Today was Stake Conference. I found myself feeling like I didn't want to go to church. I felt hesistation, anger, resistance inside of me. Sometimes I feel that going to church doesn't help my problems. Instead, I feel like it makes things more intense.
I entered the church, and saw a picture of the Savior when he was young, teaching in the temple. Instead of feeling the warmth of the Spirit, instead I felt aloof, callous, hardened against it. I felt anger and bitterness inside of me. I felt anger that I felt so much bitterness instead of peace.
I got into the main meeting room and sat down in the back. I was feeling many different negative emotions. Some days at church are hard. Today felt like one of the harder ones. My head was full of ideas about acting out, how it would feel, or the desire to look at pornography. Feeling quite disgusted with myself, I pulled out my phone and started to text a friend of mine. Something to try to sort out what was going on.
Finally, the thoughts of acting out left, but I still wasn't feeling very peaceful. The speaker was talking about how, as members of the church, we need to reach out to other members of the church. We need to befriend them. All I could think about is how lonely I feel, especially at church. The times I have felt to reach out, I generally don't feel like I get much of a response. With few exceptions, I judge that the other person isn't interested in really getting to know me. When I'm not reaching out to try to make friends, I'm often feeling intimated or afraid of the other people around me. I feel dissonant, out of sync with them and with the church in general. I let the fear of "If you really knew me, you wouldn't love me" rule my mind and my heart. The fear of rejection is one thing that gets in the way of me trying to connect with the members of the church. The other is pain from perceived rejection.
As the person continued to speak, I continued to feel the pangs of loneliness, and a deep feeling grief. It was strong enough, that I started to feel physical pain. I felt that pain in my chest, and even felt it in my hands. I looked around, and could see so many signs of love. There were many families in attendance. I watched them, and seeing them show their love for one another made me feel even sadder and more hurt.
Part of that pain comes from not feeling very connected with my family. Growing up, I grew more and more withdrawn emotionally from my parents and to some extent, my siblings. When I see a parent showing love for their child, taking interest in them, it reminds me of that hole I have inside of me. I've tried working around the issues that I have with my parents, but oddly, I still feel disconnected from them whenever I'm with them. I know they love me, but for whatever reason, I just can't make that emotional connection with them.
Anyways, I sat there, watching families show their love for each other. I found myself watching the father's the most. I realize that's because it was the connection with my dad that I've probably missed the most. I saw a father picking up his two girls and sitting them on his lap. I saw another father leaning down to listen to his little girl. I saw that same father holder her in his lap. I could see another father rubbing and scratching his sons back. I saw another father chase down his little boy and pick him up. I saw a husband rubbing his wife's shoulders. All of these things were beuatiful, but they were also painful to watch. Tears escaped my eyes many times. I found myself hoping deep inside that someone who was listening to that talk would see me, notice my sadness, and come to befriend me. After all, I just want to be loved and accepted. All I seemed to feel was loneliness. I wanted to go, run away, go sob in the bathroom by myself, go play a video game to take my mind off the pain, go numb myself with something else; I wanted to do anything but sit there in the pain and acknowledge it was there.
Finally, that talk was over. The feelings of loneliness gradually faded and were replaced with emptiness. Eventually, stake conference was over. I helped put away changes and picked up programs. I took time to talk to another man, smile at others. The one man I talked to briefly asked me one of my 'dreaded questions': "How's your family doing?" I said something like "I think they're alright, I haven't seen them in awhile." He actually waved goodbye to me. I don't know why that touched me so much. It struck me as unusual when other men I knew from my ward smiled at me. One even waved to me as I drove past him on my way home.
Inside, I feel a hope that maybe I can make some friends in the ward. There is also the fear inside that some of what happened today was a "special" thing, and that it won't happen again. Although, what I really want is for it to be a constant. I want to be connected to my elder's quorum. I want to feel like I have friends among the men in my ward. I really just want to be loved and accepted. After all, isn't that what every person craves?