It’s Palm Sunday. The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just days before it all falls apart. He’s betrayed. The people who days before cheered his arrival cry for his crucifixion. This moment of joy and celebration, which we know is fleeting and will soon come to an end (and arguably return even stronger with the Resurrection).
I have four other drafts of posts right now that may all come to fruition at some point (on violence, on trek, on patriarchy/sexual assault/sexism/etc., and on the comedy of Christ), but I just didn’t feel right about finishing any of them and posting it. It seemed like I needed to say something else today. Something about the pain of the world falling apart, about the heartache of people you love holding values that clash spectacularly with your own, about the longing for what can never be again, about the renewed loss of innocence in the face of tragedy.
This has been a rough week for Mormons. The Bishop Scandal/Debacle/Obscenities is difficult to respond to and process given all the hurt that is going around and has left people reeling all around the Mormon spectrum. I’m not going to dive into the particulars of that or thoughts on what we can do about the structures and attitudes and processes in place that allow for such abuses to occur (at least not today), but I am interested in talking about what we do when faced with moments like this.
I don’t have solutions necessarily, but I do have some thoughts on what we can do when everything feels as though it’s falling apart around us.
I think the biggest and most important thing to do is to mourn. To let yourself feel the pain and sorrow that comes with this kind of loss. It is totally fine and normal and even good to mourn and to feel sad and to sit with that sadness. It’s even a commandment to mourn with those that mourn. We typically interpret that as being an instruction to sit with people that are mourning and to feel the mourning secondhand or something. However, I think that this could also be interpreted that we need to find the groups that are mourning and join in—that if we are mourning ourselves that we should seek out others to mourn with.
We struggle with grief and mourning as Mormons broadly and that strikes me as a shame. Mourning the loss of things that are valuable to us but that we can never really access again. You can also be grateful for the knowledge or change or whatever that has taken place and simultaneously mourn for what you have lost. I’ve been in this faith remodel for over 5 years now and largely I love it. I love the complicated, ambiguous place that I inhabit. And yet, I sometimes still mourn the sense of certainty and assurance that I used to have.
As part of this mourning process I think you need to let go of what was or what you wanted it to be and allow it to simple be. This sounds easy and trite and probably is to some extent, but I think is accurate. And it’s not easy. But is necessary. I think we need to evaluate what something is realistically and let go of the idol of it that we have created in our minds. We have to abandon what it has been proven it cannot be. This is true of all sorts of relationships and applies to far more than our connection to Mormonism.
To some extent this is a process we all must go through in relation to our parents. One day you’ll realize that your parents aren’t quite who you thought. Maybe this disillusionment arrived far too soon in your life due to some tragedy or abuse and that sort of process will be somewhat different, but I think we all need to let go of what we thought something was to fully heal. Now, that doesn’t mean approving or desiring what the reality is, but I think continuing to expect something to be what it is not will always lead you to pain and suffering. With the Church for example. If you think the Church is a perfect, unchanging institution, you will eventually have to face the fact that that is not true. The Church is made up of imperfect people and will be imperfect because of that. The Church has, does, and will continue to change and the sooner that we can accept that, the easier it is to better evaluate actions. I stopped looking for high-level intellectual sorts of discussions at Church because I realized that wasn’t the purpose of Church (do I think our level of discussion could be improved and elevated and better? Absolutely. But that I don’t expect members to talk to me about immanence and transcendence and whether God is immanent or transcendent, inside or outside a Godelian System and whether God’s complete or consistent, along with thoughts on theosis, secularization, epistemology, etc.).
The final step for me in this sort of healing process, when I’ve felt let down and betrayed and hurt and broken and like this thing that I loved desperately and need to be good suddenly feels wrong, is to seek the good. Some try to put this earlier in the process and it rings false and more damaging when that takes place (the efforts at comfort when a loved one has died that “they’re in a better place” for example). I think we must mourn deeply and let go of our expectations and perceptions before seeking the good. Labeling this the final step is probably a bit misguided, since I am not sure that the mourning that I describe first is ever really done. Just like the grief at the loss of a family member may be mostly under-wraps, but can resurface wildly at the drop of a hat, the mourning here of a loss of faith or however you term it can resurface at any given moment and that’s part of the process I think.
BUT, seeking the good. I think to do full justice to the mourning that you’re going through, you have to seek the good. You have to find what is good in the thing that is no longer what you thought or the good of your experience with it. Sometimes this may be a silver lining to the event that has happened. Other times it’ll probably look different and be more about honoring the good that you derived from the experience. Perhaps this is my inner optimist showing that believes in the fundamental good of humanity, but I truly think that finding and acknowledging the good is an essential part of the healing process. For me this has allowed a sense of grace to fill me and extend to others and is powerful.
Life is hard. We’ll all eventually face something like this and my heart is with you. I’ve been mourning recently and reach out to all of you that are mourning with me.