Friday, July 29, 2011

The Worst Day of My Life -- When My Husband Left the Church

I have wanted to write this post for a long time.  I have also avoided writing this post for a long time.

It happened almost five years ago, but it is still so tender.

I worry that I won't be able to capture the devastation I felt.  That I still feel when I think about it.  Because, truthfully, I try not to think about it too often.  It's still so painful.

Five years ago was a difficult time in my life.  I was working.  My health was getting worse.  And my marriage was in trouble.  We'd been in therapy for a while and things were getting better.  At least, our relationship was getting better.

But it was at this time that my husband had a crisis of faith.

In order for this to make sense, you must know a few things about our faith.  I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).  I have been my whole life.  While there was a time when I was young that I followed along because it was all I knew, that's not what it is now.  I have long since quit relying on the testimony of others.  I am a member of this faith because it makes my heart happy.  It brings me peace.  I believe this is what I was taught before I came to this world.

One of the elements of our faith is a belief in a pre-earth life, this life, and a post-earth life.  We believe this life is just a tiny portion of our existence.  Most of what we do here is in preparation for the next life.  As part of that, in our temples we perform ordinances that we believe carry on into the next life.  In particular, sealings.  We believe that if we are sealed together in the temple, and live the best life we can, that families can be together forever.  We believe we are sealed for time and all eternity.

I believe this.  And I grew up believing this.  This is why I was careful about the boys I dated.  This is why I chose to live my life according to God's commandments.  As a child and teen, getting sealed in the temple to a worthy man who loved me was my main goal.  I tried to do everything I'd been taught to make that happen.

And it did.  I married a returned missionary who took me to the temple.  We were sealed for time and all eternity.  Because of this sealing power, our children were sealed to us also.  There was such safety in knowing that. 

When things got ugly between my husband and me, I knew that things would get sorted out with time and we could still be together forever.  We would find our way back to God and would do so together.

And then he said he had questions.  He wasn't sure anymore that certain parts of our faith were true.  He shared his concerns, we talked about them, and he was reassured and found his footing again.  Then he had more questions, bigger struggles.  We worked through those, too.  Then it went beyond questions and doubts.  He came to a point where he no longer believed it was true.  In fact, he felt it was harmful.  He wanted out and he wanted to take his family with him.  The months that we worked through this were incredibly difficult.  It was hard not to push him to choose the church for me, to make me happy.  Or for anyone else.  I believe in honesty.  He was honest with me and I am grateful for that.

He started blogging about his feelings, denouncing the church.  He made accusations and claims that were anti-Mormon in nature.  We were in counseling with our bishop (pastor) during this time.  I told him of the blog.  He discussed it with my husband and said that if it continued, because of the things he was writing (preaching against the church), his membership in the church would be in jeopardy.  We returned to visit with him a month later, he asked about the blog and was told it was still up, my husband was still adding to it and had no intention of stopping.  And we were at a decision point.

My husband was given two choices.  He could withdraw his name from the church records or the bishop could start proceedings to have him removed.  My husband asked which of these would be easier on the bishop.  I admire that.  My husband chose to have his name removed from the records of the church.

It had been a while coming and I thought I was prepared.

But the day the letter came saying that he was no longer a member of the church I died a little.  My heart broke into a thousand pieces.

It came while he was at work.  I called to tell him it was there.  He asked me to open it and read it to him.  I did.  He said okay and that was that.

But not for me.  I held that letter.  I stared at it.  It didn't matter that I knew it was coming; I was not prepared.

How would we tell the children?  Our families?  Our friends?

And what did this mean for me?  I was unsure about who I was now.  We had been one and now we were two.  I was unsure about eternity now.  I didn't know how I fit in.  I didn't want the attention and sympathy that I knew I would receive.  I fit into a new classification now.  I was a woman married to a non-member.

It was the most lonely day I have ever experienced.  I had this information that seemed to stop the world from spinning and I couldn't talk to anyone about it.  The person I usually talked to about things that made me sad was my husband and he didn't understand.  He was happy and relieved about it.  I felt like a widow.  I walked around in a daze that day.  I cried a lot.  I felt so lost.

I had a friend whose husband died around this time.  I remember feeling like she was lucky because he was living a righteous life when he died and at least she knew her sealing was intact, she knew he would be waiting for her.  I am ashamed of that feeling.  I was jealous of her ending as opposed to mine.

It felt like an end. 

He and I are in a better place.  He is more kind about the church and the fact that the children and I still participate.  But something is gone.  There is a spiritual intimacy that is no longer there.  It died that day.  And I don't know if I will ever be done mourning its loss.


MaggieJo said...

Don't stop mourning.

Penelope said...

So sad for you. I understand your feelings of abandonment. I see how different views can isolate. Maybe if you read the bible together?

Dawnelle said...

I shed tears reading this. Really, it's a loss of not only girlhood dreams but of adult dreams, too. You've become somebody you never wanted to be through no fault or control of your own. However, in my case, I feel like I have to take some of the fault. I couldn't say whether it's easier or not. I'm mourning with you.

Carol said...

While the journey to heartbreak is different, I do understand. Never give up the dream. Eternity is a long, long time and the atonement is infinite. {{{{hugs}}}

Bonnie said...

I never say, "I know exactly how you feel," but wow, this sure had a ring of deadly familiarity to it. I remember the hollowness of a day like this over 20 years ago, when I was sure that my life had ended, but somehow I was still breathing. How could anyone continue to exist when disemboweled like that? In my case it was compounded by someone saying also that he didn't love me and he never had and that he wanted nothing to do with me or our child ever, but though that was excruciating to a 20-year old, it paved the way for an eventual healing - a deeper but cleaner cut - so it's a different pain, and I recognize that. I'm sorry. I remember feeling that not only was I hurting with a pain that seemed it would never go away and nothing could touch (kind of like your headache, huh?) but that I could never be whole again, that I had been disfigured in an irreparable way. I know you've found a measure of peace with this, but I recognize the continuing pain, as if instead of a clean cut, someone is still sawing away a little each day (kind of like your headache, huh?) I'm so deeply sorry. I love you. And I know that there is healing, eventually, even for this. But for today and its lingering pain, I'm sorry.

Rubye Jack said...

I'm sorry you lost your dream Robin. When you are linked as one to another, and then that link is broken... it would be so very sad. However, I'm glad things are better for you now.
I'm not sure about your religion but when I was a Baptist, it was said that "once saved, always saved" and if one strayed they would come back to God before death.

Libby said...

Extraordinarily this is the first time I'm without words. Thank you for sharing something that was/is difficult for you.

Jessica Grosland said...

There are no words for this.


Unknown said...

I am the lone dissenter, and I am reading this a few years later...but I applaud your husband for being strong and for seeking his own truth. I believe as your husband does, but I also respect your right to practice as you choose (As I've written elsewhere in your blog). I hope that things are better and that perhaps you have opened your mind to why he feels as he does.

Unknown said...

such a vulnerable post. thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but speaking from the experience of being a widower...your husband is still alive, still there for you, still there for your kids. You're pretty damned lucky.