You Didn’t Go to Church

Over the Christmas break my kids found a sack on our front porch. They brought it in and handed it to me and instantly I was thrown back to when I was about 7 and the neighbor boys had left a piece of paper on our grass. When my sister and I unfolded the paper, we discovered to our utter horror, that there was poop inside of it. The boys (who had been hiding and watching us unfold the paper) started laughing and saying things like “you guys are so dumb, I can’t believe you opened that!” It was disgusting and rude and did I mention disgusting!? But worst of all, was that dumb feeling. The feeling that I actually should have known better than to pick up that suspiciously placed paper and look at it. The feeling that a smart person would have already known what was inside. You know…that feeling.

Well, when my kids handed me the bag I had that feeling. It was an ordinary white grocery sack, but it had things written all over it in black magic marker. One said “you didn’t go to church” another said “you didn’t pay your tithing” another “you lied.” There were probably 10 phrases on the bag. My mind was reeling, why did someone put this on my porch? How could someone be so cruel…why wasn’t I smart enough to know that there would be “poop” in the bag? Was someone sitting outside laughing at me?

It took a few minutes of complete and utter confusion before I opened the bag and looked inside.

It was another bag. A brown paper lunch sack, and inside of it was a CD with all of the Church primary songs burned on it, with a cute little note that said “Merry Christmas from the Primary Presidency”

I was so confused. The bag on the outside was so hurtful…the bag on the inside obviously intended to be given with love.

After a few minutes of thinking about it, I realized that the bag must have been part of some primary lesson. When the presidency had gone out to put the paper bags out on everybody’s porch…they realized that they might get wet and ruined in the snow and so they had put all the paper bags in the grocery bags. I asked my kids if they recognized the sack from church, and indeed they did. It had been used as an object lesson. The kids were handed pieces of paper with different scenarios on them such as “you hit your sister” and they were instructed to determine where they should put it…either in the good bag or the bad bag. It made sense, and yet my heart sunk as I realized that my kids were going to church and learning that their own mother belonged in the bad bag. After all…she didn’t go to church, she didn’t pay her tithing…

Anne … hmm. Lets think about her. Yup. She definitely belongs in the BAD BAG!

I in no way think that that bag was placed on my porch on purpose, but I do kind of think it’s interesting that it found it’s way to my home, after all there are probably over 100 kids in our primary. Maybe I needed to see it, to reconcile myself to it. I don’t know.

I think sometimes the LDS church makes things seem so black and white. Everything is either good or bad, right or wrong…and then of course within those good things are the good, better, best things and if you aren’t doing the things that are the best we still aren’t doing things quite right. And so I guess that even while you are doing things that are good you are still in a way potentially being bad.

When I was a true believing member I believed very much in black and whites. Even now sometimes I find myself judging. And yet the further away I get from the church the more clear it is to me that black and whites don’t exist. The more I have thought about it, the more true it feels.

Maybe I’m addicted to some horrible substance, but you don’t know why. You don’t know my story, you don’t know what I’ve been through, you don’t even know how many years I’ve tried to stop, but it has been scientifically proven that if you walk up to me and tell me I’m bad for doing it…that that is not going to help me quit. Judgement doesn’t help people heal. Love does. And how can we love when all we see is rights and wrongs instead of people. How can we even learn to love ourselves when everything we do must be carefully categorized into the right bag. When we must prove to other’s that we are right, because Heaven forbid the consequences if we are wrong. We then run into problems when we are trying our hardest, and yet not living up to some unattainable standard of say…perfection. And so instead of realizing there are things about us that we would like to improve, we determine that there is something about us that is fundamentally flawed. That instead of doing something wrong…we become what is wrong.

Maybe I’m not bad because I don’t go to church. Maybe I am home trying my hardest to find truth, to find peace, and joy and happiness…to heal what the LDS church broke in me. My heart says I am honestly striving to do my best, to be my best. To put me in the bad bag is too simplistic.

Maybe I’m not bad because I don’t pay my tithing. Maybe I have questions about what the church does with my tithing. Maybe I’m confused about multi million dollar shopping malls…and maybe I’m simply tired of walking away from the people around me who really need my help because I’ve already given every penny I have to give to the church. Maybe I want giving to be real for my kids. With real people. Instead of an online transaction that is automatically withdrawn from my checking account without me being a part of it. Maybe I want to be attached to it, to feel the life in it, to give it with love. Is that bad?

I know it’s easy to say things like “that person is bad because he smokes” or “that girl doesn’t care about her body because she’s immodest” or “that mom is going to hell because she doesn’t take her kids to church” but maybe it’s not true. In fact…I know it’s not true. I believe we are all doing the very best we can with what we’ve been given. I mean have you ever woke up and said “I’m going to try my very hardest to do my very worst today!” no. We all try to do our best even when we don’t do it. And why is there something wrong with trying our best? there’s not.

Maybe good bags and bad bags are just made up. Silly object lessons that teach us to judge instead of love. Maybe instead of saying “your sister lied so what bag should you put her in?” we could teach our children to ask questions. “your sister lied…what might have happened to her to make her feel like she had to do that? Was she scared? Was she embarrassed? Maybe we should give her a hug and tell her we love her no matter what she did.”

So the moral is…

Bags: Use them for trash not for people.


Originally published at www.ponderingjoy.com on January 8, 2016.

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