Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear Bishop: You Loved Me Back to Life

Dear Bishop,

The first time I confessed to you, I was so scared I couldn't speak. You were gracious and did the speaking for me. I believe I gave verbal clues to get you on the right path, but you guessed your way to the problem. Thank you so much for that. I felt like a coward, but I literally was paralyzed with fear. I didn't know what you would think. I didn't know if you would tell my parents. I didn't know if I would get in official trouble. I was 16, and I'd already been addicted for years. I didn't know I was addicted, and neither did you (I don't think you could have) so we didn't talk about addiction.

You were gentle and sweet. You told me things about myself that I tried to believe because I believed you believed them. "You are destined for great things" you said. You didn't condemn me. You showed no signs of disgust. Thank you for your grace and your wisdom. Thank you for your love. You were perfect then; just what I needed.

I grew, and your face changed, but not your title or your roll. Every time I saw a new bishop, the terror returned. Confession to a new face never did get easier. But your love never ceased to astonish and humble me. Thank you for your ceaseless love!

Bishop, as I look back, I wish you'd done a few things differently. I recognize that we're all human and that you can't advise what you don't know about, but if it helps, please consider this: You never told me about the Church's Addiction Recovery Program. One time, you mentioned it, but it was like an "in case you're ever interested, you can find the info online." Why would I be interested in discussing my addiction with other people? That did not appeal to me at all. So when you never mentioned it again, it didn't seem like a good idea. Bishop, I wish you would have encouraged me to attend a meeting. I wish you would have told me that I would find healing through the program. I wish you would have taken me by the hand and walked me into a meeting, if that's what it took. That's how important I have found this program to be. I went on my own accord, years after you casually mentioned it, and through it, I have found the tools that will save me.

Please tell other struggling sisters about this inspired program. Please do everything short of begging them to attend. Please tell them they are not alone.

Bishop, it would mean so much if you attended a meeting with me. Especially a meeting where I'm the only woman in a room full of men. I would really feel like you were trying to understand if you attended one meeting. And one meeting would be plenty.

Only one time, when I was 19, did you ever make me feel like I was a bad person for having this problem. Otherwise, you have been most supportive and kind. That is what has kept me returning to you when I needed to. However, if I may suggest, I do wish you would have made it so very abundantly clear that you did not find me to be a freak of nature for having what I believed was a man's disease. Especially after I added pornography to my confessions. I wish you would have told me that other women struggle in this way. I wish you would have told me that good women struggle in this way. When I figured it out on my own, and told you that this addiction does not make me a freak of nature, you enthusiastically agreed. Thank you for that validation. Please, when you get the chance, tell every woman who comes to you with sexual addictions that she is normal. Please tell her that she's still a woman- NO LESS than any other sister in the ward. Please tell her that she is still beautiful and still needed and wanted by God. Please tell her that God doesn't see her problem as a man's problem, but as her problem, and that being a woman sex addict isn't any worse or any different from being a sex addict.

One thing that makes confession especially difficult is that you are a man, and I am a woman. I am never comfortable sharing things of a sexual nature with you, because you are a man. But, because I know you are my bishop, and that you represent my Savior, I can mostly look past the fact that you are also a man. For a long while, I worried that my confessions may arouse you, and nothing would be more embarrassing than that. I worried very much that you might think I was trying to hit on you or make you attracted to me. I know it may sound self-absorbed, but I don't think that's it at all. Having watched so many pornographic videos and seeing how men treat women in them (which I know is not reality), and also after having been treated as a sexual object by men in my own real life, it's not so far-fetched to worry that you may think I'm trying to seduce you. To this day, I am very careful with my words, and I am sure I have left things out for fear of being misinterpreted. I would die a little to think that you thought I had motives with my confessions.

I tell you this because if I think that way, other women will too. Please be aware. Please understand how difficult it is to confess this sin! Please consider the heavy, heavy shame I must feel when I tell you, a man, my most guarded and most hated secrets. Help me to dispel the shame by telling me truths about who I am.

Please don't tell me "Everyone's an addict," or "everyone's addicted to something." I hate those phrases. Maybe it's true, but when you say it to me, it feels like you're discounting my experience. It feels like you're saying "it's not a big deal. Just stop what you're doing-- it's easy." Please try to truly understand the nature of addiction. Please take my confessions seriously, because I guarantee that no matter how small they may seem to you, they're huge to me.

For your endless encouragement, I am boundlessly grateful. Thank you for pointing out my courage. Thank you for reminding me of my strengths. Thank you for giving me a blessing every time I asked for it. One time, about three years ago, you told me "Call me when you're tempted, at any time, even if it's two in the morning," and you gave me your cell phone number. I put you to the test one late night at about 11, and you were there just like you promised. And you talked me through it. And you never, for one fleeting second, hinted that you were angry at the late night call. The next time I saw you, you thanked me for calling. I called you a few times after that, and you were always happy to help me. Bishop, that event changed the course of my life. You proved that I was worth your time. I can't thank you enough for that.

You have saved my life with your love. If it wasn't for you, I may have left the church, becoming so overwhelmed with all the good people in it. You helped me see that I am a good person, too. You helped me see that no one is without their sins. You loved me back to life, Bishop. You helped me understand that I am important to the Savior, so important.

I love you.

With a lifetime of thanks,

A Beautiful Daughter of God

A contributed post in response to A Call For Input: Dear Bishop Letters.

1 comment:

  1. I am so close to tears, I can't take it!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"