About a month ago, I was having a pretty tough time. I had found out about the Stake Pres sharing information about me. Specifically, he spoke to several of my bishops who shared with him how much money the church had given me. The Stake President then shared that information with Ginger.
I wanted to stand up for myself. Not because I thought he would care, but just as a "I don't allow people to do hurtful things to me anymore. I confront abusive behavior."
I called him. He said I had no right to bring any of this up, and the only reason I even cared was because I was feeling guilty. He said a lot of crap that sounded like a lot of the bullshit I have heard for most of my life.
"It doesn't matter what I did to you, YOU are so bad, you deserve it."
I was upset. I decided to stop at my parents' home.
I shared with my mom what the Stake Pres had said, and then shared with her how I believed it, even though I also knew he was wrong. My dad came in. Said he was glad I was there. I wanted to crawl in a hole. I was so scared of what he was going to say next.
He then shared with me that he has been praying about me. (Oh dear God, not now. I can't take any more right now.)
He then shocked me in a most WONDERFUL way:
"I support your decision not to go to church. I think it is exactly what YOU need right now, today."
I felt hopeful, happy, excited, and wary.
"What if I never go back?"
He said, "I've thought about that, and I don't care. I see the sparkle in your eyes and the brightness in your face, and I love that. I love YOU! I love having YOU in my home, and I'd rather have that. It just doesn't matter if you go to church or not."
Several months ago, I was reading a letter written by a father to Boyd K. Packer about Packer's teachings on homosexuality. I got to the end of the letter, and I cried. This father was choosing his son's happiness over what Packer had to say. I WANTED that. I wanted my dad to see me, and to choose me, just like that dad had done.
I understood that my expectation might have been too much. I understood that my very active Mormon dad would always want me to go to church. And all of the understanding in the world didn't take that desire, that NEED away.
Since that day, my dad and I have had some deep discussions. I have shared my doubts and many of my questions. With every question, he has said, "I have never thought about that. Let me get back to you," and then he has... Not with the General Authority answer, but with Dad's answer. Again, it feels amazing.
One conversation was about fear and guilt. He apologized for raising me in a home with so much fear. He said he didn't know any better back then, and he does now. He talked about how his fear lead him to do things that really hurt his kids.
We talked about how even though he has apologized, and I have forgiven him, I am still dealing with the consequences of his parenting. Similar to if someone had accidentally broke my leg. Even if they apologized, and I forgave them, my leg would still be broken until it healed. I used to pretend like my leg wasn't broken, so he wouldn't have to feel the pain. It required me to hide ME to protect him. No one is hiding now, and that feels amazing.
Our last conversation was last week. I don't remember what I said... His answer was, "We all have to start with a foundation of loving ourselves. The church gets in the way of you loving yourself, therefore, its not good for you. Find that foundation. I love you."
When I started on my journey to heal my life, one of the things I kept FEELING deep down was that if I healed me, I could help heal my dad. It never made sense to me... how could I make a difference for him? I won't pretend that I understand it, or even pretend that I am right. It just feels so good... and it FEELS deep down that I am healing more than just me.
I know I am incredibly lucky. I know so many people will never hear these words from their active Mormon families. I feel so grateful.