"What have I done? I can't come back from this. Why, why did I make this choice?"
These words ran through my head a million times in early 2009. I had done something that I had promised myself I never would. At the time I thought I had done something completely unforgivable. No matter how many times I prayed, read my scriptures, or went to church, nothing made me feel clean. I felt disgusting. I felt undeserving of any blessings that might be waiting for me. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't look anyone in the eye and feel good about myself.
I felt completely alone.
Then finally after a couple months of feeling this way I reached out for help. I scheduled an appointment with my bishop. I reached out and admitted I had made a mistake. Step one in recovery. Still to this day I can't tell you exactly why I made the choice I made.
Self sabotage? The example that had been set for me by my older siblings? Wanting to make my parents really mad at me so that I could get attention again? Needing to be defined by some worldly status so that I could feel accomplished in something? Boredom? Trying to slam the door shut on a chapter in my life so that I couldn't fit into their box anymore? Rebellion? Not being the "good girl" anymore?
You could say all of these things were definitely contributors.
Sitting in the bishops office and having to tell him everything, the specifics, the details, when, where, etc. was extremely awkward, heartbreaking, and devastating. I was disfellowshipped for a time. I don't remember exactly how long, but it felt like an eternity. Going to church every Sunday, not being able to take the sacrament and take a hold of those blessings, that if I kept the covenants I made at baptism would be able to have in my life. During this time the bishop asked me to read a few different things, scriptures mostly, articles from the Ensign on repentance and forgiveness. I was also asked to do a lot of service.
Then one day a few weeks after the initial meeting I woke up feeling like I was one ounce away from my fullest potential spiritually, and I actually started to feel clean again. A few days went by after this feeling and I just kept feeling a little bit better and better. I went into the bishops office happy to report what I was feeling and expecting him to tell me that I was fully back in the church and everything was happy again.
No. That's not what happened.
I went in and told him how happy I was feeling and he felt that I still needed some more time. I cried and was upset. I expressed my frustration and he said that this decision didn't come from him, but that he had prayed about me specifically that morning and he was told that I needed some more time. I was devastated, but he said a prayer before me leaving to grant me patience during this trial. That I would realize that this would all be for my good in the long run and that the Lord has a much bigger plan for me than I can even begin to comprehend. I left that meeting feeling discouraged and spent my time studying the scriptures feeling frustrated and bitter with the Lord. Once again, it felt like an eternity had passed. After that meeting on top of the extra scripture studying I was doing, I was serving more, and I actually started to find joy in my journey to full repentance. The joy started to creep in, in the "little things".
I was sitting in the library reading a few weeks after that meeting and I realized how "whole" again I felt. I started crying like a crazy person, in the middle of the library. I sped to the chapel and ran in, still crying. The bishop was there, which wasn't normal for him on that day, and he had a moment to meet with me outside of my normal weekly meeting time. I walked into his office a sat down and cried the happiest tears I had ever known. I felt 100% whole again. I felt like the old Sharon, but in a different way. The bishop started to weep with me for the new discovery I had made.
This discovery is the overwhelming power of the Atonement.
Satan wants you to feel 100% alone, disgusting, not worthy of blessings, devastated, unclean, like you can't come back from any mistake you make. Don't listen to him.
I am here to tell you, you can come back from any mistake.
The Lord sent his Son to die for us so that, these sins that feel so huge to us at the time, we can come back from. He wants us to return to live with Him again which is why He sent His Son. The Savior is there to help us to see our imperfections, and improve them. We have our free agency to choose and sometimes we allow Satan to impact our choices. If we do let him impact our choices, then we are able to grab onto the Atonement, hold on for dear life until we can feel whole again.
When we make mistakes again, we follow the cycle again, until we learn to not make those mistakes.
We will always fall short, and make mistakes, however, it is until we stop utilizing the Atonement in our lives, that we have truly given up.
Don't give up. Keep doing better. One day after clearing away the ashes and rubble from your mistake you will see the sun, and it will shine more bright and glorious than you ever thought it could.