Really new to this.

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West
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by West » 27 Aug 2014, 19:37

Well, I had a long drive home, and it seems to have done me some good. It gave me a lot of time to reflect. I'm certain now that I'm going to have many ups and downs for a while, and it's just something I have to work through each time. Slow and slow. :)

@nibbler
If you feel like you need that experience that's your choice. If it's your choice how could it be dumb?
Thank you for that. I know I'm still at that stage where I worry about how other people view my religious-ness. I didn't realize that's what it was until I read through the "How to stay in the church" article, but now I think I recognize it. Still, I needed that viewpoint. Thank you.
You touched on the conclusion that I struggled to arrive at, that there are people out there that do need the LDS church as their true church. It took a while for me to see that.

As a convert that served a mission I felt that "the church isn't for everyone... right now." In my more orthodox days as a missionary that translated to an utmost respect of people's decisions. No meant no and I was okay with that, people would find the church on the lord's timetable. Post faith crisis that became "the church isn't for everyone," which translated to an utmost respect of people's decisions. No meant no and I was okay with that, people would find god on their own terms. Subtle variation I guess. What took time was the realization that there were people out there that truly need the church. That's something I can get behind.
For some reason, that conclusion just seems...right. Both logically and emotionally. There's no warm fuzzy feeling. Just a sense of peace, almost. I hope that means it's right, because it's definitely something I can also get behind.
The thing about a mission, and I'm going to shoot straight, your peers and leaders likely aren't going to agree with an unorthodox worldview. Your peers and leaders will be of the mindset that every person on earth must accept the gospel. Clashing with a one size fits all approach will at times cause strife. Rather than bring up specific examples I'll leave it at this...

Before you leave on a mission determine your own definition of what a successful mission means to you and don't let anyone else redefine success for you (or better yet don't worry about whether you are having a successful or unsuccessful mission at all). You'll drive yourself nuts trying to live up to someone else's expectations. If you feel like you are falling short of attaining success, however you end up defining it, do not allow guilt to take over. Look past the guilt to find the success that was hidden from your original perspective.

I imagine a mission would be all the more difficult for someone post faith crisis. Remember that the church isn't the only way to serve people, the peace corps for instance. Don't take this as an attempt to talk you out of serving a mission, the decision is yours.
I am worried a bit about the potential strife. I can't clearly say that I believe Joseph Smith to be what the church portrays him as. Same as the BofM. However, after the long drive home, I think I believe at least that the BofM does have its value. It has its truths. And within it, there are many people who can find peace. I have balked over the past few days at thinking of having to read it again. But after reading some other forum posts about the topic, I've realized that I'm hesitant because I'm still trying to come to terms with being taught my whole life that it was a perfect word of God when logic and reason tells me it likely isn't what the church says it is. However, I have found value in so many fictional, wonderful non-church books.

I might yet change my mind about going on a mission, but as for now, I feel like I can at least confidently say to investigators and my peers that I do believe the BofM can bring peace and joy into many people's lives if they are only willing to give it a chance. I hope that is enough to avoid serious clashes within such a black-and-white culture that I would be immersing myself into with going on a church mission. I think a big part of how well I serve will be dependent on finding for myself that definition of success you suggest. It will definitely not be an easy thing for a post-faith unorthodox Mormon. But no one ever said it would be easy even for an orthodox one. And maybe what the church and the world needs is more people with different viewpoints.

I'm going to be saying thank you a lot, but yeah, thank you. I've considered the Peace Corps or other similar non-church humanitarian long-time service. I think I will keep it still open as an option for as long as I can. I appreciate your suggestion. Truly, I do not see it as an attempt to talk me out of a mission. :)
You mention coincidence. You probably already have but if not, don't forget to extend that to your faith crisis. It's no coincidence that you had a faith crisis, it was meant for your spiritual progression. It sounds like you've already found a way to use your faith crisis to move forward.
I do continue to believe, even after such a rough day as today, that coincidences are just signs of a higher power working to pull things together towards a larger plan. Yes, I do believe that this faith crisis was no coincidence. As I said in a previous post, I had been planning on a mission for several years now while I completed school. I kept setting dates to complete my papers numerous times. In that time, a lot of small but firm coincidences came up that told me choosing to go on a mission was the right choice. But it was only now, barely a week or so after meeting with my bishop and confirming for sure a date, which I hadn't done before, that this crisis came up. Only this weekend, a day or two before my crisis, my mother had talked with me and we had resolved all my lingering doubts.

I'm not sure quite what those coincidences mean yet. But since it happened now, when the mission plans were getting more "real" than ever, I feel like yes, it was for my spiritual benefit. I can't help wondering that, if I should still decide to go, my crisis is meant to help someone else. I don't know if that's just wishful thinking. And maybe in a few days or a few weeks it will change. But for now it seems right.

@Heber13
My first advice is for you to take a deep breath and realize you're on a journey, and pace yourself, go slow, and avoid rash all or nothing thoughts or choices.

Truth is... you can have all your feelings, and all your feelings are valid...and you can still choose to be LDS and serve a mission if you want to. In fact, you may be a great missionary with a great perspective others may need to hear. Or if not a mission, an active member who reaches out to others with similar doubts and fears.

When you grow wiser, you start to see truth from many perspectives, and all may be right and good. You just have to be open to it. Like the prism that has one source of light or truth, but we might see the light at different times or different angles that show different colors...no one is the right one...they are just what they are. And God wants us to all learn the beauty of all the colors...not a black and white world.
I think I need to get that branded into a bracelet so I can take it and see it everywhere I go as a reminder -- Deep breath. You're on a journey.

Having read the forums extensively before creating an account and posting, I couldn't get over how accepting and supportive this community is. And even now I almost can't believe it. Like I said above, I think my crisis might in fact be what would make me a greater missionary by far than if I had left a year or two ago as previously planned. In all honesty, I haven't been the most to-the-book Mormon for many years now. But so far during this crisis, I have found myself and God more thoroughly than almost any other time in my life.

Thank you so much for the prism analogy. It is beautiful, and it is a truth that I find peace in. I don't know why I didn't see before how black and white much of the LDS culture is sometimes, especially when it teaches that no one knows how God will judge, and that He will be fair to each person according to the contents of their heart. Thank you. :)

@Roy

Thank you for the link! I found it previously, but I didn't get to reading it. I love this woman. I wish I had had the awareness to try to meet her while she was still alive. Her experiences and her love is something that I've found I relate to more than any other church leader I've yet found.

@Roy and @Nibbler

The "slow down" and "don't dump" advice has kept me from saying anything about my crisis to the people I love. I have tried, and I think succeeded, in maintaining the appearance that nothing is wrong or has changed. It's been difficult, but at the same time, it's been easy. Because of my father's medical procedure, I've watched such a wonderful outpouring of love and help from members of our ward. The LDS Church is indeed the true church for these people. I do not ever want to be responsible for hurting them or making them doubt because of my own doubts. This journey is mine.

I will definitely keep this advice in mind. So far, it's been difficult. But slowly, I have been building up the things I believe and the truths I know, and that has been helping.

@SilentDawning

I would definitely suggest having a non-church humanitarian mission as an option for your son if he doesn't feel that a proselyting mission is what's best for him. It is always good to have options, and I would definitely see it as "trading up." :)

@DarkJedi
I don't have a ton of time right now, but I wanted to say welcome and offer my fairly standard advice, some of which has already been covered:

Take it slow, don't dump all at once (which really has two meanings - don't just dump your beliefs wholesale and don't dump it all on your friends/family/leaders), and focus on what you do believe.
Thank you. (And as a fairly involved Star Wars fan, I probably should admit that one thought that's helped me through this a lot over the past few days is "Only Sith deal in absolutes" -- that is to say, this world is all shades of colors, and seeing things black and white can be harmful; not implying the church is like the Sith, of course).

It's been a struggle not to dump all my beliefs. Part of it is because I've held onto them for my entire life, and I don't think I can. Part of it is because I don't know what else to do without them. And part of it is because when I clear my head and sit down and think, I can see that there is still much good in them that I can find and apply to my life. Thank you for the advice. It's standard for a very good reason. :)
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Curt Sunshine » 27 Aug 2014, 21:06

Welcome.

Along with everything else that has been said, I follow two basic rules:

1) Don't eat meat with those who abstain from meat. (From Paul and applicable in this setting to not dumping concerns on people who neither want nor need those concerns.)

2) Above all else, do no harm.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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DarkJedi
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by DarkJedi » 28 Aug 2014, 05:07

You've shared a lot and it is not my intent to try to address it all. One size does not fit all in faith crisis, either, but there are some things that have helped us to stay LDS that may work for you. I had been in crisis for a period of years before I found this site, and without it I very well may have left the church.

I have come to view my faith as a kind of building, and very much like in your case that building came crashing down suddenly and I was left with a pile of rubble. At first I didn't realize that there were salvageable parts from that rubble.Going on what I had believed and been taught, if some of it wasn't true then it all must not be (the teaching is opposite, of course, if Joseph Smith was a prophet then the BoM must be true, etc.). I went through a period of agnostic near-atheism. Over time I have reconstructed the building of my faith, using some parts of the rubble and some new materials. Some of the rubble has been disposed of and there is some still lying around. The new building is still very beautiful and in some ways it is stronger than the old one - it does not, however, look like the old one.

In rebuilding I used the temple recommend questions as a start. If they are the accepted measure of worthiness, they must have value in measuring faith as well. It turns out they are quite vague, actually, and I think that is on purpose. Some things that one might think are necessary for one to even be a member of the church are not asked about at all - there is no specific question about Joseph Smith or the BoM, for instance, nothing about polygamy, and basics like prayer are not even touched on. (I have recently undertaken a study of prayer and have found that no where is it commanded of us.) Like you, I'm not sure Joseph Smith was a prophet (I'm sure of very little, actually and don't "know" anything), but I do believe he had a profound spiritual experience. Did he translate the BoM as he said? I lean toward not, but the book does have many good teachings and is not evil in its intent. So I can answer yes to the vague question about the restored gospel because I'm not asked specifically about Joseph Smith or the BoM. I can also say that, yes, I believe in God - it just doesn't happen to be the one talked about so often in testimony meetings - the one that helps us find our car keys.

That said, there does need to be a modicum of discretion on what I share with whom. I share small parts with others of similar thought or those who I perceive may be undergoing a crisis. I do not generally share with any leaders. I don't generally talk to nonmembers about the church, unless they ask, and I speak in generalities. My family knows I have doubts and questions, they don't know what they are for the most part. It does seem to be more acceptable these days to be outwardly OK with the idea that the Catholic church is not the great and abominable church, that there is no curse of black skin, etc., and I tend to be vocal about these things when even when it only appears the discussion might head in that direction. Frankly, I'm not sure I would do well on a proselyting mission at this point - living 24/7 with a dogmatic believer and the expectation that we sort of have to be able to say that the BoM is the most correct book (for example) wouldn't sit well. I could do a non-proselyting mission.

The other major thing I needed to do in rebuilding my faith was to separate the gospel from the church. They are separate things, although intertwined. I have not completely done so yet and there are some parts that probably cannot be separated. However, not everything taught by the church is part of the gospel. The gospel is much simpler yet much bigger than the church.

Just a final thought about black, white, grey, and the Sith. I'm sure you see the irony of "only the Sith deal in absolutes" - an absolute statement by itself. You're right, the church is related to the Sith, but there certainly are many black and white thinkers in the church. Pre-crisis I was quite black and white myself, but I now realize it's almost all grey.

So, welcome again, don't be a stranger. We're all on this path together, yet the path is also individualized for each of us.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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nibbler
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by nibbler » 28 Aug 2014, 06:37

Wow, great insights West. You say you're fairly new to all of this but you appear to be a veteran. Your comments show great maturity.
DarkJedi wrote:Frankly, I'm not sure I would do well on a proselyting mission at this point - living 24/7 with a dogmatic believer and the expectation that we sort of have to be able to say that the BoM is the most correct book (for example) wouldn't sit well.
Earlier I made a vague reference to "strife." What DarkJedi mentions here is one of the specifics. Another: missionaries are expected to memorize and relate the first vision account "I saw a pillar of light..." No variations, no creative license. Over time that can become unsettling if multiple first vision accounts happened to be a contributing factor to your FC. Maybe the first vision accounts never rattled your cage but during a mission you'll almost certainly be in the position to teach something that you may not necessarily believe in. The expectation is going to be for you, as a representative of the church, to toe the line.

It doesn't even have to be points of doctrine or church history. You'll be expected to meet metrics that are not of your choosing. Chances are one of the metrics you will constantly revisit will be the number of baptisms. If I were to serve a mission today the number of baptisms wouldn't be important to me at all, I'd be more concerned with things like "did I help someone feel better today?" If the baptisms come, they come. If they don't, they don't. All the talk about baptisms and more to the point, other people structuring my activities around producing baptisms and applying pressure on me to produce more baptisms would quickly wear on me.

In an earlier post you said:
West wrote:I have had some inactive and less active RMs tell me that it will be one of the hardest experiences of my life, but they feel like I won't regret doing it and that they don't regret doing it, either, even though they have changed.
I see one possible difference that may be the key. When does the FC come in relation to serving a full time mission? Does the FC occur before the mission or after the mission? My FC hit post-mission and I can easily join in the chorus of people that say that they do not regret going. It was a net positive experience in my life, it both created opportunity for growth and provided opportunities to serve others. Both good things and I had good experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything. I don't know how I'd feel about serving a traditional LDS mission (proselyting) post-FC. That would be a much, much more difficult prospect. Like slapping a governor on your engine once you got a taste for the speed. It's certainly possible but it would be all the more difficult.

Here I sit, post-FC, and I can say that I'd be willing to serve a humanitarian/service mission. I'd have no problem doing that. As I understand it the traditional LDS mission for the youth is still predominantly a proselyting mission. Recently more emphasis has been placed on doing service, at least here locally, but at best the split is still probably in the 85% proselyting, 15% service range. I honestly don't know whether the church has pure humanitarian mission programs intended for the youth. Personally I'd love to see that.

Perhaps for the transcendent it wouldn't matter when the FC occurred in relation to serving a full time mission. Maybe I'm just blowing hot air, or whatever the typing equivalent of that is. ;)

Time for me to revisit my disclaimer. You've got to do what you gotta do. I'm not trying to talk you out of what could be the best experience of your life. My point, more than anything, is to give you a little more info with hopes that you be as prepared as you can be for what may come.

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West
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by West » 28 Aug 2014, 06:52

@DarkJedi

I really love the building analogy. The demolished stage is certainly what it feels like. But there still seems to be some foundation there in my building, and I'm glad that I found this forum in time to recognize it before turning away and burning a bridge or two.

I've been reading on this forum about the temple recommend questions. I never realized until coming here how vague those questions were. It does, indeed, seem like they are intended to judge only individual worthiness according to the individual's personal relationship with God. Not necessarily the individual's personal relationship with the church. I have very mixed feelings and thoughts about what happens in the temple. But I recognize that it brings many people joy and peace. I'm glad I already went through a couple weeks ago to get my current temple recommend, though. I'm going to take some time to address the temple recommend questions for myself and see where that might lead me. Hopefully, I can see what they can help me rebuild.

I've always loved that theme of irony in the Star Wars universe. Those who thought they were on the side of good and right saw everything in Dark and Light, but most on the side of the Light were so focused on the split between Dark and Light that they couldn't see the Dark until it overtook them. In the end, it was those who were conflicted, who weren't the ideal of either side, that helped return the balance. I can't imagine being in the grey is bad.

@nibbler

You are so kind, my friend, and I greatly appreciate that. :)

I believe that in the past, and possibly now, the church offers what they call medical missions for women between the ages of, I think, 21 and 25, who have some sort of medical license. Proselyting is still a part of those missions, but it's a small percentage of the time -- think of those numbers you gave and then reverse them, and that's about what it is; a couple hours a day doing whatever proselyting work is needed, and then the rest of it attending to medical needs. I believe, though, they may be phasing out those particular missions, but I think I will try anyway. My bishop is encouraging a normal proselyting mission, but I think this will be the time I learn to say no and choose what I believe is best for me, even though by nature (and culture not really related to the church), I have a hard time standing up for myself in the face of authority.

I do sincerely appreciate the viewpoints on how a mission would be difficult for someone post-FC. Because my FC is so new, I haven't been able to think through it as much as I should. I definitely want to make sure that a mission is my choice, no matter what sort of mission I eventually end up doing. According to my belief in nothing is a coincidence, my FC happened now for a reason. I've just got to let time tell me what that reason is. Thank you! :)

Edit: Here is an old article about the health missions for the church; I don't know if they still do them for young single women, but I'm finding out! https://www.lds.org/church/news/health- ... m?lang=eng
Last edited by West on 28 Aug 2014, 12:46, edited 2 times in total.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Heber13
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Heber13 » 28 Aug 2014, 08:43

West,
I love how open you are to the feedback and thoughts of others. I like reading how sincere you are in your posts. Thanks.

Have you read much about Fowler's stages on faith?

Here is one thread you may want to skim through...because I found it interesting to confirm to me there wasn't something "wrong with me" to be going through a phase I was pushed into - and it is not something unique to mormonism. It's eye opening, I think, to read the theory, even if it is not a perfect theory. http://www.staylds.com/forum/viewtopic. ... ages#p4962
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Roy » 28 Aug 2014, 08:54

I second Heber's suggestion about the stages of faith. It is a faith model and as such is not perfect - but it does help to show how completely normal and even expected such a faith journey is in our human development.
West wrote:The "slow down" and "don't dump" advice has kept me from saying anything about my crisis to the people I love. I have tried, and I think succeeded, in maintaining the appearance that nothing is wrong or has changed. It's been difficult, but at the same time, it's been easy. Because of my father's medical procedure, I've watched such a wonderful outpouring of love and help from members of our ward. The LDS Church is indeed the true church for these people.
It sounds like you have a good and supportive ward. One of the values of the LDS church for me is the sense of community. I hope that with time you will be able to be more authentic with those that you love and still maintain that sense of community. (For me that has involved keeping hope and faith in the core of the gospel while being uncertain about many of the particulars)
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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DarkJedi
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by DarkJedi » 28 Aug 2014, 09:39

West wrote:I believe that in the past, and possibly now, the church offers what they call medical missions for women between the ages of, I think, 21 and 25, who have some sort of medical license. Proselyting is still a part of those missions, but it's a small percentage of the time -- think of those numbers you gave and then reverse them, and that's about what it is; a couple hours a day doing whatever proselyting work is needed, and then the rest of it attending to medical needs. I believe, though, they may be phasing out those particular missions, but I think I will try anyway. My bishop is encouraging a normal proselyting mission, but I think this will be the time I learn to say no and choose what I believe is best for me, even though by nature (and culture not really related to the church), I have a hard time standing up for myself in the face of authority.
My son serves in a South American mission and his mission does share a nurse and a doctor with other nearby missions (he's in a large metro area). The nurse is a young woman, the doctor is a retired guy. Beyond that I'm not sure of many of the details, I do know the nurse has a little section of the newsletter where she addresses common health issues, and they do things like flu shots in addition to caring for missionaries who are ill or injured.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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West
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by West » 28 Aug 2014, 12:57

I haven't read the stages of faith thread yet, but I definitely will make it my next reading. Thank you for the recommendation!

I do have a very lovely home ward. It is filled with people who have their faults, as every church is, and a few (very few) have sadly allowed their sense of righteousness to blind their good hearts and say hurtful things to my family. However, on the whole, I have watched the people in our ward go through so, so many tragedies over the years and yet pull together in support and love every time. I know it's not the same in all wards, and I know it's not specific to Mormonism, but that community sense is definitely something I also respect about many people in the LDS Church. I hope I can be authentic, too, someday.
My son serves in a South American mission and his mission does share a nurse and a doctor with other nearby missions (he's in a large metro area). The nurse is a young woman, the doctor is a retired guy. Beyond that I'm not sure of many of the details, I do know the nurse has a little section of the newsletter where she addresses common health issues, and they do things like flu shots in addition to caring for missionaries who are ill or injured.
Do you know if the nurse lives in the area already, or if she is a full-time missionary? I know they have positions open where nurses already living in the mission area volunteer some of their time every week to help the missionaries, and I wonder if that is the case here. However, that sounds exactly what I've been told about those types of positions, and it sounds exactly what I would like to do. :) Thank you for sharing that!

Also, I don't think I can accurately express how much I appreciate that this community exists.
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. -Albert Einstein

And God said 'Love Your Enemy,' and I obeyed him and loved myself. -Kahlil Gibran

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Orson
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Re: Really new to this.

Post by Orson » 28 Aug 2014, 14:22

Welcome! Wow, so much you have been through in such a short time. I don't have time to share all my thoughts (maybe a good thing for you) but the main thing is relax, don't try to find all the answers in one day. Your house has just fallen to the ground, it is traumatic and it leaves you exposed; you want to get something back into shape but you also need to take care of yourself. As you take the time to carefully sift through the rubble, and it does take time, you will find some of the things that you need to start building a new house that will serve you much better than the old one ever could have. There will be good days ahead, as well as challenges. Take care of yourself, and have faith that you will find your answers.
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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