That same Sunday, I got pulled aside and went to talk to the Bishop. This is a typical thing in a young singles ward but I was nervous again! I was going to have to explain what I was doing there! Truthfully, I don’t remember the entire conversation word for word but the Bishop was kind and understanding.
He let me know that I’d have to go through the missionary lessons again in order to be baptized and I’ll admit that I was a little embarrassed. Embarrassed by the choices I had made that lead me to that moment. Embarrassed by the fact that I made such a foolish decision at eighteen years old. Embarrassed that I’d have to open up to others about my story in this new ward, about my failures and my struggles.
But it was going to be okay because it was what I needed to do. It was the path that I was set on long ago by my loving Heavenly Father. He knows I’m a little stubborn and He knows that I need to take some time to learn how to be patient. This was my path and I was ready to set off on it.
Have you read the first two blog posts about my journey back to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? If not, read them and then come back!
Okay, so I went back to church. I talked to the Bishop and he connected me with them missionaries! Elder Astle + Elder Davenport were the young men in suits who I learned from for a handful of weeks.
They taught me the same lessons as they would anyone else but I think I made it a little easy on them by knowing a lot of the answers. To be honest, there were times that I felt frustrated with having to take the missionary lessons over again. I knew everything that I needed to, why couldn’t I just get re-baptized.
But I’ve come to realize that I needed to be reminded of what was expected of me.
Clearly, I wasn’t paying attention the first time.
Making these covenants is a big deal, a huge step on the path to living the life that Heavenly Father wants us to. But, on the flip side, once you do - you can’t deny that you weren’t made aware of what was expected of you. One of these things is to repent of your sins - and this isn’t just a one-time thing, you repent throughout your life.
But repentance can be hard and I experienced a little bit of doubt. I was ashamed of some of my choices and thought that it tarnished me. That it stained me forever. It took a lot of prayers and a lot of faith to let go of that shame that Satan wanted me to hold onto.
Luckily, I pushed through the impatience that I was feeling, those doubts about my worthiness to be loved by God and the day finally came when I was given the ALL CLEAR to be rebaptized.
Now, I want to talk about a couple of things before we go any farther in the story. I want to address something that I think is really hard for a lot of people, whether they were born in the church, converts or currently not going.
People that I worked with at the time had a hard time adjusting to my sudden decline of wine on Friday afternoons. We would all congregate in the break room and chat, most of the time with an adult beverage in hand. And when I opted for sparkling water instead, they freaked. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t drinking and it made things uncomfortable between me and some of them. Now, that was sad to me. It was sad that my choice to abstain from alcohol put such a strain on our interactions.
This happens to me in my workplace now and I’m sure you know what this feels like. It didn’t ever make me feel like I was making the wrong choice but it put me in a weird spot. What balanced it out for me was my best friend who I worked with. She supported my choice to go back to church and do what was making me happy. She was my solace in a workplace of people who were suddenly looking at me with strange looks on their faces.
What I’m saying is - find your people. My friend at work wasn’t actively going to church but was a member when she was in high school. But I’ve had friends like her who weren’t affiliated with the church at all. Find your people who love you and support what’s best for you. Hang on to them.
It is hard to make these lifestyle changes, to follow the commandments that God has given us.
I know that. I feel that. I get you. I see you sitting there reading this post and questioning whether or not your friends would still accept you and love you if you didn’t drink and smoke. But I want you to see your Father in Heaven who loves you more than they ever could. The one who watches you doing things that you know you shouldn’t and still loves you, still supports you and still wants you to achieve everything that is within your reach.
He has not forgotten about you.
He has not written you off.
You are his child and that love goes so deep. Deep than I used to be able to understand.
The choice to choose the way of Jesus Christ is one that should be made with a heart full of faith. A heart that wants happiness and wants light in their life. A heart that WANTS PEACE.
It took me years and years to believe this and to let go of my shame and my guilt. It took me years and years to truly know what faith means and put effort into practicing it each day.
I’m so grateful to those friends of mine who stuck by me through this change that I made in my life and loved me for it. I’m thankful for the hand-painted picture of the Portland, Oregon temple that was gifted to me by my work friend who supported me without judgment.
This part of my journey while I was making adjustments to my life and the friendships I already had in place could have changed my mind - if I had let the opinions of other outweigh what Heavenly Father asks of us. This part is hard. I’m not downplaying it and if you want to go back to church, you should prepare for it.
But my heart was full and content. I was doing what was right. And it led to my re-joining the church. It was the best day and since I kind of got off topic here - I’ll tell you all about it in my next blog post!