According to mission myth, the two periods when most missionaries go home is at the three month mark and the seven month mark. After our missionary shared this bit of missionary lore with us, I began to think about it and it made sense.
My husband and I have been married twenty years this summer. I have to imagine that, similar to the commitment required in marriage, a commitment to serving a mission is begun with high hopes and an idealized vision of all the glories awaiting one on a mission.
Those first months of marriage are so exciting and full of the fun of discovery; however, anyone who has been married longer than a couple years also know that marriage is NOTHING like those initial months. Initially, we think it is so fun to keep house and to grocery shop … twenty million times later, you’re tired of trying to figure out why someone keeps putting the milk container back into the fridge when it is clearly empty. (As my husband gets frustrated with this, we’re pretty sure it is one of the kids who is the guilty culprit!) … and changing that toilet paper roll for the ka-billionth time isn’t so fun anymore either.
Initially, a missionary is so very excited to finally be out doing the Lord’s work and isn’t it grand that we’re all engaged in such a great work! Then the reality kicks in and it’s a bit harder than we anticipate and we have to dig down deep inside to discover, “Am I really all in?”
Am I really all in when my companion prefers to tell others about habits I have that annoy them, rather than addressing it with love with me?
Am I really all in when I see missionaries all around me, sometimes even in leadership positions, serving with half an effort?
Am I really all in when door after door after door is slammed in my face?
Am I really all in when my homesickness overwhelms me and I feel like a failure in this new life as a missionary?
Am I really all in?
At three months, a missionary has to decide and answer for themselves. Family cannot answer this question for a missionary, it has to come from within.
At seven months, it must be similar to the seven year itch that marriages face as well. We’ve now weathered the rough starting out years. We’ve grown comfortable with each other’s annoying habits and grown comfortable with the life of a married person.
Housework continues to need to be done. Bills continue to need to be paid. Day in and day out, same old, same old.
For a missionary, we’re now a quarter of the way through this thing called a mission. The excitement and even fear of the unknown has now become familiar through repetition and other than an occasional humorous human moment, like that guy trying to force feed you fried chicken from his pick-up truck, you’re in the routine of missionary life.
Yet you are not even halfway through! Ugh. You still have most of your mission stretching out endless before you. Day after day of door slamming, companion annoying, day. Your friends are moving on with their lives: college, relationships, and LIFE. While you are stuck here, getting doors slammed in your face while you try to share the exact same message you shared yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.
What is the freaking point?!?
Again a missionary has to ask themselves a question that only they can answer, “WHY am I here?”
Am I here to satisfy a social expectation? This is simply not going to be a strong enough reason to stay.
Am I here to prove my worthiness? Watching some mission leaders cut corners and bend rules will overcome this conviction quickly.
Hopefully, our missionary will approach this question prayerfully. Hopefully, through prayer and listening to the spirit our missionary will learn what we, ourselves, have learned on the path of discipleship.
It’s not about the calling.
It’s not about people’s opinions.
It’s about the change that happens when the gospel is lived. It’s seeing the joy infuse a face that has been worn down with care, as the realization that the Savior knows them and loves them sinks in.
We keep moving forward because we see how we are changed for the better. Gone are the desires for superficial, shallow, and passing trends. Instead, we have a deep hunger to be of use to the Lord, to be an instrument in lifting our brothers and sisters around us.
As our missionary faces this seven month itch in missionary life, I pray that the Lord will touch his heart, as my own heart was touched years ago. I know my Savior loves me and by doing His will and serving those around me, I am at peace within and I am happier in doing service than at any other time in my life.
As my husband and I look back over twenty years of marriage, we are struck by how much we have grown as individuals through this process of making a marriage work. We are both humbly amazed at the depth of joy and love we feel now in comparison to the beginning.
I hope our son’s mission experience is the same. I hope he continues giving 110% to the Lord. I hope he is amazed at the depth of love he has developed for God’s children. I hope and pray that he is changed within because he stuck to his commitment to give his all for two years.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.