Before you stop reading here, click the little red "x" at the top and assume that I've gone apostate and hate my mission, I would like to explain myself here a little people. Yes I absolutely loved loved loved my mission. It was so sacred. I loved serving God, becoming best friends with His Son Jesus Christ, teaching the liberating principle of repentance, bringing others unto Christ by helping them receive the ordinances and covenants of the gospel, and everything else that a mission entails. I grew in ways I never expected. I truly came to KNOW my Savior Jesus Christ. I grew to love so many amazing and awe-inspiring people. Don't get me wrong, my mission was THE SINGLE MOST sacred experience of my life..............up to this point. That last part is crucial for me. UP TO THIS POINT.
In the last few weeks of my mission, I had few too many nights in my little apartment in Plano, TX crying myself to sleep because the thought of going home felt like a knife in my stomach. Sure the mission wasn't easy, but the thought of not being around my mission president and his wife all the time, leaving my new life-long friends I had made in the missionaries around me, and not being able to focus on solely teaching repentance 24/7 made me want to curl up under a rock and never come out. I felt like I was drowning in fear of the "real world" and felt hopeless as I wondered how I could ever be this happy again. I had lacked faith in the idea that the Savior could provide just as much (if not more) strength/grace off the mission as He did while I was on the mission. I was in denial about leaving and felt anxious anytime someone would bring up the fact that I was going home soon.
During our last day as we said goodbye to the Taylors and headed to the airport to leave Dallas, I remember feeling so broken hearted. As one of my companions and I were contacting people in the airport while we were waiting for our flight, I think I might have turned to her and said something along the lines of "This sucks", or "I hate this", or "My heart feels like it is shattering into a thousand pieces", 869,003 times. I was so full of gratitude and love for my mission, and yet so full of frustration that it was all ending right then and there. I remember praying on the airplane and saying something to the affect of, "Heavenly Father, I hate how I feel right now. I know this is supposed to be a triumphant and happy time of my life coming home from a mission and all, but I don't feel that way. I am supposed to go home and be happy and feel at peace that I am done, but right now I don't feel that way. I don't want my mom to see me like this. I don't want my family to think I'm not happy to see them or to be home. This is supposed to be a good thing. So please, Heavenly Father, help me feel like this is a good thing."
With that simple prayer, I continued to watch the skyline of Dallas fall behind us through the airplane window. I remember a clear thought come into my mind saying, "if I provided so many miracles on the mission, why don't you believe I can still do the same while you're home. Why do you believe my grace is going to end now?" To be honest, I was kind of taken back by that thought. For a short moment, it popped me out of my own little bubble of doubt and faithlessness. It surprised me to come to the realization that with all the faith in my Savior my mission led me to acquire, I wasn't having faith in Him now.
As we came down the escalators at the SLC airport to see our family and friends, I felt so excited and so happy to be with them again. The sadness and feelings of being broken hearted slowly began to leave and I felt an incredible feeling of excitement for what lied ahead. As we drove up to our hometown to be released by my stake president, I had anticipated a tragic thirty minute meeting where I would inevitably feel empty, purposeless, horribly devastated, and every other negative feeling you could possibly feel.(dramatic, I know) But the Lord didn't stop answering my simple airplane prayer. As we sat there and I recounted all the things I had learned and all the things I had felt, I felt so peaceful. I felt so strong, empowered, happy, excited, and faith filled. My stake president is a very inspired man and I remember chills just rushing over my body as he said the words, "You are being released as a full time missionary, but not as a missionary. You are being released from full time service but not from full time discipleship. You are being released from the bounds of the little white handbook, but not from the sacred bounds of your covenants. When the black tag comes off, your REAL mission begins. This is the real mission. This is where you can truly prove yourself as a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ."
To any and all return missionaries who may be reading this and who may have struggled with the same feelings of, fear, doubt, confusion, purposelessness, etc, I would love to share with you a saying my mission president would always say to me, "Your mission is simply the launchpad of your life. You can't stay forever, or else you'll never fly." So don't feel hopeless. Take faith in yourself and more importantly in the Savior. Continue actively and energetically living as a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. Keep your mission habits. Keep studying your scriptures every single day, praying sincerely every morning and night, fasting regularly, go to the temple every week, take the sacrament every single Sunday, and focus on turning outwards and serving others at all times, and you WILL BE OK. Trust that the Savior will put you in the right places at the right times just like He did on your mission. As I have focused on these things that past six weeks, I have felt an amazing sense of perspective and joy and Spirit permeate my return-missionary life, even though I have no idea what I am doing with it. Don't let doubt weigh you down. Keep living by the same principles and habits you learned on the mission, and let your mission launch you into life FLYING. My mission was amazing but it wasn't the best eighteen months of my whole life. I know and trust the best are yet to come as I continue living as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.