Nightly prayers. Check.
Get in bed and pull the covers over your head so you can’t be seen. Check.
Wait about thirty minutes for the “fun” to start. Check.
Lose your sight & ability to scream and begin convulsing for the next 4 to 6 hours.
Check, check… and check.
This was my bedtime routine for about 3 months while serving my mission in Tahiti.
For close to 90 days, I kept my nightly escapades secret with great success. Then I made a light-hearted joke to another missionary about why I look so tired all the time… and that was it.
The next day, lots of blood tests. A few days later, an EKG. A few days after that, a phone call from a member of the 70 informing me that “in they eyes of the church, and in the eyes of the Lord, you have served a two-year mission. Now go home and live out the rest of your life.”
Only 10 short months after arriving in the MTC, I was on a plane bound for Kansas.
There are those that can laugh at irony.
They’re few, but the bodies are piling.
So when faced with this two faced travesty,
It’s funny how much I don’t feel like smiling.
I matured too quickly and lived without fear,
Now I’m stillborn on the wet-edge of this sphere.
I lost count of my losses, I lost my power to stand,
With my life’s ambition now a hand full of sand.
To measure success you need a thin red line,
But the clarion fact is that I ran out of time.
A dog on a chain, a leather strap on its throat
Understands how it feels to want to run… but don’t.
The hope for halcyon became a feasible end
The same starless night kismet’s rain would descend.
It happened to fall whilst in my favorite tyranny.
I guess now I’m one who can laugh at irony.
*I wrote this poem while sitting on the beach my last night in Tahiti.
The Lone and Dreary Wilderness
Shortly after arriving home I began to see improvements in my health. As this happened, my thoughts of “why didn’t that jerk missionary just keep his mouth shut and let me die in the mission field” began to turn to something much darker.
I began thinking “I received multiple priesthood blessing for this while I was in Tahiti. God could have healed me whenever He wanted.”
The scripture that I had recited so often came back to haunt me.
“Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;”
“Yeah?” I thought, “Well I had desires so apparently I’m just not wanted in the work.”
With these thoughts, and many more circling around in my head, I started down a spiral from which I didn’t care to escape. I did, however, need to get the heck out of Dodge… Literally.
While on a road trip, I received a phone call from my Stake President.
“Brother Briggs, if you could serve again, would you?”
I reminded him that a member of the 70 made it very clear to me that my missionary days were behind me.
“But if you could, would you?”
In a moment of clarity, I answered that I would love nothing more. Then he spoke the words that I can still hear in my head these 10 years later.
“I thought you’d say that. Well I can’t tell you who I talked to, because he was in the First Presidency, and well…. Sacramento, California! You leave on Thursday.”
All at once, the feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and hopelessness gave way to pure gratitude. My Father remembered me. My Father heard the prayers I was too proud to utter. Most of all, my Father wanted me as a missionary!
The months that followed completely surpassed what I had always hoped my mission to be. Miracles. “Golden” investigators. The feeling of my Savior standing close beside us, guiding our efforts.
To My Friends…
I decided to share my story in hopes that it will bring comfort to an Elder or Sister who came home early for reasons beyond their control.
Your story may not end like mine did, but please understand, and never forget, that you are needed in God’s Kingdom. Your prayers are heard.
The pain feel is very real. It is excruciating!… but it is temporary.
Perhaps most importantly of all, you have not been abandoned. Your Savior is very aware of the pain you’re feeling. He has felt it before and He has provided a way to come out the other side a stronger and more empathetic person.
This is the person He needs you to be in His Kingdom on the earth. The mission He has in mind for you might not include a black name-tag but it is crucial that he has you prepared and in place to bring forth some marvelous work.
“Shall we not go on is so great a cause?”