This guest post was written by Sister Dee of the New Zealand Wellington Mission. Share your thoughts and stories about returning home from a mission by sending us an e-mail.
You might be thinking you can just easily step from the “mission boat” to the “next crucial 5 years” boat and keep smoothly sailing in a different direction. For me it felt more like I fell out of the mission boat and now I’m trying to build a raft…while treading water.
Think of it not as going back to your old life, but stepping forward into a new life. You will have changed so much, matured spiritually and emotionally and now is your chance to apply all that you have learned in service to the Lord. Missions really are designed to train us for how to best live the rest of our lives. Except now just switch companion for spouse and investigators for children.
But yes, in the first few months of not being a full-time missionary it is definitely going to feel weird. It would be weird if you didn’t feel weird! Like my fellow RM friend said, it’s a “weird hollow confusion” for a while. The schedule is gone, the companion is gone, the planning is gone, the demanding pace is gone, and after being focused on serving others 24/7, you actually have to think about yourself again. I repeat, weird. Your life has been zeroed in on your missionary purpose, loving the people, loving your companion, learning the language, learning the culture and that had become your life. Being cut off from all that overnight and feeling like a foreigner in your hometown, will understandably leave you with a sense of whiplash. I felt aimless, lazy, lost, and lonely.
What absolutely helped me feel peaceful and motivated again, was making my personal scripture study a priority every day. Suddenly everyone around you is not on the same schedule as you are used to because they’re all busy with their work, wives, studies, hobbies, callings etc. So you have to work at making time for what matters most and then you have the strength and clarity for figuring out the rest.
As for “the mantle leaving you,” well the first time I tried teaching the Restoration to my parents for family home evening, I was shocked at how I was stuttering, tripping over my words, blanking out and just how everything did not flow anymore! I had lost my mojo! Something that had come to feel so natural on the mission, now felt very wooden. It was the same with giving public prayers. Since then I’ve borne my testimony and given a sacrament talk and taught a Relief Society lesson – all where I felt the Spirit with me again giving me that calm heartfelt flow. But it’s not like you feel the power leave you or lift off your shoulders as soon as you are released. Whatever you feel like you’re lacking, just remember that you will still have the power of your covenants. Go to the temple as soon as possible, go often. My first time back in the temple is when I truly felt the warmth of coming home.
I honestly feel that the worst thing you could do is try to ignore the difficulty of adjusting. It will not resolve a thing if you just keep yourself busy and distracted in order to avoid the negative, confusing feelings. Acknowledging them, talking about it, and looking at the source of those emotions will help you understand yourself better and help you make a plan for how to move forward. That applies to every emotional trauma of life. You can’t heal if you ignore the existence of the wound.
I like to think of every challenge being my next new adventure. Imagine if life always stayed the same… good grief I think it would be incredibly dull. Heavenly Father knows that of course and he is looking for progression, which doesn’t come without perspiration. You can’t get taller without some growing pains. ?
Remember when the Lord commanded Nephi to build a boat, in faith he replied, “Where should I go to find ore to make tools?” (1 Nephi 17:8-9) “And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:51).
Basically, the challenge of life after the mission may be just as hard as the challenge of becoming a missionary. However the mission has prepared you for this. You have the tools to succeed and be happy because you have been teaching those very same things over and over to the people of your mission.
Sister Dee of the New Zealand Wellington Mission