I have a cousin coming back from a mission in a few weeks. I guess it’s pretty common to know a family member is returning and think, “Wow, I wish I would have written her more,” but that doesn’t make me feel like any better of a letter-writer.
To fight that feeling, I took some time last night to send what I thought would be a quick email. I thought I’d say thank you for her Christmas letter, send some brief updates with pictures of our kids, and call it a day.
Instead, I ended up writing my thoughts about a mission and how to finish strong. I’ve tried to articulate these feelings before, but never got quite as close as I did last night.
Here’s some of what I wrote:
There's no way to avoid saying the words "my mission," but behind it all, we really do know it's His. We know that despite how hard we work in the mission field, He works harder. I remember thinking towards the end of my mission that, at the end of the day, a mission is really just a front-row ticket to watch the best show on earth-- seeing the Atonement change lives.
Having that ticket is something special. The best cousin-ly advice I can give is that as the show comes to a close, stay in your seat. Stay in your seat until the very end. Don't check-out early and be one of the people trying to rush to their car so they can get ahead of traffic. Squeeze all you can out of the experience. Soak up the show until the credits are over, the screen is black, and the lights come on.
If I were a better letter-writer, I would’ve said to stay in her seat until the staff comes to sweep up popcorn. To stay in her seat until the usher comes in to clear the rows. To stay in her seat until they call security and have her escorted from the building!
The truth is, however, that missions last just as long as they’re supposed to. When it’s your turn to leave the theater, it’s time to get up and go. But what you’ve learned can stay with you forever if you practice what you’ve preached. As King Benjamin said, “Blessed and happy [is the] state of those that keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 2:41).
In continuing to live the gospel, you keep your front-row seats for the rest of your life. You see the Atonement working through your home and visiting teaching, through your callings, and through your family. And it goes without saying that VIP seats are just as good for those who never served missions. Anyone who wants to see the world this way just needs to “teach and preach and work as missionaries do.”
So, if I were a better letter-writer, that’s probably what I would’ve said. The message isn’t really to finish the mission sitting down, but to value your seat. Because when all is said and done, the show must go on!