waiting on a missionary. part 1. {affects of waiting}

Here's your warning: This is kind of long. 

[I realize this reference is lost on many of you. So, for those who don't understand it, watch this.]

A few days ago, my family and I were discussing the effects of waiting for a missionary. One family member strongly opposed the idea. Another thought it was completely acceptable and helpful. 

Me-- well, I have mixed feelings about it. I think that writing a missionary has both positive and negative effects for both parties. As a missionary, I often worried about being distracted by talking to the boys I had crushes on and liked. I often felt guilty for even being attracted to them and thinking about them. One particular p-day I was super concerned about it so I wrote a letter to my mom. She responded a few days later in a handwritten letter and said something that really changed my whole perspective on things like this (especially for missionaries). She said, "Just because you're a missionary doesn't mean that God is going to take away your attractions. You just need to learn to control them more fully." This advice helped me throughout the rest of my mission and still to this day because it also applies to marriages and other relationships. We are here to learn to control ourselves or "put off the natural man." Everyone has their own agency and we can't control them or their thoughts; all we can control is ourselves. That being said, we can do things to help or hinder people in the ways they control themselves. If we truly love someone, we will want to do what is best for them. We will want to do whatever will help them. And most of all we will want them to be better and in the process we will be able to continue to better ourselves. 

I decided to ask around and see how waiting for or being waited for truly affected people. {I promised those people that they would remain anonymous, but all of these quotes are from actual people who had the experience of waiting or being waited for.} I was surprised at some of the responses I got.

So, without further rambling-- here are the responses. [I have to do this in multiple posts because it was getting REALLY long. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

Purple = Waiter. 
Red = Waited for. 
Green = Mission Leadership.

Question: Did writing {your significant other} affect you, if so, how?

"It made it way way harder on me. I don't think it affected my work very much because working hard was the main thing that took my mind off of her. But it was definitely hard. Also we were super dumb and wrote about how much we missed each other and loved each other and blah blah blah. That's what made it so hard I think..."

"[I was] always worrying about home and getting her mail saying she was waiting for me and telling me about her dates and just a bunch of stuff"

"It had its ups and downs. For the first 5 months he didn't reply and was sending me crap emails--just being honest. I was angry with him, especially when I had a rough companion. It was hard to feel the Spirit. But when we were writing, it was really great to have someone else encourage me or give me advice. But we wrote as best friends, and limited our expressions of affections. Or rather he did. I told him I loved and missed him and almost whatever I wanted to tell him anyways. Overall I think it was good."

"I think at the beginning it was a little harder than I realized but then when I really focused it didn't really affect [my missionary work]"

"Not really until she wrote me off. But I had a good companion that helped me through that pretty quick... It was hard [though]."

"It was both awesome and hard. Writing a missionary helped me make good choices... I would think about the things he was doing with his time and try to spend my time the same ways. So in that way it was really great. But also I felt a lot of guilt because I was bored and dating other guys (because that's what everyone says to do) but it never feels right to date two boys at once so I had unnecessary guilt."

"After [he] left, I realized that {to me} our relationship wasn't what I thought it was. When we were dating, [he] and I were together basically 24/7. Once his constant presence was gone, my feelings just sort of disappeared with it. I started to see things clearer, because I had started seeing things almost from an outsiders point of view."

"Well if you mean did it distract him I would say no, he said it didn't anyway..."

"I might be somewhat a rare case because of my situation since almost nobody supported my decision to leave on my mission. I didn't receive many letters from anyone else. She was also on her mission and it helped me feel like I wasn't alone. But the day she got home it became a distraction for both of us, hence why she moved on. And that actually did happen pretty quick too. She was the one to recognize it first and basically told me we needed to slow down in writing and then I got in weird place emotionally and felt that it was no longer worth it... At my 18 month mark, I went through what I can only call a midlife crisis. It was the only time in my mission I didn't feel like giving 100% and wasn't happy either. It was directly related to us calling it quits. If I didn't get called to the office, I may have never bounced back."

"It probably kept me out longer than I would have been, to be honest, just because I wanted to stay longer for her."

"Her letters gave me encouragement because she was only going to marry an R.M. that did his job."

"I wasted a lot of time. I worried too much about what she was doing at home... It probably affected me more when I was writing her [than when she wrote him off]. I just worried about what was going on and when I was going to get another letter."

"He is my best friend, and he always treats me as such. When I got to college and realized to a small degree what it is like to move away from home, I started to really appreciate the work he is doing. I realized how hard it was to not think 'me, me, me, my life is so hard' all the time. He never does that. He is always worried about the people he loves more than himself. And he is that way as a missionary especially. So that aspect alone strengthened me tremendously. Just having somebody that I trust 100%, somebody that I know genuinely wants the best for me no matter what that is, makes me so happy to hear from him every week. He lifts me up, brightens my day, and makes me want to be better! He does that to all of his friends. We build off each other's strengths, and help each other with our struggles. I can look back at this year and a half and see a lot of growth in him. I'm so happy he chose to serve a mission. His words makes me happy. I know he striving daily to become the person our Father in Heaven wants him to be. He strengthens me as I strive to do the same. That's exactly what I want in a best friend."

"Well, it's definitely kept me a happier person. It's comforting to know that there is someone out there who is dedicated to the Lord that you can tell anything to and ask any questions that are in the back of your mind that pertain to the gospel. I look forward to getting emails from him every week and it's inspiring to listen to the stories about his teaching experiences and listening to how he is being blessed by listening to the Spirit and following the gospel. And it's amazing how many lives he has touched in such short time.  It makes me want to stay focused on making the right decisions. Sharing my experiences about the gospel with him have also really helped me to evaluate my own life and has let me know where I stand in the gospel and with my Heavenly Father. I now keep a journal too so that I can keep track of what I have done that week so I am able to tell him what I have done. But it has also been a challenge to not talk about so many worldly things so that he can stay focused and dedicated and put petty little problems aside. All in all, I have been so blessed and have felt stronger to my Heavenly Father. Before, I just kind of went with the flow of what was happening in the Church, but hearing from a great example lightens my mood and keeps me going on the right path. I have been more in tune with the gospel in the last months than I have in my entire life."

"I didn't 'wait' for mine I still dated around. It's just when I left on my mission I couldn't date around anymore so I just wrote a lot of guys. The only reason it affected me negatively was because of [who he was] he was. But ya know what, I loved having [her now husband] to write to (before and after I knew he was in love with me) because he was always so encouraging to me. Honestly I have major mixed feelings about both ways it just depends on the people and the circumstances."

"I think it made me more shy. However, right before he came home I went on more dates that semester than I did my whole college career. Spiritually I wanted to get on the level he was. I was more diligent in my studies. [But] it was weird because my best friend was gone. And so I didn't really know how to react. But I was able to focus more on working on myself."

"We saw a lot of missionaries who it affected immensely. One who did everything he could to get sent home because he was afraid she would get married while he was gone. He did end up getting sent home and they married different people... Some of the very best missionaries had girls waiting [though]. But they kept the rules as they wrote."

Stay tuned for Part 2!!