Those of you who are familiar with Harry Potter books or movies will know what a Dementor or a Patronus is. For those of you who don't, here's a very quick summary, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- A Dementor is a wraith-like creature who can suck the happiness and soul out of a person, make them feel like they will never be happy again, feed on peoples' happy emotions, and force them to recall the most horrible memories they have had in their lives.
- A Patronus is conjured as a protector, and is a weapon rather than a predator of souls: Patronuses shield their conjurors from Dementors, and can even drive them away. A Patronus cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so Dementors can't hurt it.
I've been reading The Bible For Dummies. Even if you're a well-read Bible enthusiast, you'll probably enjoy this book because it's not just for dummies like me. It actually has some very useful, in-depth information about the Bible and its history. For me, it's been a very useful tool to absorb the messages and symbolism in the Bible that I just don't get when I read the Bible itself.
I like simplicity. When I read Christ's teachings, they seem brilliantly simple. If I could just stick to Christ's teachings, then perhaps I would truly feel that "(His) yoke is easy and burden light" (Matthew 11:30). But I get so easily distracted and consumed by all the nitty-gritty details at Church that I feel more like I'm on a bridge to nowhere (Oh man, I just quoted Sarah Palin. Help.) I find that I think less about Christ's teachings and more about details. I'm not saying that the details aren't important. Or, on second thought, maybe I am. Stuff like whether or not my husband ever gets baptized, whether or not I have kids, what political party I vote for, what political system I prefer, how many earrings I have in my ears, whether or not I have a tattoo, whether I'm gay or not, whether I use birth control or not, whether I go swimming on a Sunday or not, how I wear my bra, or whether I wear pants or a skirt to church on Sundays. These are all things that Mormons (myself included) can obsess about. I don't think any of these things are bad. I just wonder how important they are in the grand scheme of things.
I'm sure that I'm not the first Mormon who has felt a bit like a misfit. For starters, I'm very liberally-minded by Mormon standards, married to a non-member, no kids, and I live in a place I can only describe as a spiritual desert. For the most part, I actually welcome these challenges and deal with them just fine. But sometimes, the guilt and pressure from within weigh on me very heavily. Without going into every detail about my personal life, I can just sum it up by saying that I've known for as far back as I can remember that I'm very different from other Mormons in a variety of ways. Yes, as a fellow human being, I have many similarities with them as well, but the differences create a distance between myself and others. No, I'm not gay, but I see certain parallels between the struggles of gay Mormons and my own struggles, so that is perhaps why I'm aways so quick to defend them and encourage compassion and understanding. I know what it's like to try to shape myself into the Mormon mold, fail, and feel guilty about it. I'm trying not to turn this into a "woe is me" session because I know that some of you probably struggle with things even greater than I do. Therefore, I would like to know how you accept yourselves without feeling tortured by guilt.
I believe that there is room in the Church for people like me and even those who are way more "out there" than me. I believe that we should all be focusing on molding ourselves into a disciple of Christ, instead of molding ourselves into someone that we can never be. I believe it, but I have a hard time feeling it and that leads to doubt. Is being a conservative-heterosexual-temple-married--Republican-voting-mother/father-of-five-who never-doubts-or-questions the only way to Christ? I don't think so, but it often feels that way. (By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with being the above. I just can't be that person.)
So what's your Mormon Patronus? What's your charm for chasing away the Dementors that suck the fun out of church, when you feel like you have no place there, or when some well-meaning member gives you an unsolicited recipe to happiness? What about that miserable Dementor that makes you feel lonely? And what about those nasty Dementors of guilt that discourage you when you study Church publications or watch General Conference and get the feeling that that you're never doing enough?