I knew that I needed to do more than pray and read my scriptures in the comfort of my home. I needed to go back to church.
How could I? I’d made so many poor decisions. I’d burnt every bridge with the church that I could find and I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could humble myself and admit all the mistakes I’d made.
The nerves are what I remember, how anxiety rioted through my stomach as I drove the twenty-minute drive to church. I was living in a different part of town than where I grew up, so I had to go to a completely different building. Lucky for me, most LDS churches are set up relatively the same.
I went to a Young Single Adults (YSA) ward in Portland and was promptly greeted by some bright-eyed missionaries when I walked into the chapel. I took a program, held back my nausea and sat in the very back row, as far in the corner as I could. Could they all see it? Were they all eyeing my tattoos and judging me for making bad decisions? The thoughts were rolling through, screaming through my head as I sat in that pew waiting for church to start. I had my eyes down, staring at my phone and hoping that no one would come to talk to me.
Well – my plan didn’t go very well from the start because the back row isn’t a good place to sit if you want to be alone. Everyone wants to sit in the back row so my empty safe solace was quickly taken away. Church started and it was all familiar. I knew as I sat there, that I had made the right decision. I started to settle in and relax. I could do this. It would be okay.
And it was, until the end of the first hour of church (oh right, we got to church for a long time. It used to be 3 hours but it recently changed to 2.) when the Bishop got up and asked visitors to introduce themselves.
YOU GUYS! This was my worst nightmare. I just wanted to skid by in the shadows. I didn’t want to call attention to myself or the fact that it had been so long since I’d been to church.
But for some reason, I stood up. I know, I know. The Bishop locked eyes with me and I knew that my cover was BLOWN. So I stood up and said my name. That’s where I wanted to stop but instead, I continued by saying, “I haven’t been to church in a really long time but I’m here now. So yeah.” Why did I say that?
I should have tried to play it off like I was a good Mormon girl who just moved into town, right? Wrong. While I was carrying some serious shame for my years in the darkness, I needed to own it. Especially because I knew I was going to need to be re-baptized. There was no getting around it if I wanted to have the Holy Ghost in my life again and have the relationship I wanted with God.
My hands were shaking as I sat back down and I was feverish in my winter coat. But, guess what? That was the worst of it. After sacrament meeting ended, multiple people came up and introduced themselves to me.
I went to class and to Relief Society and felt a warmth from every person I came in contact with. This was the right move, the right place, and the right people.
That same Sunday, I got pulled aside and went to talk to the Bishop. This is a typical thing in a young singles ward but I was nervous again! I was going to have to explain what I was doing there! Truthfully, I don’t remember the entire conversation word for word but the Bishop was kind and understanding.
He let me know that I’d have to go through the missionary lessons again in order to be baptized and I’ll admit that I was a little embarrassed. Embarrassed by the choices I had made that lead me to that moment. Embarrassed by the fact that I made such a foolish decision at eighteen years old. Embarrassed that I’d have to open up to others about my story in this new ward, about my failures and my struggles.
But it was going to be okay because it was what I needed to do. It was the path that I was set on long ago by my loving Heavenly Father. He knows I’m a little stubborn and He knows that I need to take some time to learn how to be patient.
This was my path and I was ready to set off on it.
Part 3 will include my journey through the missionary lessons and my second baptism!