should. As, in fact, I KNEW I should - according to the gospel standards.
And I did find a measure of peace in living that way. There was peace in living exactly as I believed the Savior wanted me to, even if the result of those actions didn't always bring hope or peace. If that makes any sense.
So my life became a roller coaster. Hope and peace as I recommitted to living with faith. Followed by the underlying hopelessness coming back to the surface - no hope in ever not being gay. No hope of falling in love with a man. Not allowed to fall in love with a woman. Followed by pulling myself out of that pit and recommitting to living faithfully, and finding hope and peace in my life from obedience. Then finding myself in despair and hopelessness again. And on and on.
However crazy that roller coaster of life was, I couldn't see any other path. Staying in the church, with all the rights, blessings and privileges that came with it was my only path. It was, in my mind, my only option. I just had to white knuckle it through. Had to keep choosing obedience as I knew it. Had to endure to the end.
Then, one day, something shifted inside. I found myself faced with the decision to choose solitude and celibacy, or choose to pursue a relationship, no strings attached. Ultimately it came down to what I believed would help me find the most lasting peace. What would fill me with the desire to continue on in life. What would bring me the most hope. The Lord and I had a very long conversation. In the end, I felt assurance, comfort and peace from Him in letting go of my own expectations for myself, and living a life that would bring me intimate human connection, regardless of where that path would take me in relation to the Church. Though I knew, without a doubt where it would take me, I trusted what I felt from the spirit that night and many subsequent nights. I knew I would loose my calling, my temple recommend, and probably also my membership. Yet, I still felt peace and assurance in that decision.
It was confusing to me. I wasn't sure how to have a close relationship with the Savior outside the confines of what I had always known. But I trusted in His process for my life. I committed to Him that I would keep Him close through it all.
I didn't leave the Church at that point. I continued to attend, because it was still my connection to the Lord and His gospel. However, as I pursued my relationship with my now wife, I felt less and less connected there. Less and less welcomed there. I began seeing and feeling more and more of the subtle and outright rejection of who I was by the Church and too many of its members. It wasn't that I was losing my testimony of the Savior and His gospel, it was that I was beginning to feel, more and more, damaged by the policies and practices of the Church.
By the time I was excommunicated (for getting married), I was almost done trying to attend. Which, after a few weeks, I did. The quiet rejection was almost worse than the outright exclamations of how my life was an abomination, and apostate. Members of the church who were once so open and friendly, suddenly stepped back. Stopped talking to me. Or if they did talk to me, it was with a forced, "its what is expected of me" kind of feeling. Like I had suddenly ceased to be their friend, and was now their project. It was their duty to reach out to me, and help me feel welcome. But that kind of "reaching out" feels anything like a welcome. And it was obvious and painful.
So I stopped attending, physically. But emotionally, I felt a deep loss. I longed for a faith community. I longed to be a part of a gospel congregation. To find acceptance and love. And to learn of the Savior with other like-minded people. So I sought out other churches. And enjoyed attending them. Enjoyed the love and acceptance I was shown, without reservation. I felt genuinely accepted and wanted. And the discussions were all about the Savior. I never felt worried about what I might hear over the pulpit.
But I do feel overarching peace, and hope, and joy. I am content in where I am. I still have questions about where to find meaningful service and connection opportunities. But I am finding them. There are wonderful, amazing people in my life. And it feels full.
So from here, I'm not sure where I will go regarding a church community. I am finding that I am enjoying my relationship with the Savior - just between He and I. Not filtered through a church. But pure and simple. He brings me peace. I don't have all the answers. I don't know if I will ever return to the LDS Church. Right now, I have no intention to. But I do keep my options open, and my heart open to the Savior. I will try to go where He leads. For now, I will simply walk with Him and find my peace through Him directly.
For Christmas, Kim bought me this painting. This. This is where I turn for peace. Where my soul finds stillness.