Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dear Bishop: I Left Our Meeting Feeling Lost and Empty

Dear Bishop,

I appreciate you listening to my confession and telling me that I can be forgiven. I could tell you were doing your best. I cannot begin to explain to you how hard it was for me to come to a man, 15 years younger than me, to speak about such an embarrassing problem. 

I would usually just tell my Bishops that I had a problem with self-gratification but, this time, I felt like I should come clean about the pornography and erotic stories that were still a part of my problem. Here I was, a temple recommend holder, who could keep clean from this 'problem' for a few months at a time, but always fell back into it eventually. You were kind and understanding even though. I could tell it was uncomfortable for you. I was beginning to feel like this really was a good idea. I felt the Holy Ghost and I knew that my Father in Heaven was pleased with me.

Then, just as we got up to end the meeting, you said something that brought on greater shame than I believed I could bear. You said, "You really need to get past this, Sister. I mean, how can you expect your teenage boys to be worthy priesthood holders and serve missions, if you are acting like this?" My heart broke at that moment. Didn't you realize that I already felt like the biggest hypocrite of the earth every time I told my boys to beware of pornography and to stay morally clean? You knew that my boys had been exposed to pornography on the internet and you knew that I wasn't sure how to help them. 

With that one statement, you had validated my secret belief that their problems in this area were all my fault. The shame washed over me and I wanted nothing more than to hide in a dark empty place and never be seen again. What kind of a mother was I ? My own children would be disgusted to know that a woman my age might have such a problem. Not only was I a failure as a church member, but also as a mother. And if I loved my children at all, I would have stopped my foolishness long ago. So, I left our meeting feeling lost and empty.

Oh, Bishop, please, if you ever need to talk to a sister about these things again, don't mention her children. I am sure that you thought my love for my children would motivate me to do better. I wondered myself why it did not. 

Gratefully, the Lord led me to a therapist who knew about sexual addiction and got me into a twelve step program.

I learned that I was addicted and I would never be able to stop on my own. 
I learned that the fact I was an addict did not change the depth or amount of love I had for my children. 
I learned and came to understand that the shame I was carrying only fueled my addiction. 

I learned that . . . 

It was only through the Savior that I could let go of shame and move forward one step at a time.

A Beautiful Daughter of God

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Gift: by Philip A. Harrison

by Philip A. Harrison
(First published in Heartbeats, the newsletter of Heart t’ Heart, March, 2007)
(Used by Permission)

      It was a day of excitement, a day of anxiety. It was a day of rejoicing, a day of tears. It was a day of parting, a day of beginning. I waited for one last chance to say goodbye. I knew my turn was next, and I listened as James, a friend of mine, was just finishing his interview.

      “I just can’t wait to get started. I know it will be great!” James was saying.
      “You don’t have any last questions, any concerns?” the interviewer asked.
      “No, I just want to get going. I’ve waited long enough for this chance. I’ve read all the manuals. I
don’t think anyone could be any more ready than I am.”
      “No false modesty here,” said the other, with a smile.
      “I don’t think it’s lack of modesty,” James replied. “I like to think of it as just being well-prepared and eager to get started. Anything wrong with that?”
      “No. Go on. Have a wonderful experience, James. I’ll be looking forward to your reports.”
      “Don’t worry. I’ll send them all right. I know what to do.”
      With that, and a parting handshake, James’ interview was over. Now at last it was my turn.


      The interviewer turned to me and said: “Well, the day has finally come, Philip. Did you think it would ever arrive?”
      “You told me it would. And of course, I believed you.”
      “Is there anything you want to ask before you go?”
      “Oh, so many things. I don’t know where to start.”
      “What is on your mind in this moment?”
      “Well, for one thing, I keep thinking about James. I heard the last little bit of his interview
with you. He seems awfully sure of himself. He doesn’t seem worried about this at all.”
      “No, he doesn’t. I would feel a little more comfortable if he weren’t quite so sure of himself.”
      “Isn’t he ready? He was always one of the top students.”
      “He knows all the answers, all right. But the way he’s feeling now–like he’s got all the answers he’ll need in the future–that could pose a problem for him. A certain lack of need to stay connected.”
      “I’m not sure I understand.”
      “Well, that’s okay. James’ journey isn’t what we’re here to talk about. Let’s talk about you, Philip,  and your feelings.”
      “Oh. I am full of such mixed feelings. So eager to go, and yet so scared.”
      “What scares you?”
      “The mists, you know. I am afraid of the mists we heard about. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like. Tell me about it.”
      “Well, it’s not the same for everyone. My experience had to be different, you know. But it’s not a cut-and-dried thing. You can overcome it, you know. At least enough to get through.”
      “But what if I don’t? What if I can’t remember?”  I threw my arms around him, and my tears wet his cheek and beard. His arms were there, around my shoulders, like always. So strong, so comforting. I continued, trying to express my fears.  “What if I forget you, Jehovah? What if I can’t find my way back to you? What if I don’t find that connection? What if I get so caught up in the world I don’t remember to look for you?”
      “Never fear, my precious one. Don’t you think I have thought of this already?”
      “But everybody doesn’t worry like I do, do they? James surely didn’t seem to.”
      “No, everyone doesn’t. But for those who do, I have prepared a special gift.”
      “Will it help me remember? Will it help me find you again?”
      “That’s exactly what it is designed to do.”
      “Can you tell me how it works?”
      “I can tell you a little, but you won’t remember it, of course. But it may give you some comfort right now, so I will tell you what I can. You remember we talked about weaknesses? And how they are an inevitable part of your mortal experience?”
      “Yes, I remember. I guess it sunk in pretty easily–I have so many weaknesses already. Like all this doubt I am feeling.”
      “Well, there are some additional weaknesses I have prepared for you. One special one in particular. It will challenge you sorely, I’m afraid. It will cause you a great deal of distress.”
      “Is this what is going to help me?”
      “It will help you remember me.”
      “Because you gave it to me?”
      “You won’t realize I gave it to you at first. At first you will think it is your fault–merely a defect in yourself. But in time you will realize that it connects you to me.”
      “How is that?”
      “Because I am the only one who can help you with it. I am the only one who can ease the pain this challenge will present to you.”
      “Does it have to be painful?”
      “I’m afraid it does. Pain is a great teacher. It is an even greater attention-getter. And that is what people really need–something to get their attention. And because I want your attention, I am giving you this gift, a gift of weakness.”
      “But everyone doesn’t get this gift, do they?”
      “Everyone gets some version of it. But they don’t all get the gift I am giving you, Philip. The gift I have for you is particularly for you, because you have expressed such a desire not to forget me.”
      “What is the gift called, Lord?”
      “It is called ‘Addiction.’ At least that is what you will call it.”
      “And it will help me remember you?”
      “As soon as you learn that I am the only cure for it. Will you accept the gift?”
      “Yes, I accept the gift, somewhat fearfully, perhaps, but gladly–if it will help me remember, and return to you.”
      “It will. I know your heart, and I know this gift will be a bridge between us. It may sound fearsome, but in the end you will see it is glorious. Everything that binds us to each other is glorious, is it not?”
      “Yes, Lord, everything.”

      One more embrace, and the interview was over. My tears dried, I turned to face my mortal life and the weakness, the gift, that would bring me back to my Lord.

Other Works of Interest:

Clean Hands, Pure Heart
Philip A. Harrison

He Did Deliver Me From Bondage
Colleen C. Harrison

From Heartache to Healing
Philip A. & Colleen C. Harrison

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"