Recently (the first of October), I went to a mission reunion hosted by President and Sister Perry. It was great to catch up with old friends, and it made me more than a little nostalgic. I started to wonder: what is it about being a missionary that I miss so much? Certainly it wasn't the tracting or the biking.
I can sum up the things I miss in three words: camaraderie, simplicity, and significance.
CAMARADERIE: I miss the connection I had with other Elders. Surely we didn't all get along perfectly, but for some reason I feel a special sort of kinship even with the ones I didn't enjoy living with. It was like we were soldiers fighting a war together. Companionship came naturally from our sense of commonality: we had a common cause and served under the same Captain. Post-mission, friendships can too often be forced or fake; people are always going in different directions and have different goals, and therefore they will inevitably come across times when they have no more need of each other.
SIMPLICITY: This I miss tremendously. Mission life is not easy but it is assuredly simple. You worry about the same things every day, and you needn't worry about anything else. You are doing well if you are consistently and wholeheartedly inviting others to come unto Christ. Everything else about missionary work is fluff. After the tie and the tag come off, though, life gets much more complex. People warned me about this in California between 2006 and 2008, but I didn't understand their warnings until I found myself knee-deep in the worries of the world: financial responsibilities, socioromantic endeavors, academic pursuits, and other concerns threatened to drown out the spiritual focus I used to have. The solution has not been simple. It is not like I can abandon all these other things; life is multifaceted now. I just have to see everything through a spiritual lens and keep my perspective and priorities. In the past two years, that has proven trickier than it sounds.
SIGNIFICANCE: Perhaps many Mormon missionaries think too much of themselves, and I was probably included in that generalization. But in truth, they're important, and the work they get up every morning to do is of eternal significance. And most of them know that. They can feel it. They can feel the strength of the millions--literally--of prayers uttered every day, prayers asking God to "bless the missionaries in their endeavors." I distinctly remember feeling that. Every time I put a tie and tag on and got outside, I knew I was part of something bigger than myself, that I was preaching something so very important that at least in some contexts it could fairly be called the Only Important Thing. But what about now? My life choices are still significant, sure, but they don't always feel like it in such obvious ways. I got an A on a Biology test the other day, but I didn't feel all that special about it. In no visible or direct way did anyone's soul creep closer to salvation and further from damnation because of my Biology score.
Speaking of exams and scores, I had better conclude this blog post so I can get back to studying for my History of Philosophy test. Hopefully as I do, I will try to keep in mind the significance of my actions, the beautiful simplicity hidden behind the complexities of my post-mission life, and the camaraderie all around me that I have a newfound determination not to neglect. After all, the mission is only two short years, and if it is to be the Indisputably Best Time Ever in a man's life, then God wouldn't be as loving as we preach Him to be. I submit, however, that He is still loving, and that there are wonderful and fulfilling years ahead. I've just got to choose to recognize their awesomeness, so that I can enjoy them and forge ahead with hope.
Let us remember and learn from the past, without neglecting the present. Let us cherish our memories, and move on to the future to make new ones. That's my goal, at least.