They sat in my living room balancing bean dip on paper plates, squirrelishly entertaining tangents unrelated to the printed agenda. Developing a group “statement of faith” had been added as a discussion item after several members had expressed proposals on the new homeschool group’s official name and purpose. Some wished for an exclusively Christian group, while others suggested it remain all-inclusive, with the emphasis on supplementing education through the expectation of high morals.
Though I was unfamiliar and a little shy to the small group, I spoke first when the time finally came to discuss our group’s statement of faith.
“I love the idea of having a motto to help guide our group’s goals and help parents feel comfortable that their kids will be among moral standards. Personally, I think our statement of faith should be general since there are many faiths in our group and there may be specific doctrines we disagree on.”
Everyone nodded and mumbled profuse agreement.
Then, taking a deep breath I gathered the courage to continue on with the thoughts I’d felt inspired to share.
“I’ve been in groups before where I felt excluded because of my religion. People have even said I’m not Christian, which clearly is not true, and is very hurtful to me.” Gesturing to the large painting of Jesus Christ hanging behind my couch, “I would never want anyone to feel unwelcome because of their beliefs.”
At this point in the discussion, I wasn’t sure they knew the details of my personal faith. I only knew they all agreed there was a need to establish a standard among our homeschool group and co-op classes. And they all agreed the statement should be broad enough to include all faiths. With good feelings, we moved to the next agenda item.
A few weeks later I learned through second-hand sources the group leader was uncomfortable with how “involved” I was becoming, and that my faith was excluded on her list of welcome religions in the ideal “Christian” co-op.
I was angry, hurt, and embarrassed. I wanted to curl in fetal position in my bed and disappear until the emotion numbed. This was the exact situation I’d feared, yet had felt such calm after speaking up that night over our plates of bean dip.
The betrayal continued to sting as my kids gathered around a stack of Dr. Seuss books and asked me to read aloud.
I read through the headache that throbbed from crying about how she wouldn’t to talk to me, just about me. I read as I wondered why, WHY, someone would unfairly go to an anti-source instead of directly to the person to learn about their beliefs.
Ironically, through the simple words of a beloved children’s author, peace began to replace the anger and I realized this experience wasn’t for her. I wanted her to give me a chance. I wanted her to be willing to learn about my beliefs–no matter how strange they seemed to her. I wanted to be included and involved with new friends that could help support my homeschooling goals.
But this experience wasn’t for converting her–it was for converting me. It was for me to gain the courage to stand up for what I know to be true. To teach my kids a lesson in tolerance and acceptance of others–no matter the differences, and to take a look at the roots of my faith.
It was for me to be able to say–not just on the surface, but to feel from my core, that it doesn’t matter what others think as long as I’m doing what I know is right. And that the right will not always be popular.
It was for me to realize the unpopularity of the ancient prophets who testified of the unknown, and to remember our Savior himself was rejected because of what He knew to be true.
It was for me to realize what’s really important is what I know to be true. I know it’s true because I’ve asked, and received that testimony for myself. Because of that very personal testimony I’ve received, God also knows I know it’s true. And so I can not deny it.