At the banks of a river: A mission tale

I’m laying here in bed, laptop on my lap, watching the morning light make patterns on my black sheets through the blinds, and I can’t help but write today. My husband left hours before to go fishing–a pattern he’s picked up recently since the salmon run started and I’d dare say he’s addicted to it. *Fishing counseling coming right up* I don’t have a clear memory of him leaving–just a kiss on the forehead as he said he’s “Gone fishin'”. Just like a true fisherman would say 😉

But the fact that he’s out there fishing on a beautiful day like today, standing very still at the water’s edge with his line in the water, hoping for something just as big as the days before, puts this idea on my head that I can’t shake. He’d probably laugh if I told him what it’s reminded me of, but it’s true. He’s always been a fisherman, of sorts, to me.

Let me rewind the clocks a little bit to explain what I’m thinking.

About a year before I met Matt, I had a sudden desire to serve a mission. Yes, I was ambitious and adventurous and I wasn’t really the “I want to go to school and get married” type–though I have no qualms with people who are like that. It just wasn’t in my blood. I wanted to serve a mission purely because I wanted people to have exactly what I was given when I was baptized–a second chance. So I hurriedly did my mission papers, attended mission prep, and daydreamed about what it would be like to wear that tag and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. But that spiritual high turned into something else very quickly. As I began praying about serving a mission (and not just wanting to) I began to receive a different kind of answer. I got this feeling that I indeed had to serve a mission, just not this kind. It wasn’t a right step to take because I felt there was something else I had to do. 

Needless to say, I cried. A lot. I felt like a horrible person for feeling that I didn’t feel right about serving a proselyting mission. I had SO many amazing girlfriends who had served or were currently serving, and I was the biggest advocate for missionary work. So why didn’t I feel right about going? It deeply disturbed me but I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I went to my bishop within a week of struggling over it, and told him I felt I shouldn’t go. And that was that.

But the guilt sometimes still found me–until I found Matt a year later. And he taught me something about missions.

When I told Matt I hadn’t served a mission–he was the only one who’s ever looked at me with a dumbfounded look and said, “Yes you have.” He’s the only one who explained to me that a mission doesn’t have to include a name tag–sometimes God has a different mission in store. But always, no matter what mission it is, it always includes love. And it always includes patience.

When I see Matt fishing, I can’t help but think of his words. How patient he is. How persistent. How now, even years after returning home from Africa after serving for two years, he’s also a fisher of men. He knows his mission isn’t over, and he knows that mine isn’t either. Just like with fishing, you start small. You wait for hours, days, and sometimes years wondering if your testimony will ever make a difference, sometimes feeling downhearted when people you care about turn away and want nothing to do with the things that you hold so dear to your heart. You might see family struggle with uncertainty and trials–you might have a dear friend who loses faith. And it disheartens you when they turn their face. But as I was taught, you start small, just like with fishing. You sit on the banks and wait. And if something gives a tug and then turns to leave, you don’t cast your pole off in frustration and never come again. You just wait. And you keep casting your line.

littlekidsmallfish

How different this world would be if we all realized we’re on a mission. A mission to love–and therefore, a mission to save. Whether we’re the Relief Society President, or someone who enjoys sitting at the back and taking notes to share with her children later. Whether we’re a bishop or someone who just loves to help people out, moving their furniture as they move into the neighborhood, or bringing over soup when someone is sick. Whether we write poetry or stories or paint pictures or teach a Kindergarten class–we’re on a mission.

And with this knowledge, my guilt and the heaviness I had carried for so long has melted away.

I’m a missionary. You’re a missionary. It’s not an entitlement or a title of superiority–it’s an honor. A service.

We start small, a kind word or action at a time, one talent shared at a time, one testimony told at a time–until we realize we’ve helped to change a life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether it started through friendship, comfort, words of advice, or a dish full of casserole.

mattmissionbigfish

Because after all, it’s the man upstairs who does the fishing. We’re just the ones sitting on the banks for him, patiently helping to reel someone in from the swift current of life. Patient, still, and unhurried, eyes lost on deep waters.

Just like a true fisherman.

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5 thoughts on “At the banks of a river: A mission tale

  1. When I met Daniel, I was set on serving a mission when I turned 21 less than a year away. I cried as I wrestled with the decision to give up that dream. I found my answer was that my mission was as a wife and mother. I don’t regret it, though I sometimes still listen longingly when other women talk about their missions.

  2. Missionary work is very important in my life, I’ve always known that, but I’ve never really felt like that means I have to serve a mission. The things I am doing now are preparing me for my future, a future that will always involve missionary work. I’ve had blessings of plenty telling me how important it is to serve the Lord by Example- and that’s my way of doing missionary work.

    When I was 7, my family was just about to move away. I kept trying to get this girl to go to church with me, I didn’t understand why she thought going to McDonald’s was more important than going to church. My mom thought I just thought it would be cool to have a friend with me at church. When my mom asked me why I wanted to take my friend to church I told her, “Because that’s the only way she’ll be able to get back to Heavenly Father” My understanding of missionary work from such a young age astonished my mother. Since then I have helped several friends be exposed to church functions, I have shared my beliefs upon request. Few have resulted in baptisms but there is always a seed, and I pray that someone will knock on their doors and help water that seed that I helped plant and they will remember me and Heavenly Father.
    -Marisa Faye Reeves

  3. I’ve always been deeply uncomfortable with missionary work (proselytizing) due to my extreme introversion. Your perspective here is lovely and heartening; I appreciate knowing that perhaps a quietly but sincerely Christ-focused life is enough. The Lord does work with imperfect materials — even us socially awkward ones, I guess. 😉

  4. I felt the same way about a mission. i had many friends who served and prayed so hard for it to be the next thing for me to do. But things just did not feel right. I hope to now serve one day with my husband. He served as ward missionary leader in the past and those times I felt like I was really helping missionary work. There are so many other ways to serve and be a representative of Christ. I love those who sacrifice their time to serve missions, being a convert I am especially grateful! We as members of the church are missionaries for LIFE!!!

  5. Kayla, you don’t know me, but I stumbled upon your blog, and we are seriously peas in a pod! I’m also a journalist – and I had a very similar experience at 21 about a mission. I was living in Seattle at the time, actually, interning for Michael Medved. Went to see the bishop to start on my papers, got an unsettled feeling the whole day before the interview, and when I got in there, even he said he felt it wasn’t the right time. The blessing I received said it would be a clear and easy choice if it was right. It wasn’t.

    Now I’m 31 and can see so vividly why it wasn’t the right path for me to take – I made a material difference in several lives simply by living my own life with God’s plan at the forefront of my mind. We all have the power to lift, build, and save, regardless of whether we wear a nametag and serve at home or abroad. I also know a wonderful Matt who served in Africa and am in awe of his missionary experience! Glad that he and others get to serve in that capacity while those like you and I get to serve in ours. Thanks for the wonderful example you set and for your fun blog! I’m glad I found it – your stories and ways of putting things are wonderful.

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