My wife is a smart woman – a nurse with a background as a paramedic and pharmacy technician. Despite her intelligence, she’s incredibly gullible when nice people want to sell her things. We have a rainbow vacuum, an ADT alarm system, and more that we own all because some nice people demonstrated how their products could change our lives.
Sales folks aren’t the only ones who have tried to change our lives though; a couple of years ago, my wife encountered two Mormon missionaries. I’m more of a spiritualist than she is. Where she works in healthcare, I work in mental health, which, to me, is synonymous with spiritual health. She waited for me to get home to begin the conversation with the Mormons in earnest.
I like to make people feel welcomed in my home, so I opened with a joke- “Oh, hi! I LOVE Mormon people!” With a background in military intelligence, I know how daunting it can be to “cold-call” a new person in hopes of accomplishing something. They laughed at my joke and began to describe their culture.
Mormon young adults often travel to share their truth with others. As a veteran, I know what it’s like to leave home for a cause, and I’m always curious about peoples’ faith, so we invited them to return and tell us more. We met weekly (completing readings between meetings), and they asked us thought provoking questions.
We’d ask our own questions over dinner, and we soon developed a friendship. One day, after several weeks, they asked us an unforgettable question.
“What’s your favorite blessing from God?” My wife, always too kind to me, told them that hers was me. I paused to consider their question – I had no interest in wasting anyone’s time, so I wanted to be entirely truthful. It didn’t take long for me to speak from a place of conviction – I’ve spent a lot of hours pondering matters of substance.
“I’m sorry if this is a little heavy, but my favorite gift from God is – well…pain.” The two barely-adults exchanged a look, and I tried to explain before they got too uncomfortable. “I’ve been through a lot. From growing up in broken homes wrought with physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, to grief, divorce, military trauma, the effects of addiction, fostering children, and more…but I wouldn’t change any of it. Everything I’ve been through has been nothing compared to what I did afterward.”
“I looked back and re-lived my traumas over and over again, dissecting each experience to learn the lessons they contained. I learned who (and how) to love, what I believe, and my purpose…I learned when it’s worthwhile to be uncomfortable and when to push myself toward the next breakthrough. There was a time when I wouldn’t have given the two of you the time of day, you would’ve never asked your questions, and I never would’ve arrived at this place of acknowledging how much I appreciate my own trauma. My favorite gift from God, irrevocably and unequivocally, is pain.”
The well put-together missionaries momentarily lost sight of their lesson plan and looked at me with blank faces.
“Wow,” was all one of them could muster. They looked like they wished that they had endured enough trauma to know themselves as I did and to be comfortable with that level of vulnerability. Personally, I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone, but I also wouldn’t change a bit of it.
I’m not a Mormon person. In this case, neither myself nor my wife “bought” what was being sold in the way it was being sold. We didn’t join their church. This time though, instead of my wife acquiring something from courteous strangers who knocked on our door, it was me that did. I learned to let go of the resentment I’d held toward God for all the “bullshit he’d put me through,” and to be comfortable with old Christian texts that had grown to trigger me because of the way men taught them. Most of all, I was reminded that truth doesn’t need to be put into a box, and that it can come from anyone – even if it was my wife’s gullible kindness that brought them into my life.