My husband left the church a long time ago, it wasn’t a difficult transition for me; we grew closer, we learned to communicate, he finally validated my doubts, and at one point, he was sitting in the pew with our family glaring at the speakers, rolling his eyes, and sighing with disgust. Confused, I asked him why he was still attending church when it so clearly disturbed him, “I’m going for you,” he said.
I cleared things up; I didn’t need or want him in a space that hurt him. Resentment was seeping from him as he stayed in a life he had left instead of stepping into a new one. He never went to church again. He feels liberated, relieved, and free away from the expectations, stories, and confinement of religion that brings curiosity, meaning, and questions to my life.
I often think of Marilynn Robinson’s book, Gilead, particularly the part when her main character, an old minister, declares that “there are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient” (243). He is talking about his life, the life of a minister, but these words validate the complexities and the variety of reasons for every person to live their life. We often can’t answer the question of why we choose a certain life because there are a thousand thousand reasons to live it, every one of them sufficient.
Also, life changes. COVID broke our normal, pulled me from my habitual church attendance, and gently placed me at home on Sundays. After a few weeks of guiltily not taking the sacrament, I reached out to friends online for ideas about implementing church rituals without the “priesthood” in our home – I said I didn’t like participating in rituals in my home that excluded my husband. All of my friends were loving and kind in their responses; however, this is not what I wanted.
My husband, kids, and I were having beautiful experiences every Sunday on hikes, sharing thoughts and ideas, reading poetry and novels, and watching TED talks and movies together. I didn’t really miss the sacrament as much as I wanted the sacrament to be these new rituals that filled its place in my life.
I was witnessing a thousand thousand reasons to live a different life and each one was sufficient.
I realized that I was not honest in my original post: my husband did not care about being excluded from church rituals he did not believe in; I did. I was the one who cared about the practices that excluded me. Patriarchy at church felt different in my home with my husband. He had chosen a life without priesthood, without blessings, without baptisms, or bishops, or sacraments, or temples but I didn’t. I had chosen them. And yet, my children and I were deprived of these things in our home because the parent who stayed is a woman.
In at-home church, I didn’t have to grapple with the inconsequentiality of women in theological and doctrinal narratives; in fact, in my home, an apostate man is just as valuable as a devout, believing woman. And the rituals we create together are healing and beautiful. And actually, wherever I go, there’s not that big of a difference between a believing woman and an apostate one. I’m finding a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.