Dear Ask Mormon Girl:
I’m a 36 year-old single Mormon woman facing a real struggle. Basically, I’ve spent my whole life checking things off the list: graduate Primary, Personal Progress, graduate Seminary, go to BYU, go on a mission, fulfill callings, pay tithing, and so on thinking that doing all of that would yield what I wanted most: a family. God provides husbands to the good people: I don’t have one, so I must not be good. I recognize that this is incredibly flawed logic, but it’s how I feel. What makes matters worse is that my ward isn’t a great place for women like me. I’m not invited to get-togethers, not included in conversations. My bishop admitted the ward didn’t really know “how to deal with me,” since I am single and have no kids. Lately, it’s been all I can do to drag myself to Church, and sometimes I just want to take a hiatus. Help?
In total sincerity and with great warmth, let me be among the first to welcome you to the great spiritual sisterhood and brotherhood of Mormons who dutifully completed our checklists and discovered that things didn’t turn out the way we planned.
Some of us get here sooner. Some of us later. We arrive proud and broken. We arrive by our own conscious choices, or by the choices of others, or by historical calamities, or by illness, or by total accident. As the Grateful Dead sang in their epic “Terrapin Station,” “Some rise. / Some fall. / Some climb to get to Terrapin.”
When we unclutch our checklists, toss them into the campfire, unpack our bundles, and stay up late comparing notes, we discover that in any great spiritual quest there is disappointment. Risk. Heartbreak. Suffering. Failure. Paradox. And grace.
Grace, grace, grace, grace—such a beautiful word. A word too neglected in our very worksy, very checklisty (and, yes, marriage-fixated) LDS culture.
In a theological frame, grace means that you thought you had it right but you got it all wrong—how could you not get it all wrong, being human after all—and still thanks to the great love that is God, all will be well. Better than well. Everything is going to be gorgeous.
Grace also means walking with beauty, power, and dignity through struggle. So as one fellow traveler to another, I’m encouraging you to do what you need to, RJ, to keep your dignity about you. Take a break. Open your heart to God. Pour out that anger and sorrow. Smash some plates. Soak in a hot bath. And tuck yourself into bed. Get a good night’s sleep.
Then, when you’re ready, wake up, and let grace write the first chapter of the story of your life after you burned the checklist.
And let it be a big life, a big story. You’re 36 years old. The game ain’t nearly over yet. This world is a place of great need, beauty, joy, adventure, opportunity, holiness, friendship, and, yes, love of all kinds. Go get yours.
Readers, that’s my best shot at help. Let’s not give RJ the misimpression that there are only a few of us around the great campfire of burned checklists. What words of warmth and encouragement do you have?
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