How do you know if a mission is right for you? I am a 18 year old girl and I have been praying for a long time whether I should go on a mission or not. In some ways I feel like my answer is “no” but sometimes it feels like a “yes.” I feel like if I don’t go I will be missing out on something amazing and that I will feel lonely (because a lot of my friends are leaving). But at the same time I know a mission is hard, I am shy, and can get scared and feel like it just isn’t for me. I have prayed and read my patriarchal blessing but still haven’t felt like I have received an answer. So how will I know?
The Boy I Love and I play a game we like to called Remember When? The rules of the game are these: each day, we share a moment or memory from our time together—sometimes in a text message, sometimes on the phone, and sometimes in person. Sometimes the memories are fun and light—like the time he and I were stuck in one-way-road traffic in Crater Laker National Park, and he made a sarcastic, albeit clever, comment about how I had spilled chips all over my lap. In response, I reached down for my Nalgene, unscrewed the lid, and dumped about 28 ounces of water on his legs before hollering in victory, “Whose lap is laughing now?!” (I can be a bit immature sometimes). This small act of war lead to an all-out water fight as he and I jumped out of the car and began running around the road like small children. Eventually, when I ran out of water, I bolted up to the car behind me (also parked in the traffic), and pleaded for a water bottle. The driver was absolutely aghast, and promptly rolled up is window. (Some people are no fun: *eye roll emoji*).
I remember that summer afternoon so clearly, and I can recall the most specific of details: The smell of pine trees wafting across a warm breeze, and the feeling of icy, summer, mountain snow as it slipped from my fingertips in the shape of a misshapen clump, sailed through the air, and just missed The Boy I Love’s shoulder (unfortunately). The sun was hot on my shoulders, hands, legs, and sounds of road construction, soaring birds, and car engines rolled across mountain corridors.
“Remember When?” is a mostly-fun game. But sometimes, it’s a little bit sad. Sometimes when I play, I’m reminded of friendships lost, complex decisions that perpetuated knots in my stomach, heart-wrenching breakups, and the list goes on.
Lovely How, how do you think you will feel, if in 10 years, you played “Remember When?: Mission Decision Edition?” It’s hard to know for sure, isn’t it? I remember when I was faced with the very decision you face now. I was torn in half by the prospect of living in a land foreign to me, serving the Lord faithfully, or simply remaining. Remaining with my family, my schooling, my friends. The former seemed exciting, albeit scary. “What if my best friend got married? What if my Grandpa died? What if I missed out on something really important?” The latter, seemed, well, boring, albeit comfortable, and safe, and like the correct decision in its own right. So, I floundered in confusion as I begged for someone to just tell me whether to serve a mission or whether to stay home.
And like you, no one did. God didn’t. My mom didn’t. My friends didn’t. I turned 21, the eligible age to submit mission papers back in my day (I’m a bit older than you), and still hadn’t received an answer. I continued to pray, I continued to reflect, and I continued to make lists and lists of pros and cons, but nothing ever felt conclusive. Both going and staying felt wrong. Both going and staying felt right. Then, I turned 22. No one had gotten married. No one had died. And still, no one told me to serve or not to serve. “Should I have gone? Maybe I should just go now.” Then I turned 23, and my friends who had left on missions started to come home again. I expected this to motivate me, or at the least, trick me into going. But it didn’t. Both going and staying felt wrong. Both going and staying felt right. And then I was 24, and so on and so on.
I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think you’re going to get a YES from God, or a YES from your family, or a YES from your friends. And I also don’t think you’re doing to get a NO from any of those sources, either. The truth is, our lives here on earth are a time for us to make decisions, exercise agency, and then later, review the consequences, both positive and negative, of that agency. And so, I think God gives YESes and NOs far less often than we’d like Him to. And unfortunately, How, that’s the space you find yourself in now: where both going and not going feel wrong. And where both going and not going feel right. And you just have to pick.
Looking back, I still feel that not serving a mission was both the right and wrong decision. I don’t think I would have regretted serving a mission. I’m sure it would have been a wonderful experience filled with colors and richness and love. And had I left when I was 21, or even 22 or 23, I wouldn’t have missed anything truly significant. But also, I don’t regret not serving a mission. I made a lot of important friends, and learned some significant lessons.
5, 10, and 15 years down the road, if you play “Remember When?: Mission Decision Edition,” you’ll probably smile about how much you tossed and turned and toiled about the decision to serve a mission, because by then, you’ll know that life worked out just fine. You’ll know that whatever you decided as an 18 year old was the best decision you could have made, and you know why? Because you made it.