Mission Life vs Real Life: An Allegory

I enjoyed reading a missionary’s blog titled “The Errand of Angels”. Sister Yates does a great job of describing what it’s “really like” being a Mormon Missionary, and what she has learned.

“So why come on a mission, or be a missionary if it’s so stinking hard? Like in the movie [Errand of Angels], it’s the miracles that keep you going at the end of the day… I’ve concluded that the best part of missionary work is the closeness you gain to the Savior.”

– Sister Yates

I left a comment on her post, thanking her and reflecting on my own mission 25 years ago:

It was not the “best 18 months of my life”, but it was the “most life-changing”.

Sister Yates’ personal reply to me included this thought:

“It’s like basic training to really be in God’s army, because being a parent and spouse, and church leader and such has got to be way more intense than just being a missionary.”

This exchange got me pondering – and pretty soon my thoughts had expanded into a metaphor – which grew into an allegory I wanted to share with you.

Backstory

 

 

At age 21 I served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Wisconsin Milwaukee Mission.

1987-1989-Wisconsin-Milwaukee-Mission
It seems like yesterday…

I’d dreamed about being a missionary my whole life. I announced to my mother at age 5 that I was going on a mission when I’d “grown a foot or two” (like the song said). “That’s nice, dear” she said, or something similar. She may have even added the disclaimer “of course if you don’t get married first,” because that was the standard view back in the day. Good Mormon girls only served a mission as a “fall-back plan”, if they found themselves the ghastly old age of 21 and still unmarried.

Thankfully (at least in this case) I was born with a very rebellious/progressive spirit to overcome the cultural expectations of my generation, so at age 21 off I went into the mission field!

 

Thank heaven, times have evolved. The title of “Sister missionary” is now considered a high honor, and even a right of passage for our young ladies. In fact, with President Monson’s historic announcement in October 2012 lowering the female missionary age requirement to 19, the LDS cultural pendulum has almost swung to the other extreme with high expectations that good Mormon girls will choose to serve a mission before marrying. [Although, mission service is always a choice, and never an expectation].

sister-missionaries
My daughter serving as a missionary in Tennessee, 2014

But, I digress.

The Allegory of The Hot Water

Boiling Water On Gas

“Mission life” is a lot like getting suddenly thrown into a pot of boiling water. There is intense pain – homesickness, feelings of inadequacy, culture shock, rejection, companion clashes – and thus begins an epic survival and learning experience. As a missionary, you rely on the Keeper of the flame to keep you safe, but you don’t ever get complete relief from the underlying pain and struggle until the final day of release.

It’s very dramatic, and very intense like that! [At least it was for me, and most missionaries that I’ve ever known.]

However, after you survive this startling/dangerous/agonizing/awesome mission event, you gaze back into the pot, and you think “WOW! Just look at that miraculous thing I experienced! And look at the miraculous gift I’ve been given I never expected!”

Or, as Sister Yates so insight-fully expressed:

“So why come on a mission, or be a missionary if it’s so stinking hard? Like in the movie, it’s the miracles that keep you going at the end of the day… I’ve concluded that the best part of missionary work is the closeness you gain to the Savior. . .”

I have found that it is often through our deepest trials we develop our closest kinship with our Savior.

AND THEN…

…”Life After Mission” begins.

standing-at-crossroads

This time, you are placed into a pot of very lukewarm, barely simmering water. It seems almost too comfortable, even cold [especially compared to mission life]! You eagerly begin to pursue personal goals such as schooling, career, travel, marriage, children, etc… You feel excited, refreshed, and so relaxed.

But, gradually things begin to heat up. The pressures and trials of life start to weigh you down. Once more, you feel uncomfortable. You realize that although the water may not be at a “full rolling boil”, you are not getting released or pulled back out this time.

You’re in this for the long haul.

keep-swimming

So, the  challenge is to find a way to function in this “new water” that makes you sweat and struggle each day – and perhaps even enjoy the journey.

This is what the scriptures like to call the “Endure to the End” phase of your life.

And, it’s hard!

endurance-means-meme

Survival Secret

But wait, there is help! There is a way to keep our “pot of water” in life at a very safe, livable, comfortable temperature. Did you know we can actually add cool, refreshing water in – at any time? Yes! This water will not only keep it more bearable, but also make it joyful! This is what Jesus called the Living Water which we can add through a combination of good mental health hygiene, combined with good spiritual health hygiene; including regular scripture study, prayer, church & temple attendance, seeking personal revelation, giving to the poor, practicing kindness, and sharing selfless service.

living-water-pouring-by-jesus

Have you ever wondered how those Missionaries actually survive their “boiling pots” of water? It is because they spend every day completely invested in adding the cool, refreshing “Living Water” into the lives of others – sparing endless pain, ending years of sorrow, and saving thirsty souls. In return, a missionary experiences that “Living Water” freely flowing back into their own lives while they are sharing it with others.

To Never Thirst Again

Although this allegory is shared in reference to “before and after” missionary life – these principles and blessings can apply to anyone’s life.

Whatever age and stage you may be experiencing on your life journey, and no matter how hot the water you are trying to keep your head above – my hope is that each of you will enjoy the blessings of the free and everlasting Living Water. –  MoSop

LIVING WATER – Music and Lyrics by Matt Kindle
In a moment the thirst had overcome me
I discovered that the well – it had run dry
Questioning the reason for my being,
Never taking the time for His reply.
So I listen quietly, which leads me to a spring of the Living Water
Bringing me the peace
That I’ll give forever, as long as I dig deep
And I’ll share the joy that only can be had from the spring
Of the Living Water
Bringing Life Everlasting.

It sustains my soul when I become weary,
Dries my tears when I start to cry,
Lifts me up when I’ve taken a beating,
Heals my heart, untangles me inside.
With the faith I need to grow,
I’ll give everyone I know of the Living Water,
Bringing me the peace
That I’ll feel forever as long as I dig deep
And I’ll share the joy that only can be had
From the spring of the Living Water
Bringing Life Everlasting.

All Ye that labor and are laden from your strife
Will you come to Him and flow into a new life?
He’s the Living Water
And that brings me the peace
That I’ll feel forever,
As long as I dig deep
And I’ll share the joy that only can be had
From the spring.
He’s the Living Water
Bringing Life Everlasting.
So don’t let the thirst overcome you,
To discover that the well has run dry.

3 comments

  1. Not being a member of the LDS Church, I never went on a Mission. Your story and others I’ve read have made me feel like I missed something wonderful. Where I used to live, I had several Sisters come to my door. I would always invite them in and talk with them. They were always so sweet. I know a lot of people are so rude to the missionaries, and I don’t really understand why. Although, I know when I first got what the Baptists called “saved”, I wanted to tell everyone I knew and help them find the great news of the Gospel of Christ. I was stunned to find that no one wanted to hear about it, and I lost many friends. But, then God led me to other Christian friends, and they prayed along with me for my former friends and family. Being a witness for the Lord isn’t for sissies. You will be ridiculed and even hated, but in the end, you will be blessed. When you are standing before the Lord, it will all be worth it.

    Love you, Lynne

    • Wise words, Lynne. Thank you for being such a good friend, and for all of the kindness you have shown to LDS missionaries through the years. You are definitely correct, being a witness for the Lord is “not for sissies”!! 😃

  2. Another wonderful blog. Holly. You have an amazing gift both with writing and singing which touches all of our hearts. And I never imagined marriage before a mission for you. I prayed and hoped that you would make that wonderful choice as I watched you grow into the beautiful woman that you are. Saying goodbye to you at the missionary training center was one of the worst and best days of my life. I was so proud of your decision to go and so sad because I knew that our lives together would be different after that. Love you always, Mother

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