I’m staying home “sick” from church today. I can really claim sickness as I have been dry heaving and nauseous all day. My decision to take a break from church has come at a cost. I feel like I have walked away from everything my church has taught me. An astronaut blasts out of the atmosphere and lands on the moon and he sees the Earth from a distance. Its like he sees it for the first time. Like that astronaut, I don’t think I will be able to stay on the moon forever, but I can explore this new place I find myself and look at the world I have left with new eyes.
Last night I sat at a restaurant with Ben. I saw a man with a beer bottle in his hand. His young son sat beside him. I thought of how I would feel if I were holding a beer while sitting next to my son. The shame of doing such a thing would be unbearable, and yet I saw this man and his son sitting there with no shame. What a strange thing. I glanced at the drink menu propped up on our table. I saw the alcoholic drinks listed and I thought, “I could order one.” I’ve spent a whole lifetime never even considering an alcoholic drink as something I could have. “I could order one and I probably wouldn’t even be carded and I could drink it and be one of them,” I thought as I looked around at the other people drinking at other tables.
At the repair shop the other day, I had a similar thought as I looked at the Keurig dispenser. I could make myself a coffee. I’ve never had a cup before. I glanced at the two receptionists. They would have no idea what I was doing would be considered terribly wrong by my family and friends at church.
These thoughts were not temptations. I’ve been tempted before and I know the difference. I have no desire to drink alcohol or coffee. What was weird about the experience is that I never really felt like I was choosing before. Spending some time on the moon makes everything look so different.
It isn’t coffee or alcohol or taking the sacrament every week that makes me a disciple of Jesus Christ. Those things are a small part of my relationship with my creator. My link to God is more than tradition or law or ordinance. He sees me and he loves me. If I were born somewhere in a refugee camp, he would love me the same. If I were born as a Muslim or a Jew, he would love me the same. I happen to be born as a Mormon, but I left that label some time ago. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I missed taking the sacrament this week. My feelings toward my ward family are not right. I feel angry at them and afraid of them. My Savior doesn’t want me to pretend those feelings aren’t there and partake of his sacrament with those feelings in my heart hidden behind a mask of normalcy. I don’t know when or how those feelings will be purged away. I don’t know when or even if I can leave the moon and go back home to my ward family, but for now, the empty silence surrounds me and I look at myself, my testimony, my life as I’ve lived it so far, and consider. Without shame. Without judgment. Consider.
I read this article today called “No More Strangers” by Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy. It spoke to my soul. Although it was written nearly twenty years ago, it seems more applicable today than ever to me. I feel so conflicted. I want to stand up for and defend against the racism and political persecution I see right now, but how can I do that while also not persecuting others? Is it even possible? Is there a place for me in a red state in a church that seems to become more Trumpian every day? I increasingly feel like a stranger among those I used to call my friends and family.
Sometime in the future, I hope to sit with my ward family. We can pass the emblems of the sacrament and feel the spirit and rejoice in our love, but not today. Today I’m on the moon.