On Being Old Enough

Our final guest post - from Edje I never felt "old enough" to be a missionary and for sure never old enough or adequate to deal with the violence and trauma of the lives we encountered—people flailing about for help, desperate to grab anything, even us kids. I also never quite felt up to the challenges of companionship and mission leadership. I had barely started to figure things out when I was sent home, and that after a year of training others how to do it! I have been home from the mission for eight years and the feeling hasn't changed—I'm not "old enough" to deal with the trauma of my students' lives, the challenge of being an adult member of a family, the difficulty of serving in the Church. I imagine I will probably feel the same about spousehood and parenthood. I guess it was a cherished delusion from my youth, but I sort of figured that the people above me growing up knew what they were doing more than I did by the time I got to their position. I was shocked by how often my initial response to issues was "I have no idea." I never figured we would live so close to the edge of our competence, the edge of our faith. But, we did it: breathe deep, pray hard, try to shoot straight, then go home and pray it all works out despite our "desperate inadequacy," and then go and try some more. Sometimes it worked out—miraculously. Others it didn't, and that was very hard. This, I gather, is part of life, part of love. As I look back with the "flickering lamp" I console myself "with the rectitude and sincerity of [my] actions." When they were insincere or "un-rect" I repented. But, I think there is better consolation than "I tried." The Lord "know[s] the end from the beginning" (Abr. 2: 8). He knows both where His lost children and His servants are. As missionaries we were often "lost"—meaning we didn't know where we where. But the Lord did and we often found prepared people when we were "lost." I also observed that many of the people we taught had been taught before and the majority of those we baptized had been taught many times and had many experiences with the Lord and the church and the saints over the years. We were just another few in a long train who had nudged and guided along the way. I have hope that many of those experiences I call failures will one day be considered just another step along their way home. I should point out that making peace with apparent failure does not depend on all things working out in the end (and I mean the end-end, not just the end of mortality), because it doesn't and they don't. It only all works out (in the "end-end") if we have faith and choose righteousness. Many people exercise their agency and don't, all the way to the end. The Lord weeps and so do His servants for the sufferings and wickedness of men (e.g., Moses 7:28-41, John 11:35, 2 Ne. 33:3). How the Holy Ghost can comfort us in the face of such real failure is beyond my comprehension, which is probably why it is called, "the peace…which passeth all understanding"(Phill. 4:7). Somehow Christ can make us okay when, in His justice, He does not change the outcome of events. There is one other thing I learned about failure through my mission (I don't say "on my mission" because I didn't figure it out till I returned). It is an extension of the idea that the Lord knows where everyone is and what they need. That includes me. He knows who I am and what I need. That might include struggling with an investigator or a companion for months, even though the Lord knows they are not going to "make it," at least while I am around. I feel like I have failed because I did not "save" them, but the Lord had no intention of me "saving" anybody—He does all the saving anyway. He wanted me to grow. I think it is like one of my cousins wrote from his mission: sometimes the Lord puts mountains in our paths that we can't get around so that we grow big enough to go over them. Sometimes we grow enough without ever getting over the mountain, and then He takes us off or moves it.


Blogger Heather O. said...

Interesting post, thanks. I too am constantly amazed that people take us seriously as adults. Every time I see DH in a suit I half think he's playing house, or dress up, or something. But I've also seen other men that make me think, "He's not old enough to wear a suit!" so maybe everybody is faking it, like you say.

4/07/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

I finally realized I was old enough when my grandparents began to confide in me... yikes. I'll always think of myself as a kid around them, so to start hearing the details of his prostate operation and of her last spat with my aunt (her daughter-in-law) was disconcerting to say the least.

They're both lovely people and would never have unloaded on me if they didn't think I was grown-up enough to handle it, but that first time is really an eye-opener.

4/07/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

I have felt the same several times. Although I haven't yet served a full-time mission, I have been placed in situations to be a "bumper" or guide through mountains. I used to say "For someone who's 33, I'm really 86".
My husband didn't have the chance to serve a full-time mission either, being baptized when he was 26 and in law school. But we want to serve several missions, and it seems they could be as soon as 15 years for us.

We recently took at trip out west, and experienced a "parable of the mountain" of our own. It was like being in the temple for 96 hours.

4/07/2006 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

I don't think anyone is ever really 'old enough' for the trials they're going through. If they are 'old enough', they aren't called trials, they're called experiences.

4/07/2006 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Edje said...

Thanks all for the comments and insight.

heather o: My grandmother describes marriage as "playing house for sixty years."

naddin j: eeew. But, I think you're right about this sharing as a marker of grown-up-ness.

surrenderdorothy: I am intrigued about your "parable of the mountain" and how it was "like being in the temple for 96 hours." Perhaps you could share?

trivial mom: That reminds me of an old joke (sort of): What does it take to deal with difficult problems? Experience. How do you get experience? Dealing with difficult problems.

4/07/2006 03:51:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home