I'm not sure what possessed me in January, but when I was signing up for an ASU Institute class, I went with "Building an Eternal Marriage."
Part of it, I think, is it fit in with my schedule. And I've already taken Book of Mormon and a couple of other classes that were offered on Wednesday night. So I went with BEM.
The class consists of me, two or three other singles, and about 12 couples, both engaged and already married. I should have expected that, I suppose. But do the couples have to be so physically demonstrative? I get sick of the constant nuzzling and intertwined limbs. One girl spent about twenty minutes running her fingers through her fiancé's Grizzly Adams beard. It reminded me of the way apes will groom each other. It was nauseating on many, many levels.
I don't sit behind them anymore.
Anyway. The last time I went to birth mom group (2 months ago, give or take), I left early for Institute. L, a dear friend of mine, said she wanted to go to Institute with me. Well, I thought, that'll at least be another for the Bitter Singles side in my class. And L is awesome. So we went.
I wish I'd checked the schedule first. Class that night was on intimacy and fidelity in marriage. Not, strictly speaking, about the law of chastity, but it sort of turned into that. It was awkward. Sort of. L seemed distinctly miserable, and I can't say I blame her. I thought I'd be miserable and uncomfortable, too.
But, wonder of wonders, I wasn't. Not once. For the first time since I took a flying leap off the straight and narrow 2 years ago, talk of chastity and marital intimacy did not make me feel like trash. It was amazing! I was able to listen to the material and read the student manual and take things in the context of my future relationship with my husband. I didn't sit there and feel like I blew it, like I was chewed gum, to borrow an analogy, from an irritating object lesson of my youth.
I wished L could have had the same experience. As we were leaving class, she mentioned how awkward the lesson had been for her. How it made her feel like crap. She asked if I'd felt the same.
"Well, sort of," I lied, feeling that tact and sensitivity were more important than honesty. And I wondered why it was that our shared experience had produced such different results. I thought about it for a few hours and I think I know what it was.
I used to feel like L did. I used to hide at the very mention of chastity. I used to feel like there was a scarlet letter on my chest (an "s" for skank). Like I was a horrible person who had done horrible things (my words and feelings here, not L's). I felt acutely that I had let down my Father in Heaven. That my Savior had had to suffer a little more because of my stupidity.
But I spent the better part of a year repenting, and being obedient, and in February I went to the temple and received my endowment. What a blessing it has been, and how grateful I am for my Savior! I know more deeply than ever who I am, and why I am here, and what I can make of my life. I know - I KNOW - that I have been forgiven for what I've done. God doesn't just forgive us, either. The scriptures say that He will "remember them no more." How awesome is that?
And I find that, the more time passes, the less I remember them as well. Maybe that's part of why my Institute lesson didn't bother me. The sins that I committed belong to a person I'm not anymore. Why should talk of intimacy bother me? I will have it someday with my husband. I am worthy of an eternal companion. I don't always believe it, but it's true just the same.
Tonight, in my other Institute class, my teacher ended with his testimony of the Atonement. "Our Savior loves us," Brother N. said. "He is glad He could suffer for us. He would do it again." I thought that was profound. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus died for us because He had to, because we are all rotten people who mess things up, and that maybe He isn't too happy about it. But He is! He wanted to. He did it for us because he loves us. I think it's wonderful.