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Friday, December 20, 2013

No More "Alone Time"

Dear Bro Jo,

I've read your blog a couple of times before, and I trust you to give me the advice I need. Probably not the advice I WANT, but what I need.

Which, as you know all too well, is hardly ever the same thing.

I've done something really, really stupid.

Really stupid.

Extraordinarily stupid.

Like, it would be stupid even if I wasn't an active, supposed-to-be-a-good-example, lifelong Church member. It involves a boy.

Yeeeepppppp. You probably guessed it.

I'll start from the beginning.

I'm 17, just graduated high school, and my 18th birthday is in a month. I met this boy when I was 13. We were friends (not really close, but we talked and went to movies with a group once in a while) all through high school, and I liked him on and off the whole time.

Around January of this year, I started getting the vibe that he liked me too. We started hanging out more and talking a LOT more, and at some point he admitted he liked me.

At the time I was casually dating his best friend, but in all honesty the best friend was not the one I liked.

Things worked out, and soon afterwards, we were a couple.

Yes, skipped the casual group dating, etc. Mistake #1.

This boy isn't a member.

I live in a small town, and the selection of member boys is small, and I don't get along with the vast majority of them.

At the time we started dating he was a Christian, active in his church. He still is active in his church, but it's different now.

I don't want you to think he's not a good person. He is, he's one of the sweetest, most caring people I know.

He's been hurt a lot in his life, his parents are divorced and both of them abandoned him, he had a close friend die recently, and he hasn't been diagnosed, but I think he's been battling depression for a while now.

He isn't blessed like I am, and I think it's harder for him to feel God's love. I don't know. He is a good person. A great person, even.

I've been struggling with my own faith for a long time now. Most of this year I wasn't sure that the Church was what I wanted, or if I even believed in God at all. I'm still not sure about most things, but recently I decided that the Church is what I want, and I've been taking steps to turn my life around.

Small ones, but steps.

However, a couple of months ago I started talking to the boy about being confused about my faith and not knowing what I believed at the time. He told me he was pretty confused as well, and brought up the question, "What if we come to different conclusions?" I told him that we would respect each other's beliefs and not worry too much about it.

Wellll.... we've come to our separate conclusions. We haven't talked too much about it, because in all honesty, I don't want his opinion on this, so I don't know EXACTLY what he decided, but I get the impression he doesn't exactly believe in God any more.

I was OK with him being of a different faith, but I'm not sure I'm OK with him not having a faith.

I'm trying to do what's right, and it is a truly difficult struggle for me right now to be going to church and doing what I'm supposed to. It's not as easy as it used to be, but I want an eternal family, and I want my children to be raised in the Church.

I have other, more selfish desires that are making it difficult for me to be obedient to the commandments, but I'm trying.

So.... since we've been together, I've been really happy. I fell in love with him, and we've grown really close. I can, and do, talk to him about just about everything. I feel comfortable around him and his family, and vice versa.

Oh, another thing. A few weeks, maybe a month or so ago, he told me (or rather, I've pried the information out of him) that his family has fought about us. Or rather, me. Being Mormon.

Only the funny thing is, it's not that they don't like me because I'm LDS. They're afraid that the boy and I will never be happy together, and that "the life of a Mormon woman isn't one to be spent with a non Mormon man." (pretty much direct quote.).

I agree, but I didn't think it was something we needed to worry about until we were ready to get married, which I figure is something far in the future.

...

So, now to the stupid part.

He's been house sitting for his uncle the past couple of weeks (yes, alone. I KNOW. Stupidity.).

A week and a half ago, I went to see him (several times over the course of several days), and we got waaayyyyy too passionate.

OK, I know, I should have been clear about my standards from the start, and set boundaries, etc. He would have respected them, but I never set them.

Honestly, at the time I was considering leaving the Church, and I wanted to see what it was like being "normal."

If you're wondering what "way too passionate" means, take For the Strength of Youth, read it, and chuck it out the window. We were... yeah. Basically, hands were where they shouldn't have been, important articles of clothing were being bypassed... I don't know how to put this delicately. I also don't want you to think he was pushing me to do things or anything. I definitely was NOT sending "I'm uncomfortable, please stop"-type signals.

I was into it.

But, I don't know...

After a couple of days of frolicking ridiculously (we never actually did The Deed, as it were, but there was inappropriate touching.), something happened, and I was done.

This is how it went:
Me: ah... stop, stopstopstop.
Him: No?
Me: No.
Him: Well, that's the end of that. 

And then... I sat there for I don't even know how long.

He went and sat elsewhere, and I couldn't even look at him for a long time.

Finally, something weird happened. I say weird, because I hadn't had a personal prayer in a while. But. I started praying. I just told the Lord how I was feeling, that I wasn't sure about anything and I needed his help. I just talked to him about what was going on, and all in all, I felt a lot better.

Well, as much better as I could feel under the circumstances.

Anyway, the boy came over to me and said that we had learned two important lessons from that.

First, talk about things before they happen, and second, respect. He said he's not going to force me to be someone I'm not. See what I mean? HE WOULD HAVE RESPECTED ME IF I HAD SET BOUNDARIES. And now it's too late.

I feel like such an idiot.

A really prime example of idiothood.

So, I did some soul searching, and I realized I don't really want to give up the Church.

I've had times before where I've done serious worldly sins, and gone through the repentance process for them, so I KNOW sin doesn't make me happy.

I know I want the gospel in my life.

I know I should go to the Bishop and get this taken care of, pronto, but... it's a lot easier said than done.

I told the boy I wasn't giving up on religion, and he respects that.

We've been spending less time alone, and trying to make sure we actually have plans instead of just hanging around in his uncle's house alone. We haven't done anything of the indecent variety since. But... yeah.

He really just doesn't understand the Church, and why this is all so incredibly hard for me.

Last night, we were hanging out (yes, alone... I know...) and I just sort of shut down. I basically had a panic attack about the stupid things we did, and spent a good chunk of time sitting on the couch trying to breathe and praying a bit more.

I really freaked him out, I don't tend to show negative emotion around people.

I tried to talk to him about it, but I'm not that good at sharing what's on my mind and there's so much that he doesn't understand.

He's trying to be there for me while I figure this out, I mean, he's supportive of my decision to stay with the Church, and he was interested in what I did at Youth Conference this past weekend... but I don't think he can, you know?

He doesn't understand how the Church works, or what it means for me that I did those things with him (can't go to the temple, can't hold a calling, etc, etc.).

And... I don't really know what will happen if I go to the Bishop. This isn't my first major transgression, but it is the first one that involved another person. Could I be excommunicated?

That scares me a LOT.

What will I tell my parents?

Will he tell me I shouldn't be with this boy anymore?

Will YOU tell me that? (I bet you will.)

I know this is really long. I'm sorry. But... I needed to talk to someone.

So... any advice you can give me, please fire away.

I know this was stupid, PLEASE don't tell me that.

I really, really do know.

But I need help, and I think there are others at least in a semi-similar situation that could benefit from your answer.

And yeah, if there's anything you need me to clarify, just ask.

Sincerely,

Scared




Dear Scared,

Yup, I guessed!

Sister Jo: Do you ever feel like "Dear Bro Jo, there's this guy" is redundant? 
Bro Jo: Yes. Yes I do.  
Sister Jo: And?  
Bro Jo: Makes me smile. 
Sister Jo:  Why? 
Bro Jo:  It's nice to know that people are the same wherever you go.  
Well . . . since you don't want me to say that this was stupid, but you trust me to give you the advice you need even if it's not what you want . . .

Look, it sounds like you're finally being honest with yourself, and that's very good.

So we're clear: Mistake #1 happened a lot earlier than "skipped Casual Group Dating". I'll let you figure that out, but here's a hint: you weren't "casually dating" his friend.

What you need to do, Little Sister, is trust the Spirit, and trust what you know to be true.

You have a Testimony.

Sure it got lost for a moment, and you had some doubts.

I have news.

It happens to all of us from time to time.

Even Sister Jo and I.

But as you're learning, even if we doubt the truth, that doesn't make it not true.

I don't think your transgression qualifies as excommunicate-able, but that's between you, your Bishop, and the Lord.

I will tell you this: it is WAY HARDER to NOT speak to your Bishop than it is to have the conversation. 

The more we delay confession, the more the Spirit withdraws, and you, my friend, know that you absolutely need the Spirit in your life right now.

Don't focus on avoiding punishment, focus on repentance and making things right with the Lord.

I testify to you that once you do, you'll feel SO much better!

This might actually turn out to be a great missionary opportunity for you.

As you strengthen your faith and testimony, share what you're feeling with this boy. (Only in non-horizontal and appropriate situations, please, lest the two of you get confused or transgress again.)

As he asks questions, answer them to the best of your ability. 

Invite him to Church and Church activities.

Ask your parents if he can come to diner at your home, where he can get to know your family better and witness firsthand the workings of an LDS family.

As for what to tell your parents . . . that's a discussion you need to have with your Bishop.

Call and make the appointment today, please. You'll feel better when you do.

Oh, and while it goes without saying, no more "alone time" with this boy.

Not in a house,
Not in a car,
Not here nor there,
Not anywhere. 

I'm worried about you.

Not because you're not a good kid, but because I can see that Satan has been working on you pretty hard. 

Please let me know how things are going, and send me an email later today to let me know that you've at least set the appointment with your Bishop.

- Bro Jo




Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I really wasn't expecting you to reply that fast, but I'm glad you did.

And thank Sister Jo for me? She makes me smile. :)

My bishop is currently on vacation, I don't know where he is or when he'll get back, but when he does I'll make the appointment.

In the meantime, I've made an appointment with the boy to talk about all the jazz (in the middle of the day at a park. I'm hoping that's appropriate enough?) and I've already told him it's not going to be a butterflies and rainbows-type conversation.

I'm trying really hard to not think about wimping out.

See, I've always been kind of a do-it-halfway type member. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to be 100% committed and do it all right (well, as right as I can being human) and see what happens.

Anyway, I'm trying to be strong.

I hope I can do this.

Thanks again for your advice!

Sincerely,

Beating Fear With A Stick.




Dear BF,

I know you can be strong!

You'll be great!

Having the conversation in the park is an excellent idea. If your Bishop is still not back from vacation, consider talking to his First Counselor (that's his job while the Bishop is away) or a member of the Stake Presidency.

Repentance is too expedient to be put off for convenience.

Good luck and God Speed,

- Bro Jo

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