My youngest, Ada, still likes to go to church occasionally. Makes sense. The little kids sing songs and color and play games. One recent Sunday, she asked me to go with her. I said okay.
She went to her little kids classes and I went to the big people classes. The first one, Sunday School, was tolerable. But only tolerable. The next one was Relief Society. Relief Society is the organization for women of the LDS (Mormon) Church.
There are a lot of good things that happen because of Relief Society. They make sure you get meals delivered to your home if you just had a baby, are very sick, just had surgery, had a death in the family, and such. They are known to make blankets for less fortunate children. The Relief Society typically puts together care packages for people all over the world in crisis.
But then there are the weekly Sunday meetings.
There is a lesson and discussion.
On this particular day, I lasted about 20 minutes in Relief Society. Then I went across the street and ate an entire plate of chorizo.
These women wallow in how they are just not good enough, that they are nothing unless they are obedient. The constant focus in RS is how to be better, how to improve, and, unfortunately, what is usually taken away from this is I am not good enough. I, even I, had days once upon a time when I'd be out and about picking up kids or running to the store and think, "Oh no! I forgot to read my scriptures this morning! Today is going to be terrible." or "I didn't pray last night before I passed out the minute my head hit the pillow! I hope none of my children get hit by a car today!"
So on this day, I was antsy as it was, and then the gal giving the lesson said something that made me get up and walk out:
"My husband is always telling me that I need to soften my heart, because I have trouble with having a hard heart a lot of times."
Imagine this being said the way a child would say, "My mommy keeps telling me I need to stop saying 'buttface', cause it's a bad word." giggle
My first thought upon walking out of the room was, "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!" Then my next thought upon walking out of the building was, "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!" Then across the street while shoveling chorizo, "WHAT WAS I DOING THERE?!"
This poor woman has been trained to listen to her priesthood bearing husband- a husband who undoubtedly looks at porn (BIG no-no in the church). This poor woman who endures several pregnancies AND childbirths, who toils day and night taking care of babies and cleaning and cooking and doing laundry, who does everything she can to not drown in responsibility, is told at the end of the day that she has a 'hard heart'. Maybe instead it would be nice for her to hear Yay! You didn't cry today! or You were able to squeeze in a nap? Awesome! or I'm glad you found some time to masturbate. That can really take the edge off. I wonder if husband tells her to soften her heart when he's rolling over in bed after she's gotten up with the baby for the 3rd time during the night.
Then, after saying something like this to his wife, imagine Mormon husband turning around and publicly telling the congregation (and this happens aaalllllllllllll the time) that he would not make it to the Celestial Kingdom (heaven) without his wife who is the most perfect person he's ever known. Can you imagine the monumental strain that puts on a woman?? Not to mention, it is impossible. So as long as I'm perfect, I can get my husband to the Celestial Kingdom. But, darnit, I forgot to read my scriptures again this morning! I'm failing! I'm a failure! We're only going to make it to the Terrestrial Kingdom (the 2nd best heaven)! All the while, she is expected to keep a smile on her face.
I was teaching Relief Society once upon a time when a woman, about 30, who was always dressed to the nines with hair perfectly styled and wearing full Mary Kay regalia, said, "We as women focus too much on having Me time. This idea that we need to have Me time is the voice of the adversary. It isn't a night out with the girls that replenishes us; it's temple attendance and scripture study."
Again, we are nothing. And yet expected to be everything. I was working so hard in that moment keeping my composure that I was vibrating.