We have all been there. That moment when a returned missionary tries to talk to a member of the opposite sex. Some are over-enthusiastic, and other are petrified out of their minds. Or, when your son or daughter comes home and suddenly finds themselves deep cleaning your house and scrubbing toilets because they are bored. Perhaps you have even been blessed to act as companion to a brother or sister who is still suffering from companion separation anxiety. With the two year anniversary of the shocking general conference announcement, we will soon have an influx of returning moments.
As for myself, I made one mistake as a missionary that has haunted me ever since. My mission president had suggested that the missionaries who served the hardest, come home the most awkward. So, one night I knelt in prayer and asked that I would be awkward when I came home. (Lesson one: be careful what you pray for!) The Lord answered my prayer.
The day after I returned home from the airport, my mom and I went to the grocery store. My mother abandoned me for the next aisle. Panic and fear seethed through me. “MOM? where are you?” I cried out in despair. She laughed and said, “I’m right here. What’s the matter?” I then informed her that she was never to leave me alone again because what if something happened. (I was trying to live by the missionsaic law of Sight and Sound)
If you think that’s bad… later that day I was sitting at home feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety and guilt for not having companionship study. As I thought about it a solution came to my mind, I called my best friend and next door neighbor who we shall now refer to as “Saint Karen”. “Hi Karen, it’s Sister Dewey.. I mean uh… Ashley. This might sound weird, but I was wondering if you might be interested in having exercise and companion study with me in the mornings.” Karen responded with the enthusiastic laughter that only someone who knows you well can produce as she said, “Sure Ash, I’d be happy to do that. Where should we meet and when?” For the next two weeks, she came over every morning at 6:30 am. We would start out with a walk through the neighborhood. Then we would return back home and do our personal and companionship study. Yes, we even used Preach My Gospel and practiced teaching lessons with role plays. (She was really prepared for her mission a few months later!)
One might think that it would get better with time, and I was clean for six months. Then my roommates threw me a zone conference themed birthday party. It all came rushing back. I walked in the door from work and saw all of my roommates dressed in their sister missionary clothes, with their name tags on. They even set the living room up in a “chapel” theme with a podium and bench seating. The cake looked like my missionary name tag. They had speakers, who gave talks on things like “The Christ-like Attributes of Dating”, and “Having Faith to Find a Boyfriend.”
Perhaps you and your loved ones won’t have experiences as extreme as mine, but I feel that we can all learn some lessons from the awkward instincts of a returned missionary. There were things I got right, and things I got wrong.
First, keep the missionary zeal even upon returning home. It may seem odd to think that one can be overzealous in missionary work, but I submit that it is possible. In the mission field you can consecrate your time fully to the Lord and his work, but upon arriving home it is time to strike a new balance. If you only do missionary things all day every day you will not get a job to support yourself, you will not gain an education, and you may even miss out on an eternal companion. However, the principles of daily study, prayer, and righteous habits are not only needed, but important to keeping the spirit with you in your life and working diligently towards life goals.
Second, admitting what’s hard when transitioning can make life less difficult. Thankfully, I had good friends and family who were patient with me. They studied with me, and desensitized me to solitary life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you communicate clearly, it doesn’t sound as crazy, and there will be people who will be glad to lead you through these teething moments (partly because you will be fun to laugh at). The joy you have left over from the missionary experiences can be shared so much that they will be quite forgiving. One day these moments will become funny to you as well.
Third, find ways to apply your missionary experiences to your everyday life. Even if my roommates were being silly, they made an excellent point. The lessons from Preach My Gospel still apply though your badge is now only engraved upon your heart, or the cake as the case may be. Other principles such as talking with everyone you meet can also apply as you remain friendly. You can still plan each day so that you use your time wisely. You can still pray, study, and be exactly obedient. You can still magnify your calling, and trust the spirit to guide you in your life. You can still have a companion; you just need to work to find one, and well, transfers may be much more heartbreaking.
Imagine you are receiving a new mission call. It sounds something like this, “You are hereby called to serve as the Lord’s hands. You are assigned to labor in your ward now using the language of love. It is expected that you will serve the Lord in this capacity for the rest of your life.” Friends and family members, you can be equally as excited and supportive of this mission call and all of its difficulties as you were to your loved ones in the mission field. Oh, and don’t forget, your returned missionary will still need to go shopping for clothes appropriate for dating and other aspects of their new life.
More on becoming a returned missionary:
Ashley Dewey is extremely talented at being single. Hobbies include awkward conversations with members of the opposite sex, repelling third dates, talking to boys about their girl problems and to girls about their boy problems. In her spare time she also has a very fulfilling school life, work life, and social life. Besides being a professional single, Ashley is also a BYU graduate with a degree in linguistics (Aka word nerd). She enjoys studying other languages, particularly American Sign Language, and finds most all of them fascinating. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Ashley works most of the time and has often been accused of being a workaholic. Currently she works full time as a merchandiser and supervisor in a retail store, and part time doing social media work. On her day off she works (really it doesn't feel like work) in the Provo LDS temple. The only kind of work she finds difficulty focusing on is house work. Her favorite activities in her free time are reading, writing, creating social experiments, and spending time with great friends and family. Specific activities with those family and friends include: going to concerts, plays, dance recitals, BYU basketball and football games, and watching sports on television.