self discovery nuuuumber 4:
nobody wants to be a project. and definitely not me!
I have this friend that I think I’ve mentioned on here recently: David. He’s a strong mormon that I went to high school with and recently had the opportunity to catch up with this summer after four years apart and no contact. It was a great time this summer doing different things with him: chipotle, long runs, teaching him to drive a manual, etc. And most of all we had some incredibly talks about Jesus, God and our very different faiths.
The second to last time that I saw him was actually on a Sunday when I attended the local single’s ward* with him. He had asked in earnest and told me he’d appreciate it if I would just come and visit. So, being the pushover friend that I am, I consented. That adventure ought to be told in person with plenty of hand motions, confused facial expressions and a good deal of laughter.** But the best part was when we sat outside for an hour after the meetings had ended and just talked. We went back over some of the issues we had already discussed and wrapped around several more topics before I let out a long sigh and for a moment stopped tearing hte grass up. I looked at the building that I had just spent three hours in and wondered how it could stand there, so calmly while my soul was raging against it. David asked what the sigh was for and reassured me that I didn’t need to be diplomatic. It hurt though, as he sat in the grass beside me with his chocolate brown pants and the sweet thing pinstrips running down to the pointy leather shoes that may have originated in Russia. His crisp white shirt looked freshly ironed but for the few wrinkles acquired that morning in services, and the tie brought out the bright blue of his eyes that now looked saddened or– at the very least–pensive.
“I don’t know how you believe any of this. I mean, I just can’t wrap my mind around it. And I hurt for you David, my soul hurts for you. Because you have to earn your salvation, and I can’t imagine what a heavy load that must be. What an incredible burden you must live under every day! I can’t imagine what that is like, and I wish that you knew Jesus, and you knew the freedom and the grace and the rest. I just hurt for you, because I think it must be so hard, and it must be a pretty sucky existence.”
Of course he told me it isn’t so bad as all that. And eventually we had to part ways. We did so, in laughter and the promise to see each other once more before he left on Wednesday.
Monday, he invited me to “FHE,” an event at the ward. I turned him down, mostly on the pretext that the meeting would be about finances and the world knows I get enough of that at work… And besides, the promised dinner and game of volleyball don’t appeal to exhausted uncoordinated Sara on a Monday night.
Tuesday, he invited me to ultimate frisbee with others from the singles ward. And this might have been my last chance, becuase he left on the 8 hour drive to Utah the next day.
But… but… It was another event with the ward. And I didn’t want to see the ward, I wanted to see David. I mean, seriously, I had just spent fricking three hours trapped in that building on Sunday. The awkward silence during “communion,” the struggle to censor myself, the desperate rage against the lies, the begging of my soul for freedom for those around me–and he wanted me to go back to that?
Did David even want to see me? Of was it as I had first suspected: that I was not so much a friend to be enjoyed but rather a project to be molded and shaped into a new mormon? Another tick on the tally sheet of converts? And then it struck me even more soundly:
this is how “non-Christians” feel when we only invite them to church events. No wonder they don’t come! Nobody wants to be a project! I’ve never felt like the potential convert–I didn’t know what it meant to be on this side of the fence, and you know, I didn’t like it! Leave me alone, let me follow Jesus and if you want to be my friend that had better entail a lot more than just religious excursions. Because if it doesn’t then you really aren’t interested in friendship and I am out.
So now I have much more sympathy and even empathy for non-believers who experience this.
I’m a human being. Love me to Jesus. Don’t drag me to events to get me there. Trust me. It isn’t going to work.
*Mormons (LDS) divide their populace into wards which are much like parishes in the Catholic church. You’re assigned to a Ward which you attend on a weekly basis. There are two types of wards: Family and Singles. Family Ward is for–you guessed it–families or married couples. Singles Ward is for those between the ages of 18-30ish*** who are unmarried.
**The laughter is, of course, referring to my inability to fit into the situation, my confusion, bafflement and general inability to censor my thoughts throughout the three hours spent in the ward services.
***30ish, I asked David how long you can go to Singles Ward for and he didn’t honestly know. When I asked if you could go if you were, say, 30, he laughed and said, “well I hope I’m married by the time I’m 30 and I’m in Family Ward.” Which is a very annoying way of altogether sidestepping the question.