I have come to the conclusion that is it often times harder to be a returned missionary than it is to be a missionary….
On the mission, you have a very clear directive, schedule, and structured lifestyle. You had leadership and support available to your at all times!
You had it worked into your daily-doings to study and meditate and commune with God each day, and it always felt weird if you forgot to pray, or read your scriptures.
Fast forward to being home:
You’re old friends and family are just so excited to get back to living up the “good old days”. Yes you’ve all had life experiences and adventures since you’ve been apart that have changed you, but you easily (for some) revert back into your previous social life and basically giving the finger to life/habit changing adventure you just left.
You stay out late, then wake up too late and in an effort not to be late for the next thing on your to do list, you buzz out the door without saying a morning prayer, which was always the first thing you did, day in and day out for over a year.
Then there are the invites to socialize like you haven’t been able to do for ages (or so it feels) and you stay out, or stay over and you don’t end the day with a prayer either…. You, apostate you!!! Maybe you remembered to do so over a meal during the day, but are you really going to get into a “wrestle of Enos” communion with God while your pizza gets cold, or before the dog can steal it? No, you’re not.
Then comes the “D” word: Dating. If you thought you were a hot commodity as a full time missionary, wait till you get home little elder or sister! Especially for those apart of “The Great Surge”…. There was quite a drought while we were gone, and holy moly have people been praying and preparing for the rain!
After getting swept off our feet, we may have a moment where we say, “Hey, that was not in my plan…” but life is moving fast, so you just keep on moving forward and the next thing you know you’ve been married for a year and home from the mission for 2. What the heck happened??
Anyway, time continues to move on. You “acclimate” back to the “norm” (booo on normal things…. but more on that later). You get into a new routine. You start remembering how to live with a schedule. You start using a planner again, and you start remembering to say your prayers and read your scriptures… And yet something continues to feel… weird.
I have personally determined that I will always feel a little weird. I will always feel weird about being home. For me, Florida will now always feel like home. My “tribe” (my people, my investigators, the members, the friends) that remain there will always be calling to me. It is a daily thing! I have never once, in the 21 months I’ve been home had a day where I didn’t get lost in day dreams of the mission: the choking humidity of Gainesville, of the perfect breeze of Fernandina Beach, of the weird smells (oh the smells! blech…) of Atlantic Beach… It’s always there. And I feel weird being so far from it…
But the thing is, God always prepares a way. He always makes the absolute best that He can of a situation. He invented ways to keep in touch, to keep the relationships, and memories alive, and can I just say, “HALLELUJAH!! Can I get an ‘AMEN’!!!!” (that’s a super good song by the way) because if He didn’t I would struggle. Every RM would… You can’t give and gain so much of your heart, and then never be able to access it again. That is what I call a “cruel an unusual punishment“.
Anyway, for those of you “Pre-Mi’s”, RMs, or even current full time missionaries, just know the struggle is totally normal, and real. But so is learning how to deal, and how to live a fulfilling life after the mission. It’s not easy, and you’ll never stop missing the mission. But that’s okay. It’s okay to feel a little weird. The Lord intended it to be that way, so we would never forget that great chapter of our lives, and all the lessons we learned that we so badly need to keep in our day to day lives here, now and forever.
I will always be so grateful for my time as a full time missionary. It’s helping me appreciate my opportunity to be a full time return missionary. There are blessings, and miracles to witness and be apart of. We just have to do our part to help them come to pass, just like during the mission. Keep the faith, and take lots of deep breaths. And remember…. The Atonement is there for you. Always.