“…that they shall go forth for a little season, and it shall be given by the power of the Spirit when they shall return” (Doctine and Covenants 42:5).
It is hard to explain how it feels to come home early from a mission. It makes you very sad, but you know it’s part of God’s plan. BUT YOU ARE STILL VERY SAD. It’s a mumble jumble of feelings that you never quite sort out. It’s like we threw all the feelings in my sketchy clothes drier that I had in the mission and turned it on. (In order to understand this reference, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88YwvRUapyY).
Here is a condensed list of assorted thoughts thrown into my “poderoso el chiquitin” translated into English to facilitate the reading process:
- Why the heck are there so many people at church today? (I asked myself only to be informed by my mom that the chapel was especially empty.)
- Would Sriracha sauce be good on this food item?
- Can I really drive Sarah up to Ogden without dying after not driving for nine months?
- Was I really supposed to come home early?
- Wow my back hurts.
- Why couldn’t I finish like all the other returned missionaries?
- IF I SIT DOWN ANY LONGER MY SPINE IS GOING TO EXPLODE.
- Did I really gain that much weight?
- YES! Brandon comes home soon.
- I can’t believe Gilmore Girls just ended like that.
- What will my teenaged kids think of me when they find out I only served half a mission?
- Wow. I feel guilty for being happy.
- NO I WILL NOT WATCH STAR WARS ON SUNDAY, but I will watch NBA basketball. (They sung the National Anthem, which is in the hymnbook. It’s fine.)
- Did I make a mistake?
- I am really grateful for my mission.
- WHY DIDN’T I JUST TRY HARDER?
- I hate pants.
- I think I shouldn’t try to go back out.
- I NEVER WANT TO EAT PASTA AGAIN.
- Did I fail God?
- Did I fail God?
- Did I fail God?
My first Sunday home my bishop asked me what I learned on my mission, and I told him that the most important thing I learned was that God’s plan is better than my plan. I learned to accept HIS WILL over MY WILL, and that has made all the difference (casual Robert Frost reference). For some reason in my first full week home, my mind has had a hard time remembering that my unanticipated, early return is part of that plan. Somedays I think that God is disappointed in me, and it makes me get all stressed that I did not do enough. That I should’ve just kept saying that I was okay when I was not. That I should’ve walked more blocks and contacted more people and carried more paperback Books of Mormon all through town.
So I keep coming back to one scripture:
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:23)
When my mission president told me that I was coming home, I felt so much peace. In the week leading up to my flight, I still felt this profound, soul-filling (and soul-fixing) peace. In fact other missionaries would say to me that I seemed unusually peaceful considering my situation, and I smiled and replied, “God has a plan.” And now when the doubts come in and I start to feel like a big-fat failure, I go back to those moments of peace. Back to Victoria, my second area, during my first bedrest when I was laying in my bed, reading Jesus the Christ. Back to past-curfew chats with the sister training leaders about how it is okay to go home early. Back to the phone call at 6:37 PM in Norma’s house. And the magical thing is that I’ve started to have new moments of peace. Sitting in the Celestial Room of the Mount Timpanogos Temple asking God if I need to stay home or try to go back on a mission. Reading my hastily shrunk, laminated, and folded version of my Patriarchal Blessing in Sacrament Meeting. Hearing that I couldn’t go back to school as a normal student until winter semester (peace comes in mysterious ways). Talking to my best friend on his P-days. Taking a nap on my deck in the sun. Singing “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” at church. Deciding that I want to be happy about coming home rather than miserable.
So here’s to following God’s plan 100% even when (especially when) it isn’t your plan. Because let’s be real, His plan is infinitely better, because He is infinitely better (Isaiah 55:8-9). He loves me so much, and I know this for sure. I know He loves me, because He sent His Son to feel exactly what I’m feeling right now. I know He’s probably looking down at me like a proud, loving Father, because He has a perfect, infinite love for all of His children (despite their supposed failures). I am grateful that He knows what I need and sends blessings every day. I am grateful to know that He is cheering me on and hoping that I return to Him someday. I love Him with all that I am.