Disclaimer: all of what I have written may come across as selfish, childish, and ridiculous. It's honest, though. Straight from the heart.
For almost four years, I have set my eyes on serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was one of the only girls in high school who was considering it. Many of my friends would say things like, "wow, good for you -- a mission is so not for me," or "I'm so not interested in serving a mission." Some of the girls would think me a little strange for my desire to go, and many of the boys said things like, "yeah, you'll change your mind when you get into college -- girls don't have to go."
As I grew older, I still desired to serve a mission. Often times that desire was put down by other people (I've written before about what many male friends have said to me concerning my goal). Words like "it makes me sad that so many girls are serving missions -- they're needed as wives and mothers, not missionaries," and the ever present "you'll change your mind when you meet that perfect guy" were thrown at me a lot. It made me so angry -- I didn't want to serve a mission because I wasn't dating (quite frankly, I care more about the status of my kitchen floor than I do about dating -- I hate dating). It also bothered me because the general authorities have encouraged women to serve missions, saying that women are able to reach people that the men can't. A woman who wanted to serve a mission because of a desire to serve the gospel was totally in the right, according to church policies. That's why I wanted to go. It's why I still want to go.
This summer, I began to feel that the timing of a mission was not right for me yet. I received a "no -- not right now" answer from the Lord twice, once in my bedroom and again as a confirmation of that answer in the temple, when I went to "double-check." I felt impressed to focus on my schooling, because I am more than halfway through with my degree, and to get as many educational experiences through BYU as possible.
Never have I been 100% satisfied with the "no -- not right now" answer. I say that I am, and I try to be, but it's been hard. Often times I've prayed for patience to follow through based on the answers I've been given, but it's been difficult. That difficulty was increased exponentially due to the announcement President Monson gave yesterday morning, right at the beginning of the first session of our General Conference.
When I heard that the age for worthy sisters had been dropped from 21 to 19, I was surprised. However, I didn't feel upset -- or not super upset. I felt a little bothered, but nothing important. As the day went on, though, and as I got text messages from friends asking me if I was going to go this year, I began to feel an overwhelming feeling of sadness and disappointment. Most people don't know that I have put my mission plans on hold, almost indefinitely. I haven't told very many people -- around here, many people automatically assume that the reason a person is no longer going on a mission is because a big mistake was made. I didn't make a mistake -- I just got told to hold off.
Those feelings of sadness increased as I received news from my younger sister that she will no longer be applying for college for next year, but will instead begin work on her mission papers in January and leave as soon as she turns 19 in July. I felt even more disappointed when my 16-year-old sister texted me that she is going to go on a mission as well in two years (she turns 17 in January), and that she was so excited to receive that answer from the Lord. I turn 21 in January, but no mission papers will be sent this year to Salt Lake with my name on them.
Getting on Facebook made it even worse. Countless status updates, pictures, and other posts met my eyes, each from young men who are moving up their mission dates and from young women who had never before considered missions (and some who have even criticized me for my desire), each expressing with enthusiasm and delight that they were scrapping their college applications and working on mission papers, or altering their goals to include a now possible mission.
I scrolled through my news feed until I could no longer see the screen because of the tears falling from my eyes. My entire being felt shattered, left out, even let down. I began to pray, asking God to change His mind, not really expecting Him to do so. I told God how upset I was -- how all of my life, everything that I have ever desired with my whole soul has been taken away from me, or I have been told to wait. I have watched both of my sisters receive every desire I've ever wanted and was never given -- leads in the school musical, positions on the choir council, relationships that have lasted more than four years, more attention and recognition from my parents, dates with good boys every other weekend -- I can honestly say that almost everything that I have ever desired has never been given me. And I was angry -- I was angry and heartbroken, and I told God that.
The more upset and heartbroken I began to feel, the more I tried to force myself to think of all of the good things that have been given to me, instead of the things I wanted. I got into BYU, even though I didn't think that I would and didn't really care to. I received an internship and a job that I didn't even know existed. I've been given friends who, though they have only been in my life for a couple of years, have been better friends than most of the people I knew when I was younger. No, I don't get to be in plays or in choirs, but I get other things.
But it has still been so hard. All day yesterday, and most of the night, found me in tears, frustrated and devastated because of my "no -- not right now." I recognize that it isn't a "NO" answer. It's a wait and be patient answer.
Being told to wait is one of the hardest things the Lord has asked me to do -- and that is what He asks of me the most.
This, for me, is the worst kind of heartbreak, because it's another time in my life where a righteous desire of my heart has been kept from me, and I've had to watch people who were never interested (or sometimes less qualified) receive those opportunities. I'm not saying that a mission is totally kept from me -- but not given to me when for so long, I have felt such an overwhelming desire to go and serve. What is hard is watching the people I went to high school with, who had no desire to serve a mission, suddenly take off and leave two months after making their decisions. What is hard is knowing that my sister, who is two years younger than I am, will be going on a mission before me, when she had little desire to do so in the first place, wanting to focus on school and see what happened as she got older.
What is hardest is to continually be told, "be patient," and nothing seems to change -- not with my health, not with my friendships, not with my family relationships, not with anything.
I will be patient. I won't give up. I'm not going to distance myself from the Lord (for as someone said in conference, moving away from the Lord when faced with a trial is like leaving the safety of the underground shelter when a tornado is in the field next door). I know that this will be for the best -- the Lord told me to wait for a good reason. Everything that He has done in my life has been for a better reason than I ever could have seen.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths."
I will do it. He'll take care of everything.
Speaking honestly, though...that doesn't mean it doesn't break my heart.