The following guest post is from SilverRain, a frequent M* commenter. SilverRain blogs at rainscamedown.blogspot.com.
We like to think of the Spirit as a feeling that leads us to find lost car keys, bless the lives of the people around us, and lead us down a spiritual path of happiness. But the Spirit is not always so comfortable. Abraham was guided by the Spirit to sacrifice his son. While he was provided an escape in the form of a ram, the Spirit does not always provide a comfortable alternative. Christ himself was not delivered from His calling to the Atonement.
When my ex-husband left me, I was still determined that Satan would not succeed in having my marriage. I had made covenants and I intended to keep them. Slowly, as I went through counseling alone and with him, the Spirit began to teach me that it was time to divorce.
This was shocking to me. I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed. I should have been able to identify what was happening to me, I should be able to stop it. And I carried part of the responsibility for the dynamic.
The beauty that had been the temple ceremony for me became ashes. I remember several sessions where I could not stop crying. The doctrines of eternal marriage, of obedience, of the sacrifice of clean hands and pure heart, seemed impossible. I perceived an eternity alone, without the prospect of exaltation that was once the focus of my life.
Once again, I found myself contemplating leaving the Church. It was not enough for me to work so hard only to gain less than everything the Father had to give. I could not face myself in the mirror, let alone my Savior at the last day, having tried and failed. I peered into the depths of exaltation, saw what could be asked of me, and did not think I could do it.
This time, instead of leaving because of what the Church lacked, I wanted to leave because of what I lacked. I begged the Lord to deliver me, to give me Spiritual guidance. I pleaded with Him to comfort me. And while I felt faint impressions now and then, I felt no encouragement, none of the warmth from Him that I once felt so deeply.
I cannot explain when exactly a change happened. After months and months of struggling with resentment and even hatred at times, I woke up one morning with a feeling of complete peace. There was nothing particular that I did, no specific event happened. If anything, my external life was particularly difficult at the time. But I had somehow accepted in my heart that all my imperfections were not my problem to solve. The scripture I had been reading, comprehending, and resenting had coalesced into something deeper. It was the Savior’s job to bring my life to the promises He had given me. It was my job to do what I could to love those around me.
I learned not only to forgive the Church for its weaknesses, I learned to forgive myself for mine, to gather up all my fears and problems, look at them with candor and acceptance, and hand them over to Him.
It hasn’t been long since that happened. While certain problems in my life have begun to fade away, the real change has happened within me. I know now that the bonds between my Savior and me cannot be broken. I have looked into the depths of my own hell, and come out with a love not only for my God, but also for my brothers and sisters in this life. And that has given me stronger incentive to engage in His Church, in His service.
I think that every one of us who have dedicated ourselves to the Savior will be presented with at least one opportunity to give up. It is an illusion that certain people are tested while others coast through life without challenge. Discipleship is not an easy path. It requires complete sacrifice, complete trust in the Lord even over our own hearts and minds, at times. Not all will choose to continue.
It is not our place to judge those who give up or choose another path. I have come too close to making that decision myself to condemn another. It is true that there are those who actively seek to destroy the Church and fight against God, all the while knowing what they are doing. But most of those who leave have less nefarious motivations. They are our brothers and sisters. I don’t believe it is God’s will for us to argue with them, or treat them with less than charity. It is our calling as disciples to serve them and love them.