Recently, I was recruited by a friend in my ward to help organize the ward talent show. It was a great opportunity for me to be involved in the social life of the ward to an extent I am rarely offered. Being an event organizer gave me opportunities to interact with folks in settings I normally wouldn't interact. It deepened a number of friendships; it demonstrated to me how much love other members of my ward have for me. Which is a nice thing to know when you often feel as marginal as I do. I contributed my own act to the talent show, a little piece I wrote about my mother. I got lots of positive feedback on the piece from many ward members. Because it told about my mom's growing up in Finland during World War II, and because it wove her story with my grandparent's stories and my own story, one ward member in particular got very excited about the piece as a sort of "family history moment" and thought it ought to become a tradition at future ward talent shows. The general verdict was that the talent show was a smashing success! (It was fun!) And so it felt really, really good to be involved in something folks regarded as fun and a success, and to be able to participate in the ward far more than I almost ever, ever am able to. I felt happy and satisfied about my relationship with my ward in a way I haven't in a long time.
There was a down side, however. For every action I engage in at Church, there is an equal and opposite reaction from my husband. It's almost as if his happiness with me exists in inverse relationship to the extent of my involvement with the Church. So the fact that I needed to attend Church three consecutive Sundays in a row in order to circulate sign-up sheets, and attend a few week-day organizational meetings resulted in something of a row. In order to appease him, I had to promise to give him a few Sundays for the ones I had spent at Church, which I hate. Damn it! Why can't I just go to Church as often as I want? Especially when all he wants to do on Sunday morning is sleep in? This is a real source of anguish for me. I really long to go to Church and sometimes I just can't because of Göran. I've more or less come to accept this with a certain amount of patience, to accept it as a trial the Lord has seen fit to inflict upon me in order to test my faith. Still, it is difficult.
At any rate, this same friend who recruited me to help with the ward talent show also asked me to help him out by printing a questionnaire for singles in the ward. He wanted me to bring it to Church two Sundays ago, and I had to tell him that unfortunately I couldn't make it to Church, because this was right after the talent show, and for the sake of peace at home I needed to stay at home. Yes, it was killing me to have to tell him this. I hated everything about it. But it is what it is. This is what I have to live with.
This friend then launched into a rather uninformed diatribe about my marriage, and announced that he would "no longer support" my relationship with Göran. In fairness, I've been experiencing some stress lately due to issues that have nothing to do with my relationship with Göran; and he assumed that the stress was the result of "marital trouble." So, he was kind of going half-cocked on the assumption that Göran and I were on the verge of breaking up or something similar. I guess it's an assumption many Church members would be inclined to make about a same-sex relationship.
At any rate, the point where my friend announced he could no longer support my marriage was where the conversation had to end. I simply ended it by saying, "I understand how you might have misinterpreted the stress I'm under. But you have no idea what's going on between me and Göran, and it's not what you think." He sent me a few more text messages that showed he recognized he'd gone a bit too far. I realized he felt badly, but his comments had hurt deeply and I didn't want to talk any further, except to send him a few text messages pleading with him to simply be patient with me and try to understand. We eventually met and discussed it over lunch, and mended things, for which I am very, very grateful. Because this is a dear, dear brother to me, and I want my relationship with him to be right.
At our lunch I explained to him that Göran's opposition to my involvement in the Church may not be fair, but it is eminently understandable. He is black, and he knows all about the Church's history of excluding blacks from the priesthood and the Utah Church's sordid support for segregation. Not that, by virtue of his African ancestry, Göran should be any more outraged by the Church's racist history than any other decent person of conscience. But let's just say that the sting of my eagerness to affiliate with the institution is that much more personal for him. And that's just cream for the pie of the Church's anti-same-sex-marriage activism, and the fact that if the Church had its way with me, we would no longer be a couple; the fact that in the eyes of many in the Church, we are not and never will be a couple. That's two big fat strikes. And I explained to my friend that tirades about how he can "no longer support" my marriage can only become strike number three.
Göran is a good, sweet, generous man, very creative and loving, and with an impish sense of humor. Anyone who knows him understands immediately why I love him. And despite the sand in the gears over the issue of my relationship with the Church, we have a very happy marriage that grows only happier as we continue to mature personally and as a couple. The problem introduced by my involvement in the Church has been an opportunity for us to grow; and we have grown. Göran refuses to be convinced of the Church's merits, and I can't fault him for that, except by way of trying to prove him wrong through a life improved by my involvement in it. I expect him to see the light some day, if only enough to let me attend every Sunday and sing in the choir, and maybe even come watch me perform at a ward talent show once in while. (He definitely did not attend this last one.) I understand his attitude even as I am anguished by it. I simply don't know what to do.
I wish he could know what's going on in my heart, all the ways in which my relationship with God, and the context the Church has provided for growth of that relationship, has deepened my love for him, has deepened my appreciation of just how precious our relationship is.
Similarly, I wish folks in the Church could understand that it was his love for me that nurtured me to the point where I could hear the voice of the Spirit again after years of depression and anxiety. I wish they could understand what our commitment to each other has taught me about commitment in general, including the kinds of commitment required by faith. I wish they could see that all the good things that happen in their marriages, all the things their marriages give them that make life worth living and that give faith meaning, all work that way for me too in my marriage. And it just doesn't help anything or anyone to attack my marriage. Not one iota.
I guess a little more patience, a few more miles in this odd path...