Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Finding God Alone in the Desert

Fifteen months ago, I moved to Phoenix from the San Francisco Bay Area. I didn't know anyone when I moved, and I didn't have a job. I had a few hundred dollars to my name. It was kind of scary, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

When I arrived, I settled in to my apartment and began to unpack. The first Sunday I was there was General Conference, so I didn't get a chance to go to my new ward yet.

The second Sunday, I checked the church website for the location and meeting time of my ward. I showed up at the appointed hour only to find out that I was 45 minutes late because my ward's meeting time had been changed and the site hadn't been updated yet.

The third Sunday, things started to settle in to the new normal.

People asked me what brought me to Phoenix. I said cost of living. They asked me what my husband did. I said I wasn't married. They looked at me like I was a space alien. They asked me what I did. I said I was a lawyer. They said "Do you mean legal secretary?" I said, "No. I mean a lawyer."

The ward members were kind-hearted, but they didn't know what to do with a single woman in her 30s. I got a few invitations to dinner, which I appreciated. I asked the Relief Society President for visiting teachers.

After a few months, I was at the church one night for a stake single adult activity. There was no midsingles program on my side of town, so I was the youngest one present by several decades. I serendipitously ran into the bishop. I introduced myself. He asked me what ward I was in. I said, "I'm in the [Redacted] Ward." He replied, "Really? I'm the bishop of the [Redacted] Ward. How long have you lived here?" My response: "Three months."

Mind you, I attended church on a regular basis. We talked for a few minutes. I asked for home teachers and indicated my willingness to serve in a calling.

I never did get home or visiting teachers, and I was never given a calling. I felt extremely disconnected from the ward, and going to church became very hard for me because I didn't really feel welcome. Plus, there was a lot less talk of Christ in the [Redacted] Ward than was necessary.

Then my friends began to suffer, too. Their suffering combined with the indifference of my ward made it even harder to go to church.

This turned out to be a blessing.

I kept going to church, but there was precious little spiritual sustenance to be found there. Instead, I had to find the Bread of Life and the Living Water on my own.

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
Matthew 5:6

I hungered and thirsted nigh unto starvation. But then I found God. And I found that I had never really lost Him in the first place. My relationship with the Almighty is independent of the church.

About four months ago, I moved across town. Now I'm in a new ward in a new stake. My new ward is like a breath of fresh air. I have found Zion again. People talk about Jesus at church. I asked for a calling, home teachers, visiting teachers, and an opportunity to speak in church. So far, I've gotten most of what I asked for and all of what I need. I feel included in my ward, and people notice when I'm not there. Nobody thinks I'm a freak for being single or a sinner for having a job.

I'm grateful that I have the support of a church community again, but I'll never forget the year where God called me alone into the desert to find Him there.

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