Worth Dying For...

This is the second in a series of posts that I’m writing about the years that John and I had conflict over religion. At this point in time John had recently voiced his doubts about LDS doctrine. I was a believing, active, Mormon. This experience below occurs a few months after this one. For those of you who can relate to the experience of having a spouse lose their testimony, I'd love to have you guest-blog your story on pilgrimgirl. Drop me a line: phddilly at yahoo dotcom.

Saving John became my daily obsession. I would read articles on the Internet, in the Ensign, and in Mormon books. I was sure that there was some way to rescue John, if only I could find it.

As a Christmas gift I made scrapbooks of our correspondence during John’s mission. I highlighted those moments where he shared his spiritual experiences. I cried many tears as I reread the letters from my genki elder. I was sure that he would be impacted from re-reading his own words about his belief in Mormonism. I wrapped the albums for him, sealing each seam with a prayer of hope, and placed them under the Christmas tree. He opened them and briefly thumbed through them, but soon put them away and didn’t look at them again.

I tried to think of people from our past who had wielded spiritual influence on my husband. I contacted our former Home Teachers, mission companions, and Institute teachers. I poured out my heart to them, pleaded for them to help me help John. This yielded some sympathetic conversations, but no help for me in reaching John.

I went to our Bishop and asked him to pray with me to reach John. I received several blessings at his hands. In one memorable blessing I was told that “I was the key that would unlock John’s heart.” I continued to search and pray to discover what that key could be, what the trick was to helping John remember his former faith in the LDS church.

In the meantime, I was losing John. I could no longer handle the conversations where he voiced his doubts. I told him not to speak to me about his diminishing testimony. My inability to face his changes created a barrier between us that was growing taller each day. We were quickly drifting apart. I began to wonder if our marriage would last. Were we on the road to divorce?

Then one night as I was kneeling beside my bed (pleading with God once more to fix my husband), I had an epiphany. I realized the one thing that would ‘reach’ John. It came to my mind that if something awful happened to me--something on the scale of my cancer returning—that John would step back into his Mormon role. I imagined myself lying pale and wan in a hospital bed, my husband sitting at my side. John's hands were clasped together and his eyes closed. I could hear him pleading with God for my healing. Then he placed his hands on my head and gave me a priesthood blessing, a petition for my recovery. I imagined his change of heart as he regained his belief in the gospel. I felt an upsurge of joy and hope. Yes, I realized, it was worth it for John’s eternal salvation.

I laid myself on the altar that night, a willing sacrifice. I told God that he could strike me with any infirmity—-even my death-—if it would bring my husband back into the fold.


SoCalSingleMama said...

Wow, Jana, what a powerful experience. I think it is a beautiful and touching expression of your John that you were willing to make such a sacrifice for what you felt was his well-being.

I'm glad you two did not follow the road to divorce. I'm glad for couples in this world that have successful relationships even when their religious beliefs differ. I remember the warnings of my own mother that shared religious beleifs were among the most important commonalities in a marriage and am happy to say that my first year of a marriage to someone with different religious views than myself has been rather good.

I haven't watched my husband lose his testimony, but I am surprisingly grateful for his agnostic view of the world compared to my own Christian view because it keeps me grounded. It reminds me that there is a sense of goodness in the world that is completely enjoyable and naturally spiritual even to someone who doesn't have beliefs founded in diety. It's simple and I like experiencing it through his eyes.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. But thank you for sharing your experience. I loved reading it.

Anonymous said...

Not once in my life did I ever think I'd wish for the power of a Care Bear. Er, and time travel. Yes, I'm saying I wish I was a time-traveling Care Bear.

Anonymous said...

I hope John will be able to look at those scrapbooks again. They are milestones marking a journey you have taken together, and looking back at them doesn't take away from the fact that you're both/together in a different place now.

Another observation -- you did leave it in God's hands, when you laid yourself "on the altar" that night. It's a variation on the story of Abraham and Isaac; similar outcome.

John said...

I blogged my response.

One of the things that was the most difficult about this period was that I felt like less of person (less valued, less whole) for my doubts. At the same time, I felt terrible for being the one to change, to be the one that crumbled the foundation of our marriage.

One of the things that saved our marriage was to switch from valuing each other as Mormon spouses to loving each other as true partners and companions in this life. We learned to accept that people change over time, and we are no longer married to the people we joined at the altar. Jana's changes were at least as significant as mine.

I still have mixed feelings about the letters and scrapbooks. I am grateful for the road that we've walked together. But at the time I remember not wanting to be loved for who I was during my mission, but for who I was at the present.

Anonymous said...

"Mixed feelings about letters and scrapbooks..." -- exactly!

Maybe it seems obvious to an outsider, but recognizing your feelings, John, in response to Jana's heartfelt present, may have brought you several steps forward in the process. Even as your act, Jana, of putting together those scrapbooks may have helped you to let go of the guy you knew back when he wrote those letters.

Amateur psychology hour, I suppose. (Forgive me.) But if you hadn't considered it that way, then there you have it.

jana said...

I've appreciated these responses to my posts so much!!! (esp those carebear wishes)...

I'll be writing more about our journey together--how we've come to be so close in our vision and belief. In the meantime, though, I will continue discussing where we've been, as it's somewhat cathartic and it's satisfying to see how we've both changed over time. :)

Deborah said...

This strikes a sharp chord. I spent my high school years watching my mom fall apart and pray and weep and bargain as my siblings took alternate paths. I did not then nor do I know really understand this *despair* (but I do get the still-present emotional repercussions . . .bleck). That you got from there to here -- well, it's been a wild ride, hasn't it? You're a gem.

Caroline said...

This is a great piece of writing, Jana.

Gray said...

I agree, this and the previous post on the topic were beautifully written. As a husband they evoked a lot of feelings, and as a heathen Unitarian happily married to a Jew it is all quite fascinating.

Most of all I feel privileged but a little uncomfortable to read about such important personal experiences.

I am certainly glad you are still together!

Brooke said...

Thanks for sharing, Jana. Can't wait for the next installment. Very beautiful.