Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To Be Or Not To Be

I was about five minutes behind.

There are pros and cons to working at the bakery on a General Conference weekend.

Pro: I work with a slew of nice LDS ladies and we have our own radio in the room, so we listen to Conference.

Con: I'm at work. And work isn't like an office job where I just sit and wait for people to walk in the door or something. We're constantly in motion. So Conference tends to turn into white noise if you're not standing right next to the radio.

I'd gone to the freezer.

And naturally, I had picked the most opportune moment to take the now three minute trek to the freezer, for in the course of my crossing the bakery in one direction I had missed the most influential announcement of my generation: the missionary age change.

One moment I was walking to the freezer, life was normal. The next I was on the return trip, suddenly catching chunks of conversation buried in the bakery bustle about 18 year old missionaries.

I didn't understand.

And I wouldn't understand for at least another hour; I was the only one listening who'd missed it.

I was facing the microwave when I'd learned of a surety that all the facts I'd constructed about missionaries had been shifted and skewed and that this was the way they would be. This was modern revelation. Girls could go at nineteen.

I'd been nineteen for nearly a year.

I looked at the microwave. "I could go on a mission."

But you see, I hadn't spent the year writing a novel or reading John Donne poetry or anything and everything I'd expected to do with my nineteenth year. I'd spent the year slipping down a muddy hillside I'd made the mistake of locating my senior year in high school. I'd spent the year convincing myself my testimony was "good enough" and in the past I'd been "spiritual enough" and of the Lord I was "loved enough" that whatever temptations I faltered under wouldn't really matter, because I was still very righteous. I was still of the Tribe of Israel. I was still elected of God.

It was in that moment, facing the microwave, that I had to realize I wasn't that girl anymore. I wasn't that Molly Mormon from 9th grade who ate up seminary and the gospel and was going to do everything possible to get to the Celestial Kingdom with flying colors and "Exceeds Expectations" stamped on her report card. I wasn't that girl who studied the scriptures and prayed and acknowledged or received spiritual guidance and promptings.

That girl would have been like the many thousands that day that cried and jumped and squealed and submitted their papers. That girl would have gone on a mission.

I wasn't that girl.

I'd spent a year investing in makeup to paint my image in what I remembered a diligent Mormon looked like. I donned the knock-off apparel of someone who at first glance might look like a dedicated member. I spent a year trying to look like I was trying instead of actually trying.

It wasn't until the microwave that I fully acknowledged it. It wasn't until the age change, and the realization that I was nowhere near submitting papers, and that 21 was suddenly just over a year away, that I wouldn't be worthy to submit them by the "old" sister missionary age, let alone the new.

And things started to change. It took a few more nudges, and one excruciating act of courage and discomfort that--sorry--I'm not going to post on the internet, for me to start to come back.

Perhaps the trouble was that I'd never considered a mission. Girls aren't "required" to serve. I'm lazy. I always have been. Each time missionary work was brought up in every church related anything, it was always prefaced with "girls aren't required to serve," so I'd dismiss it. I bundle up the mission notion and toss it in the corner with the laundry I keep forgetting to fold, dust off my hands and say "When I'm 21 I'll decide."

That's great for an eight-year-old. And a twelve-year-old. And a seventeen-year-old, but suddenly you're twenty, and suddenly everyone a year younger than you is signing off of Facebook and signing in to the ranks of God's army and you're....staring at a microwave.

I'd always thought it would be easy. I'd obviously continue in righteousness, so worthiness wouldn't be a question when I reached that crucial point of 21, but there was something else that stopped past-Erica from daydreaming about skirts and tracting.


I was going to be in a relationship, nearing or in the process of getting married, because it's not hard to find a soulmate in the movies, it's not hard to court and wed with Barbie dolls. It's not hard to locate love in Disney.

I wouldn't have to go, because I'd have a man to keep me here.

Spoiler alert: there's not a man. So far there's never been a man. Just a series of daydreams in dreamclouds above my head that are popped before they can progress.

So far I'm everything past-Erica didn't want to be. So far I'm nega-past-Erica. And, along with waking up to the realization that life isn't as cookie cutter as you can make it with Barbie dolls, I had to acknowledge that I don't have an excuse not to go. I could honestly serve. There's nothing keeping me here.

I took a mission prep class as an Institute class this semester. It seemed like neutral territory; either way I'd emerge a Mormon more comfortable with sharing the gospel, whether I did that with a nametag for 18 months or as an average Jane for forever. I kept waiting for this ah-ha moment, this bolt of lightning, this angels chorus, this earthquake of a revelation that YOU ARE TO SERVE A MISSION.

Spoiler alert: there's not been a revelation.

At least...not like that.

Part of the conditions of my excruciating act of courage and discomfort was that I turned to the Lord in tear-streaked prayer and received no answer. I pleaded and read the scriptures and waited for His hand, but He didn't lend it. He left it to me to decide. He left it to me to be brave or continue on in my solitary laziness. He let me choose which path.

I feel He's doing it again. There's been no revelation, no realization that I need to go. I want to go. I'd like to go. It makes sense to go. But it makes sense to stay. It makes sense to continue as I have been, to remain secure in my finances, to graduate on track.

But mission prep is doing what I was afraid it would; it's talking me into going.

I just...I feel excellent all the time. Good things are happening to me, and in the past four months I've become closer and more lenient on the Lord than I ever was in 9th grade or any heightened spiritual point of my mortality. He is with me. He loves me. And I love having that feeling, that spirit, I love carrying this gift of God and siphoning it off to others in word and deed. I love giving what He gives me. I love the feeling of testifying, the strength of His doctrine. And I could spend 18 months sharing it. I could run away to wherever and whomever He needs me to be and lose myself in Him.

I don't know. I'm not deciding any time soon. 21 has been too long stuck in my head for me to go against it. I've got some months ahead of me. A lot can change. For now I'm sticking with the answer He gave me facing the microwave, the sliver of truth I was ready enough to receive when the thousands of girls became sisters:

Live like you're going to go. Live like you're preparing for a mission.

That may be all I need, or all I need for now. It may be up to me and if I decide to make that sacrifice; He won't screw me over for straying from my course for His work.

I don't know. And maybe I won't know for a while. But I'm putting Him on my horizons and letting Him worry about all the little things. I'm living my religion, loving my religion, and working again for heaven.

To be, or not to be.

That is the question.

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