The following is my farewell to you all for the next 18 months, as I am leaving next week to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When I return, I fully intend on blogging once more. So, stay tuned and I will be back with more inspiration, poetry, words, lame metaphors, and unintentional humor! I love you guys. Thank you so much for your support, guidance, and wisdom over the years. I appreciate every one of you. I hope to still see many of you when I return!
I suppose the irony of me serving a mission, is that until recently it wasn’t even in the cards for me. Sure, there were moments when I thought to myself how nice it would be to go, but for the most part I just wasn’t interested. I had a life of my own, I knew what I wanted in the way of a career and academic plans, and I was pretty determined to get there without much interruption. I suppose I should have realized that mentality usually results in divine intervention.
It wasn’t until my first semester at BYU-Idaho, that my thoughts on a mission began to change. I remember, with no specific situation having been the start of it, an urgent feeling which became a sort of constant companion to me over the next few months, prompting me to serve a mission. Despite my adamant protests, long list of reasons why it was a bad idea, and several attempts to talk my Heavenly Father out of the idea, the feeling wouldn’t leave me. I remember talking one night with a friend and telling him how I really didn’t want to go on a mission, but kept having the idea come back to me. He assured me I wasn’t obligated to go, and that any choice to serve a mission would be mine entirely. You’d think this would have eased my conscience somewhat. Only, with every excuse and friend telling me I didn’t have to go, I felt more strongly that the spirit was directing me towards a mission.
My first Sunday back at the young single adult ward after college, was a life changing moment for me. It felt like every talk was a call from my Heavenly Father, asking me why I wouldn’t listen. Why I wouldn’t open my eyes and acknowledge the truth all around me. The importance of a mission became so apparent to me during that sacrament meeting, that I felt shaky afterwards. Whether I wanted to face it or not, my eyes were forced open that day. Feeling very humbled, I drove home that evening with tears in my eyes, and upon arriving home promptly told my mom that I was meeting with the bishop that Sunday to begin working on my papers.
Later, as I began struggling with doubts and fear over my decision, I came upon a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland, titled “the first great commandment”. In this talk, he shares a moment following the crucifixion of Christ, when the apostles returned to their life of fishing. Only, their return to the sea met with empty nets and failed attempts to find a solid catch. After a few tries, a stranger appeared by the shore and called out to them, asking if they had caught anything. The apostles/fishermen turned and replied that they had caught nothing. The stranger then called out for them to cast their nets on the right side of the ship. At these simple words, which mirrored the words spoken by Christ only three years before, recognition sparked in them. John stated what I’m sure every one of them thought, “It is the Savior.” Elder Jeffery R. Holland summarized the next part so beautifully, that I will am going to read a bit of what he says,
“After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”10
The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”11
The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”12
To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”
This story is so important to me for a few reasons, and I want to put this in perspective for all of you. As I sat reading this talk, fighting fear and confusion over what I needed to do, I realized a very simple truth.
First, my call to serve did not come the moment I opened my mission letter. It came, just as many of you have also experienced in different areas of life, directly to my heart by the Lord. In that sacrament meeting, I felt my call as surly as I did when I received it on paper. We all are called of the Lord, in different ways and in different times. However, the message is the same. If you love me, keep my commandments.
Two, my reluctance to obey, caused my father in heaven to ask me the same question asked of Peter. Growing up, I’ve always had a profound sense of my savior’s love for me. While I knew I loved him in return, I didn’t really understand until recently that love is a lot more than just a feeling, and words you say. It’s action, commitment, trust, and service. When I really thought about this, I was filled with such an overwhelming love for my savior that I didn’t even know I had kept buried up inside. The more I focused on him, the less I felt scared to serve a mission, and the more I realized what a privilege and opportunity it would be for me should I follow the calling I’d received.
I would like to bare my testimony that I know our Savior lived and died for us. I know that one day, if we live worthily of the covenants we partake of, we can return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father with our eternal families. I know the very creation of the world bares testimony to the truth that there is a higher being above us. I can barely contain my excitement, to say that I know this being. I love him. And he hears and answers me, in ways I feel personally.
After all this time of not wanting to serve a mission, I’m glad to say that I’m ecstatic to serve. I have never felt such comfort in a decision before, and because of that I know I am doing what the Lord wants of me.
In closing, I want to ask you to consider in your hearts, the same word’s that the savior asked of peter. “Do you love me?” If our answer is in the affirmative, then shouldn’t that mean action?