I once again woke up feeling bogged down by the feeling that by this point in my life I am not where I thought I would be. I grew up being taught that I would graduate high school, go to college, and snatch up Mr. Right. I never thought I’d make it past my early 20’s and still be single. At least I felt like I was taught to think that way. Marriage was said to be the supreme beginning to happily ever after. No one ever talked about the self-discovery and a sense of purpose I would need to find before that.
I don’t recall anyone telling me how hard marriage would be or the struggles that would come from merely sharing your life with another individual that may think differently than you. I found myself at 20 years old feeling inspired to serve a mission for my church. That was never in the plans. At the time I attended young women, missions were rarely discussed for girls. I can remember countless lessons on how to prepare myself to be the perfect wife, developing hobbies so that I would become more attractive to men, and how to achieve my ultimate role of being a mom. I wasn’t even sure what a mission would consist of. I just knew the Lord wanted me to go, so I would go.
Well I found myself on a mission in New York City, and realizing one day exactly what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. I remember reciting our missionary purpose over and over again in the Missionary Training Center… “Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored Gospel through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.” I thought it was very simple purpose that was easy to understand. It wasn’t until I was out in the mission field that I realized our missionary purpose IS the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I thought about how simple it truly is. I was really disheartened by the fact that I couldn’t recall one lesson on that growing up. I do not remember anyone ever sitting me down and telling me what the Gospel was. I feel like I was taught many lessons on how to improve myself, and how to prepare for the future and becoming a mom. Those were great lessons and I am sure one day I will be able to apply them. However, I wish I had been taught the Gospel in its pure and raw form. Those four principles, when applied to my life, changed the entire course of who I would become. They helped me to develop a sense of who I am and what the Lord needs me to be doing at this point in my life. It was simply the doctrine of Christ that I had been needing, perhaps yearning for, and not knowing how to find it amidst all the other lessons I had been taught.
I learned so much about the Gospel, about my Savior, about who I am and what I can become through serving my mission. I learned lessons that changed my life. I was taught to love without judgment. I was taught to have empathy and to allow myself to feel what others are feeling so that I can help them. I learned to understand the Atonement of Christ at a whole new level. I was taught the beauty of the Lord’s hand in my life. I was shown miracle after miracle. Many of them were for the people of New York City and many of them were for me. I started picking up pennies as a reminder that I need to trust in God and to know that a miracle was about to happen. I came home from my mission with more pennies than I can count. My friends and family started collecting pennies, other missionaries started collecting pennies, and many people have thanked me for helping them realize the Lord’s hand in their own lives. My mission changed the course of my entire existence. It changed the way I thought and viewed the world, it changed how I looked at my problems and trials, it changed how I reacted when people offended me. My mission taught me to turn to Christ and to trust in Him and know that everything would work out perfectly.
I came home and not long after the questions started coming again of who are you dating, is it serious, when are you going to get married? At first it was ok, but then people started throwing in their opinions. They let me know that my next step needs to be marriage. I went to church one day and a man I didn’t know asked me what my plans were for school. I told him I was thinking about going out of state to another university. He immediately responded by saying I need to stay here and find a husband. That is what my next step is and if I wanted to follow the Lord, I would not leave Utah. I was blown away. Seriously??
I recall another time at work where a man came in to get some assistance. As I was helping him, he said “Wow! You sure are beautiful, are you married?” I told him I was not. He looked at me with a confused look on his face and said “Well I wonder what is wrong with you… there must be something wrong or otherwise you would be married by now.” He was completely serious. I politely smiled and told him I’ll have to look into that. It really bothered me that he assumed there must be something very wrong with me if I am not married by the age of 22. I understand he probably meant well, but nothing about these routine conversations with people makes me feel better about myself. I think marriage is a beautiful thing and it happens at different times for different people.
I have come to understand that people give their own advice based on their own experiences. For those that got married young and have a good relationship, they will recommend I do the same. For those that got married young and ended up divorced, they will recommend I wait and figure out who I am first. For those that got married later and are happy, they will recommend I focus this time on my career. For those that got married later and perhaps struggle having children now, they recommend I get married as soon as possible. Do you see why this leaves a person feeling confused? I have had to learn that everything will work out according to the Lord’s plan. He is the ONLY one who knows us perfectly and who knows what we each need. He has a plan for each one of us, and every person’s plan is going to be different. The beauty of the Gospel is that we have a Savior who knows us and who guides us to where we need to be. I don’t believe there are set rules on marriage or on missions or on having careers. For some people those may be part of His plan for them, for others it will not be. The one who knows us perfectly is the one we should be turning to for direction. Don’t you see, He is the only one who is unbiased. He is the only one who can see clearly what we need to do and which direction we need to take.
I’ve started to think about many girls I know who are in the same boat as me. I start to wonder if they feel the same way. This morning I woke up and after prayer and meditation, I realized there is NOTHING wrong with me. I look at how much I have learned about myself and about what I want out of life. I look at the experiences I have had and the adventures I have taken. I look at how much I have grown and changed and learned. I know there is a reason I am not married yet. It simply is not the Lord’s will for me at this moment. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe we are where we are because there is a Divine purpose to it. Each day the Lord teaches us something new if we are humble enough and allow Him to do it. He sees the big picture. He knows what we each need to return back to live with Him again. He alone knows what is best for us right now and He is leading us.
So I just wanted to write this to the people who sometimes feel down because they are made to feel there is something wrong with them. Keep going. Keep improving yourself. Keep learning. Keep loving others and finding joy in your own personal journey back to Christ. Things WILL work out. They always do. In the end we will see why our lives took the directions they took. Find happiness and peace in yourself. Share it with others. Look for those miracles and believe that you are exactly where the Lord wants you to be in this moment. In honor of this time of year, take the time to thank the Lord for exactly where you are right now. For Him leading you to this place at this time. Look for the miracles and find ways to become someone else’s miracle. And most importantly please know that despite how others may try to make you feel, there is NOTHING wrong with you!