Monday, March 11, 2013

thoughts on missionaries.

I've pondered on writing this post for a while now - as it is a little more personal than usual - but I've decided that some of it might be beneficial to others who may stumble across this blog. Please know that this post was written with the best intentions and is meant to be direct, not offensive.

(How's that for an introduction?) 

"Isn't your missionary coming home soon?"

The question posed above (and many along the same lines) has been a common one during the last few weeks and months (and days). 

While it is true that "Elder Olson" one of my best friends (and yes, someone that I dated) will be returning from his mission to Uruguay later this week, I want to make one thing clear:

 He is not my missionary. 

I don't have a missionary.

 Girls (no matter how many letters they've written or care packages they've sent) don't have missionaries. 

God has missionaries. 

I understand that many people may use the term "my missionary"// "your missionary" simply for convenience sake, but many don't. Many girls pine and complain and have an, 'oh-woe-is-me' attitude about their missionary being taken away from them for two years. Personally, I think this is just plain silly and have very little sympathy for girls with this attitude.

Now that I think I've made my position clear on that account, I'll move onto the next question that usually follows shortly after the first:

"Are you guys going to get married?"

haha. Well isn't that an interesting question.

Picture this:  You have a best friend. Eventually you start dating this best friend. Right about the time you think you've fallen in love with this best friend, he gets called to serve the Lord and the people of Uruguay for two years. Two years. Two years in which you cannot see each other, two years in which you cannot speak to each other. Two years in which your only means of communication is good 'ole-fashioned letter writing.

You always knew this call would come, you always knew he would leave, but never could you prepare yourself for the reality of him leaving.  Never did you anticipate being one of those girls who "has a missionary." But, never do you question whether it's the right thing for him to do, because you always knew that it was. Unfortunately, however, that doesn't necessarily make your situation a whole lot easier.

  Now what? You ask yourself.

Could you picture yourself marrying this guy? Sure. But trying to plan your life two years in the future seems pretty ridiculous. "I'm not going to wait for you," you tell him. He knows this already. He never expected you to wait (to put your life on hold and sit around pining away the days until he comes back).  As a matter of fact, the two of you had had multiple conversations about how foolish it is for girls to "wait" - months before you even started dating.

"If I'm still around in two years - we can go from there." You tell him. "That sounds fine," He says. "But I am going to write you, at least until you get engaged. And when you do get engaged," he continues, "I don't want you to tell me who he is. I don't want you to tell me when you're getting married. I just want you to write me a letter that says:
 'Dear Elder Olson,
I'm getting married.
Have a great mission.

The two of you laugh and you secretly dread even thinking about the day that you will have to write that letter. (Not that you were so sure you'd be married by the time he got back. But, everyone was basically expecting it of you. Both of your sisters were married by the time they were 20 (or there about) and what reason do you have to think you'll be any different? Besides, you tell yourself, people don't find their husbands when they're 18.) 

And then he's off.

Now what? You ask yourself.

Just live.

You finally decide on a major.
You spend the summers working multiple jobs to save up for a study abroad.
You have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of living and studying in The Holy Land.
You meet many many wonderful people who change your life for the better.
You create a meme that becomes an internet sensation! (haha.)
You learn.
You grow.
You date.
And all the while you get letters weekly - from your best friend who is over 6,000 miles away.
(Even when he hasn't heard from you in weeks and weeks.)

Sure, you miss him.
But you're much too busy living your life to be sitting around on Friday nights thinking, "oh woe is me."

You meet a lot of really cool guys.
Some of them you want to date.
Some of them want to date you.
Occasionally you mutually want to date each other and you find yourself in a relationship.
And sometimes, while you're in those relationships you go weeks avoiding the mailbox, trying to find the balance between your current interest, and the best friend that was once such a huge part of your life.

And then the time for him to actually come home approaches.
...Right in the middle of when you're figuring out what you really want.

And yet, somehow, weeks and months before he is even home - even before you've heard is voice in two years - before you've given him so much as a hug, people expect you to be able to answer the question:

"Are you guys going to get married?"

And here is the honest answer folks:
 I don't know.

Could I see us getting married? Yup.
Could I see us dating and then deciding a different course of action? Yup.
Is he still one of my best friends? Yup.
Do I still have romantic feelings for him the way I once did? Nope.

Am I excited and nervous and interested to see what's going to happen? Yup.

I can't blame people for being curious. I'm sure I've fallen into this trap when someone I knew "had a missionary" coming home. But it wasn't until now that I understand what it's actually like.
So many emotions - or the lack of - make you feel like something is wrong with you. But, you just have to be able to take a step back and say, "It's okay to not have all the answers yet!"

Obviously every situation is different, so I can't speak for everyone,
but I know, I for one, will be more cautious in the way I handle these types of conversations (with others in a similar situation) the future.
And I think you should too.

Fortunately for me, I have a solid understanding of the Holy Ghost and the guidance that He can and will give me. And, I have full faith that if I continue doing what I know I should, Heavenly Father will reveal His plan for me to me when the time is right. I just have to be patient. 

People always think they know what you should be doing, and often they will tell you what you should be doing. This is true of family, friends, and even people you hardly know. I've sat through many rants about the reasons why girls shouldn't ever ever write missionaries. I've sat through almost equally as many on why they should. The truth is: many people will probably not agree with the way Stephen and I handle things when he gets back. Some people will think we're moving too fast. Others will think too slowly. And still others will think that we shouldn't be dating at all.

I really like hearing the perspectives of others, and I've enjoyed talking to many people who have been in situations similar to mine, but the time has come to stop speculating about what could and should and might happen, and to keep doing what I've been doing for the last two years.

Just live.


  1. BAM! perfection in true blogger form.

  2. Cute and I adore it so much... I was amazed thanks for posting this.

    family international children of god

  3. I couldn't have said it better myself. Love you Hannah!!!

  4. I agree 100%. Maybe even 1000%. As I read, I was thinking, "Wow! This is a really cool and well-written Declaration of Spiritual Independence!" Then I quickly realized, No, this is a really cool and well-written Declaration of Spiritual Dependence, dependence on the only authority who knows you well enough and loves you completely enough to guide you. The rest of us need to pipe down and keep our hopefulness to ourselves. :)

  5. Han!
    this was wonderful. I love how raw you express your thoughts and think the testimony you shared about serving God and how He's in your life was wonderful. Thanks for writing :).
    I love you,

  6. Hannah! So this is everything I have been thinking the last 3 almost 4 years. I have just never been able to express those thoughts as well as you did here. I know you wrote this a while back. I am happy to see the outcome and love having the same story as you. Congratulations again!