I came home from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April. For some reason I expected to come home and receive all of these blessings for serving a mission. I imagined myself coming home, getting my dream job and falling in love with a really good-looking guy. We would then live happily ever after.
Boy, was I wrong. I got home and couldn’t find a job for months. When I finally did find a job it was a nightmare and I ended up taking a paid internship because it was the only reasonable alternative. I moved twice within a two month period. Six months later, I still haven’t found anyone that gives me butterflies.
It was at some point in the middle of all this that I realized for some reason I had developed this feeling of entitlement. I was angry with God because I felt like I had given Him 18 months of my life...missions aren’t easy, but I had done it and for that I deserved blessings.
It was one day amidst my mental interrogation of God because nothing seemed to be working out that I realized something that has changed my returned missionary mindset.
It is this: My mission was not a gift from me to God. It was a gift from God to me.
If God wanted to, he could do his own work. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Missionary work would be easy for him to take care of on his own but He allows us opportunities to serve because they change us. They bless us.
I am not the same girl that stepped on an airplane to serve a mission two years ago. I may look almost exactly the same but something within me changed during those 18 months.
In the first two weeks of my mission, my companion and I were teaching a lesson. We were in an apartment without furniture. It reeked of marijuana and there were six or so young adults about my age listening to our message. My companion taught the lesson up to the part about Joseph Smith and then she “passed” the lesson over to me. and as I began to say, “I saw a pillar of light.” They looked at me like I was nuts. For the first time in my entire life I began to question. I had always believed. I had always had a testimony. I had never asked questions but in that moment, I began to ask myself, “Am I nuts? Is this story even true? Why would I ever come 2,000 miles across the country to share a story that I don’t even know is true?” That night I went home and prayed. I told God that I couldn’t spend the next 18 months telling people a story if I didn’t know for myself that it was true.
Luckily, He answered. At the end of my mission I would tell people that story and look them directly in the eye. I never got tired of telling it. I loved it. I knew it was true. But that is not all I learned...
I learned the joy that comes when we think about something other than ourselves. I found that it is okay to ask questions when we don’t understand something. I now know what it feels like to put your whole heart on the line and to have it broken...not because some boy broke my heart but because I loved a family in Yakima, Wash. so much but they weren’t quite ready to accept our message. I understand now the importance of hope because I believe that someday that family will be ready and Heavenly Father will have waited for them all along.
In those 18 months I felt our Heavenly Father’s love for people in ways that I never imagined possible. I was able to testify to people of that love and hopefully they could feel it through me. I even found myself praying at night for the people who hurt my feelings or who were rude to me.
I learned what it means to care about someone else more than yourself and to be willing to do anything to make that person happy. I realized that I couldn’t do everything by myself and that Heavenly Father puts specific people in our lives to help us along the way in our own personal journeys.
I found that we can feel the Spirit in many different ways and that sometimes it is so thick you feel you can cut it with a knife. Those memories are so sweet.
I learned what it means to work and give your very best even when it is not particularly fun or enjoyable.
But perhaps the most important gift that He gave me on my mission was the knowledge that He knew me personally. He knew exactly what I needed throughout the whole experience. He also knew that I would not be perfect so He sent His son Jesus Christ to make everything okay. I came to understand my relationship with them very clearly.
As I travelled home from my mission I was sitting in the airport during a layover and a woman approached me. She began to ask me questions about my mission and about our faith. She attacked everything about what I believed. 18 months earlier I know that the things she said would have really shaken my faith but instead, this time I knew for myself and in the words of Jacob, “I could not be shaken.” I shared the things that I knew with her and I told her how I knew those things. She left and told me that she would pray for me. I obviously had not changed her opinion at all. Later, as I reflected on this experience I realized that it was Heavenly Father’s way of letting me see how much I had changed.
In the last six months I have learned that my mission wasn’t a gift from me to God. It was a priceless gift from God to me.
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