Sunday, November 1, 2015

Baptism

My daughter got baptized yesterday. In the same dress that I got baptized in when I was 8 and my mom got baptized in when she was 8. She became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was proud of her for when she wanted to wait and also a little heartbroken. When she first turned 8 she said she wanted to wait until her dad could be there. Then she said she wanted him to do it. Then she didn't want to after he died. Then one day she asked me why she wasn't baptized yet.

Sometimes I want to tell my daughter that a lot of men in the church won't treat her like a person. I want to tell her that people are more important than any church. That God is the important one.

Sometimes I want to take it all back and somehow let her dad baptize her. Another boy got baptized that day. The other mom was remarried and the dad still baptized him. I was a little jealous. Every now and then I get jealous when people say they are fighting with their ex. That means their kids have two parents. I understand that some parents do a lot of harm but really it's better for kids to have two parents. I used to worry about taking out the trash and putting your laundry in the bin and now it just seems so stupid to worry about that stuff.

Sometimes I guess some of the guys I have met will lie about how worthy they are and baptize their daughters or go through lip service to pretend they care. I wonder if John would have done that. He told me he lied about how he felt about the church for years to make me happy.

I wonder if it matters.

My friend came to the baptism and asked me how I was doing and I started crying. I don't handle feelings super well. I just wanted a happy family for my kids. I don't care if I was divorced I just wanted my kids to have a good dad. It's weird how when you are younger some of the things you want to give your kids are things you can't actually choose or control. Why didn't I care more about them having a good mom or a happy mom or something I could actually work towards?

I want to give her the hope that I felt when I was 8 that I don't always feel now. I'm tired of people yelling at me to feel it.

They wrote letters to the kids that day and I was helping her get dressed so I didn't get to write her a letter. I think I would tell her this:

To my daughter on her baptism day;

I'm remember the day I got baptized and how worried I was that I would make a mistake. I remember really wanting to follow God. I remember being so proud and happy and feeling so amazed. I remember all the talks. I am so glad you got to talk to your cousins about their baptisms and it is something you share.
As I've gone through life the sharing has become more important. I realized on my mission how people had basic needs for shelter and friendship that trumped their religious ideals. I realized I just wanted people who were kind to me sometimes not people who were exactly perfect. May you provide kindness to the people you meet.
I still believe in God. When he tells you to do something don't ignore it. Some people say trust your intuition- some call it a still small voice. For others those three things are distinct. There have been times I have followed it and times I've ignored it. I regret the times I chose what I wanted over what God told me. That's different than what other people have told me I should do. I hope you can grow to know the difference and trust him even when you don't know why or it breaks your heart in half. You always ask about why I got divorced and I always say I won't ever tell you but I will tell you this- when it was happening I begged God to let it all work out. I got an answer and it was this.
"is this what you want to live with."
"No."
I couldn't live with it.
I wanted him to change the situation and the people and he only asked me if I really wanted what I was asking for.
I didn't realize what I was asking for.
I think that's how prayer works sometimes- it's not a huge answer it's God just repeating back what we said and then we realize that we didn't exactly want what we asked- we wanted what we had to change into something it's not. One of my friends told me once that I should tell God about all my frustrations "because he can take it." One of the most intriguing things I've ever heard. There are a lot of people I know who I'm sure have needed to yell at God. He can take it. Sometimes what has happened for me was just the realization about what I was asking or angry about. Sometimes things have changed. Sometimes I felt like God was sorry. I hope you never have to understand that feeling. The Shrug. I know you will and you won't understand what I mean until you've experienced it.
All we ever wanted for you was a hope in the world. I used to think I knew everything. Then I knew nothing. Then I realized maybe that's what faith was. A stillness in uncertainty. We won't know what will happen in our future or after this life. That uncertainty has to be enough. In one of the talks they quoted Alice in Wonderland.

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

They said that when you are a member of this church you know where you are going. In a way that is true. There are clear goals and a clear picture of  Christ and what we can accomplish. But it is also false, like my prayer to have my family that I wanted. I think when this life is over many of us will look back and want something we didn't really want. Do you really want to be married? Do you really want to respect your partners if it means you have fewer than you want? Do you really want to have as many children as others will want you to have? Do you want to hide from what you are and what you choose?
Listen to the stillness. You will not always want what you are asking for. The path will not always be clear but that is part of it. They are lying when they say you will always have a direction. There will be times when the direction you thought was so clear will be impossible. There will be times when you pick a new direction. There will be times when your choices reveal your directional claims as the falsehood they are.
May you learn to stop walking and let those times be part of your journey. There is nothing wrong with listening to the silence. 
I still remember my prayer as an 8 year old that I wanted to go back to the heaven everyone talked about. I wanted to be back in a perfect place and this whole idea of "enduring to the end" sounded SO  HARD. I'm still here and I've realized that the idea that we chose to be here and every day continue choosing life is beautiful. It's harder than I thought it would be and I've been way less perfect than I thought the Holy Ghost would help me be. People are uglier than I thought was possible. Not everyone wants to do good to other people and I'm glad you do. Your dad didn't want to be here anymore. Sometimes I feel like it is too much but I'm still choosing to be here with you. I hope you always choose to be here.

This is not the hope I chose for you- I wanted a clear picture with happiness and a clear answer about the path of life I wanted. This is not the family I wanted for my kids. 

I never realized how much pain other people would cause and how fiercely I want to give you a better life and how I know you will have more pain than anyone should have because I've had that. There will not always be a shiny hope at the end and there will be times when you will be jealous of the people who seem to say their path is always clear. The beauty is not in knowing where you want to go. 
The beauty is in the silence when God has asked you 
"Is this what you want." 
"No."
 My life has shattered in a million pieces and I'm not put back together again. May you always be enough, even when you are broken. 
I'm scared for you. I'm also so proud of you and happy for what you will see.
The way is more beautiful than I ever hoped for.


love,
mom.

I hope she is able to pass the dress to her daughter if she wants to. I hope she has an easier path than I've had. I hope she can find softness and kindness in her journey. 

4 comments:

  1. Love you. Life is hard. It goes in so many directions we could never predict. Agency is an amazing, crazy, and scary thing. Everyone gets to choose, but only for themselves, and they can't choose the outcome or how it will affect other people. Faith is to keep going. To keep trying because there is a light, even if we can't see it. I'm sorry we didn't make it to the baptism. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Our kids even pray for you. The 'whys' of life might not ever be answered here, but the 'where do we go from here' can have endless possibilities.

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