Confessions: While I was in Paris, I called the DCC every Tuesday on Skype… at a time I knew everyone I would want to see would be there. I loved Tuesdays and loved sharing the things I was learning. I loved that I got to see him every week even though I was in a different country.
Before Paris, time spent with the missionaries was always either fun or frustrating. I knew that I enjoyed spending time with them, but I never saw either of them as more than missionaries. At that time, “missionaries” may have also meant, “a little.. weird.”
As I was preparing to come back to the United States, I remember feeling very excited and very conflicted. I was so excited to see him again, but conflicted about why I was feeling that way. When I say excited, I mean excited. I kept thinking to myself, “But he’s Mormon.” I stayed in touch with him all summer: email, postcards, skype. But after not seeing him for nearly 3 months, all I knew for certain was that his was the first face I wanted to see when I got off the plane. And it confused me so much.
Two days after leaving Paris, I went to the DCC and saw him again. For a few minutes, I was able to put aside the fact that he was one of those freaky Mo Boys and instead be able love being near him again. I missed him more than I thought I would and we picked up right where we left off a few months earlier. He had a new companion at that time who, clearly, did not understand who I was or where I fit into their mission. Not that I really “fit into their mission,” but I knew that the relationship I had with missionaries was by no means normal. It took a few weeks, maybe just two, for new companion, Elder S, to figure me out and things started to feel a bit more normal, at least for the three of us.
We met outside of the DCC often, maybe two or three times a week in addition to their ASL class. I recognize this was a lot, and probably borderline inappropriate, especially since I knew for sure that I was starting to have feelings (however confusing they were) for one of the missionaries. For the missionaries’ sake, I will say that they tried very hard to teach me anything. Much like earlier conversations, I threw a temper tantrum each time the subject came up.
I remember two conversations very specifically: one at our ice cream spot and one in the kitchen at the DCC. Both times, the Elders asked about my relationship with our Heavenly Father. They tried so hard to let me know that not only was He real, but that He loved me. I wasn’t having any of it. I didn’t want to hear what they were saying because I didn’t want to believe it. To be completely honest, I think that I didn’t want to have to confront the relationship I actually did have with our Heavenly Father. I felt abandoned, alone, hurt, angry, and so let down by someone or something that I thought was supposed to be a source of strength and love. I felt like He wanted to lose me and I didn’t want to talk about that with the missionaries. It was so much easier to say that I didn’t believe in Him. I guess, to be fair, I didn’t believe in Him. I didn’t believe that he loved me or wanted me to know him. I didn’t believe in His strength or love for me.
This was the major theme of most of our conversations: Do you believe in God? Do you know that He loves you? At the ice cream shop, that one time, I remember them trying to explain why prayer was so important. On the inside, I was hurting so badly. I wanted so hard to cry and I fought so hard to keep tears inside my head that my face was burning. I didn’t know how to (or didn’t want to) explain to Elders C and S that I would not, under any circumstances, consider praying to a God who hated my family. I came from an abusive relationship with religion and to pray felt like I would have to submit myself to the being that I thought was causing that abuse. Elder C tried to pry that out of my death grip – he would look at me with eyes that just kept saying, “You’re not telling me everything.” Okay, so you know in Harry Potter how Voldemort can read Harry’s mind, and Snape tries to teach HP occlumency to keep Voldemort out of his thoughts? THAT. Ugh. I had been hurt by religion, and I thought by God, before. There was no way I was about to let anyone in to be able to do that again. Every piece of the brick wall that started to come down over the summer was reinforced with another layer of bricks and covered in cement. And guarded by Dementors, if we’re going to carry on with the Harry Potter analogies.
I wish I could remember the conversation I had in the kitchen at the DCC, but for almost 2 hours, I sat crossed up in a chair with two missionaries plopped on the counter eating pizza. They seemed so comfortable in their understanding of God and their relationship with Him. It seemed to bring them so much peace and they were so at ease. Me, on the other hand, I was curled up in a tight ball, rigid, tingly, hot, firey, and crying. I held tight to my “I don’t believe in God theology,” but on the inside I was screaming as loudly as I possibly could, “YES, I BELIEVE IN GOD AND I BELIEVE THAT HE HATES ME!”
They often asked me how I felt about what we were discussing. I always responded, with the most force and attitude I could conjure, “I don’t feel anything. I use my brain and think.” Yes. I looked this man in the eye, this man I was starting to have strange happy love dove feelings for, and lied to him. I assure you, it did not feel good.
Even at this writing, I am remembering those feelings of hurt and abandon and I am crying for that girl who felt just so lost and who so desperately wanted something solid on which to stand, but was spinning too fast to even find her feet.
So I went out and bought a Bible.