For the first time in a couple of years I went to church (LDS) last Sunday and actually stayed and attended Sunday School and Elder's Quorum. I had become very accustomed to attending Sacrament meeting with my family and then ducking out to the car to read or whatever to pass the time until my wife and kids came out from church and we could finally go home. I also tried not going at all for a while, which made me very happy, but the shame and disapproval conveyed by my family was very difficult.
I have come to realize that my disaffection from the LDS church is very much a process I am going through and is a very real grieving process. I am just beginning to recognize and deal with the stages I have found myself in. The first stage is shock and/or disbelief, which I do not think lasted very long for me. The second stage is bargaining. I don't think this stage lasted very long for me either. There really was no way to bargain with my bishop because it was either his way (following his suggestions that I take one principle and live it to gain a testimony of it and go from there) or the highway (Don't get me wrong, my bishop is a wonderful man whom I respect immensely). I have thought about bargaining with my wife about going to church (or the church teachings), but it was just easier to either not go there or just go for Sacrament meeting and skip the rest.
The stage I have been in the most (and seem to return to frequently) has been the anger stage. This is where I have been for at least a year or more. My wife has been very understanding and forgiving, but she is just not able to relate to what I am going through. I try so hard to help her see what I see, but it is just pointless. Every time I try, it turns into an ugly argument and we have to take a step back and repair the damage. Sometimes the damage is pretty severe. I sometimes wish my wife could see what I see and for once just say, yes, you have a good point. Instead it is a fight every step of the way - at least until I stop and say, OK we just have to agree to disagree (but truth be told, I hate this so much because it leaves things unresolved in my mind).
In any case, I swallowed my pride last Sunday and stayed in Sunday School and Elder's Quorum. My wife was happy, but I didn't let that last very long. The funny thing is, when I was in there, I actually participated and didn't attempt to get people to question their beliefs with my comments. I just toed the party line and gave my honest opinion when it wouldn't serve to try and shake anyone's testimony up. I was amazed at how naturally I was able to put on appearances, get back into that "mode" and not let my anger show through. And then I realized, maybe I am moving into the next stage of grief! Maybe I am at a point of acceptance. I know I have been through the depression stage, but that hasn't lasted very long for me either.
The stage I seem to keep coming back to, though, is anger.
I was fascinated by my behavior in church, but then I was curious about the aftermath. When I came home I just couldn't resist the urge to try and start an argument with my wife. I just couldn't hold it in. I had to let it out. This resulted in more hurt feelings and more walls being built. What I am most interested in is the trigger. It seems to me that going to church and staying and trying to swallow or bury my true feelings only resulted in a major angry release at my wife (this time the kids were even included in my tyrannical rant - so sad indeed. This was the first time I actually saw my son coping in a way that was similar to my wife's. Why does the church have to keep people in so much intellectual darkness?!? whoops, I am getting angry again...)
My wife made an interesting observation, however, and that is that my increased frustration may have been from the fact that I attended church for all 3 hours. I think she may be right. It may be best to just remove myself as much as possible for the sake of my sanity and my family. Will it eventually get better if I just keep going to church every week up and work through things or will it get worse? I don't know. It seems like some have been able to go back and they seem to have adjusted well, but then I hear others say that a clear breaking point must come at some juncture. Frankly, I don't know what to do or what is the best path to take.
To go or not to go...that is the question.