Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people who joined the church right around the time that I did, or shortly afterwards leave the church. Some are people that I taught as a missionary, while others are friends that helped and encouraged me along the way. Some have been prominent in the Mormon blogging community, while others have likely never even seen a Mormon blog. Some have left over controversial topics such as female ordination or gay marriage, while others have taken offense or drifted away for a wide variety of reasons—and really each person who leaves has a deeply personal reason for doing so.
I’ve reflected a lot lately on the question of why I am still here, while so many friends I know have left. One of my friends posted a video of a break up song on her blog post announcing her decision to leave the Church, and that got me thinking about the relationship between romance and love, and the decision to join and remain active in the Church.
When people first fall in love, it is filled with frenetic and passionate romance. It is hard to sleep because you are so excited about your relationship. You can hardly think about anything else. You frustrate your friends, because all you want to do is talk about your beloved. This is a period where you believe that your love can do nothing wrong, and you tend to only see the best things about him or her. It is an exciting time where you see the world through rose tinted glasses.
But anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that these feelings cannot last forever. Eventually, all relationships hit roadblocks. You might learn some facts that make you question the person you thought you loved. You might feel betrayed or hurt. More frequently, I think that people just allow those feelings they once had to become routine. Our relationships begin to lose energy and excitement and enter into a rut. We begin going through the motions. We begin to think that we are not appreciated, wanted or needed.
Of course, we can and must continue to have romantic and passionate experiences. You must keep your passion alive. But the kind of head over heels love cannot last. I don’t think our mortal bodies and minds can remain at the same level of raw emotional intensity forever. If we continue to expect it, we will become discouraged or even despondent without it.
Instead, our love and our relationship must evolve. We must develop a mature devotion to one another. We must learn to see and accept flaws and imperfections. More importantly, we must learn that our relationship is not about us, and that a relationship is more about serving than being served. We must put aside the desire to be constantly happy, entertained, or amused. Put aside childish things and learn to love with a mature love. The scriptural term that I think best defines this love is charity.
So many relationship flounder and eventually die out because individuals fail to make this vital transition from romance to mature love. And I think so many testimonies tend to flounder and die for precisely the same reason.