Hello. This is slightly awkward, like saying hello to a friend you recognized in the frozen food section of Albertson’s, but haven’t seen since high school and well, where do you really start?
I honestly don’t feel that sorry for not writing, because well, I was getting married.
It’s great. He’s great. We’re great.
But today, it was time to write again.
I was sitting at my desk this morning combing through status updates and wedding pictures, looking for something trending.
And I found this blog.
How many times have I heard, “Sister are blisters,” and “you only went on a mission because you couldn’t get married,” or countless other diatribes directed at faithful women who decide to put their life on a shelf for 18 months, dress like a grandma and walk the dusty streets of Montana. Or Uruguay. Or Provo.
You brush them off.
How surprised I was to read this post from a former sister missionary. While I read, I found myself getting more and more upset.
Now, I’ve never been a great debater. I’ve never been particularly eloquent when confrontation rears its ugly head. But her words left me slightly unsettled. And rather than attack what she did say I’ve spent most of my day thinking about what she didn’t say.
Before I continue, let me first say this: she had some good points. But then again, so does Obama. #republican
But this isn’t about politics. It’s about religion. Hashtag, pick your controversy.
Let’s go back to my first few anxiety-ridden days of the MTC.
It was wonderful and terrible as every out-of-your-comfort zone experience should be.
I struggled with self-confidence. I calloused my knees pleading with God to help me become a mouthpiece for him, to let go of my insecurities and do what I had been called to do.
I struggled. I grew. One step forward, three steps back. Humility will have its way.
One night near the end of my stay, our branch president asked us the question we had gotten countless times.
“Why did you decide to serve a mission?”
My answer was something along the lines of this:
“I’ve seen the joy the gospel has brought to my family, and I want to share it with other people.”
The other missionaries in the room with me offered similar explanations.
President Roach looked at us long and hard.
“No,” he said. “It’s because you love God. And if you don’t realize that yet, you’d better figure it out quick.”
I went back to sitting on that rickety stage in a stake center in Florida, listening to Elder Holland. A tithe on your life, he told us. God expects you to give everything back to him. Those words penetrated me.
I went back to an unpaved road in Ferndale, California. As I looked into a blinding sunset, my mind swimming in a torrent of potentials, the overwhelming truth came: a mission was in my future.
I went back to my knees aching against the wooden floors in my favorite house. Help thou my unbelief, I asked.
And suddenly, I was back in the MTC. The journey to decide to serve a mission was a challenge. Just like a mission is a challenge. But since when has God himself asked us to steer away from something because it’s difficult?
My fellow blogger is right. Elders and Sisters should choose to serve a mission for the right reasons.
But I will make this bold statement: a mission is for anyone. Anyone who is willing to find the right motivation to serve.
If you’re dating someone, it doesn’t mean you have to stay and marry them. I didn’t. And thank goodness. Though I loved the man I left behind, he was not what I needed. A mission wasn’t an out, it was my next step.
Spiritually, I was at a stand still. All the promptings in my life pointed toward a mission. God needed me among his children in Montana. God and Emmilie needed me to grow. A mission wasn’t a solution, it was a step in my eternal progression.
I was bored with school. I am a person in need of constant distraction. A mission wasn’t a diversion from the monotony of living, it came when I needed to serve, allowing me to meet Georgie, Gayle, the Callisons, Jan, Jeremie and Jason.
No matter what the life circumstance you leave behind (which, there’s no right or wrong one) make sure it’s for the right reasons.
Anyone can serve a mission. So you struggle with anxiety, fear, pride, timidity, introversion, insecurities, the list goes on and on. I spent 18 months preaching that the is NOTHING that can’t be fixed through the atonement of Christ.
YOU can serve a mission.
But let me be clear. During my many month long process of deciding to serve, I examined my motives.
Maybe I’ll go somewhere exciting.
All the RM’s I’ve met have been so awesome. I want to be like that.
I want to know the gospel better.
Selfish. Selfish. Selfish.
A mission is not about you. God will work through you, using your talents, experience and testimony, but it is NOT. ABOUT. YOU.
As I got more serious about serving, and prayed more diligently, my motives began to change.
I want people to feel like I felt when Elder Meldrum and Elder Nyland taught my family.
I want everyone who struggles to know how incredible the atonement feels.
I want my brothers and sisters to have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
And sitting in the MTC, with President Roach staring into the souls of six missionaries, my motives changed again.
Love. Love of God.
Love for the One who has carried me these past 25 years. Love for the one who has stood by me when I thought I would surely fall into pieces. Love for the one who has fixed my broken heart and comforted my sorrowing spirit. Love for the one who loves me infinitely. Who loves me perfectly.
I’ll make one final point. True, women are not commanded to serve a mission. True, with the surge of sister missionaries going out right now, it would be easy to feel “pressured” into going.
Don’t. Be brutally, painfully honest with your soul. Why are you going? If you’re unsure, figure it out. The Lord, through a prophet of God has called for more missionaries. He’ll help you discover the right reasons to go.
Sisters be brave. Be brave to go. Be brave to not go.
Some of my dearest friends, who I go to for spiritual guidance and strength, didn’t serve a mission. In fact, it was because of valiant members that I met on my mission that helped me decide the kind of member I wanted to be when I returned. You don’t have to serve a mission in order to build the kingdom of God.
I did so that God could teach me about Emmilie. And love. And service. And the beautiful miraculous majesty of the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. A mission was always in the cards for me. But it happened because I chose it.
By the end of my mission, my answer to the question I heard 1,763 times was solid.
Why did you serve a mission, Sister Buchanan?