Wednesday, September 30, 2009

General Issue Elder

Elder White and I just didn’t get along. We didn’t have strong differences in opinion on how the work should be done, nor was one a slob. Neither of us was green and homesick. In fact it was my last transfer, and Elder White was out about a year.

In fact in many ways Elder White and myself were ‘perfect’ elders. We obeyed all the mission rules. We always left our apartment in Princeton, West Virginia at 9:30 on the dot. Each Saturday we had our weekly planning meeting, followed by companionship inventory, a thoroughly unnatural experience for young men where they sit and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly in their companionship. I don’t even do that in my relationships with girls, but a mission has a way of getting you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.

I believe it was in one of these companionship inventories when my frustration finally came to a boiling point. “Elder White,” I said, “what’s wrong here? We’re both good elders. We work hard. We’re obedient; we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do. Why don’t we get along? Why don’t we like each other?”

I want to make it clear, we didn’t have any animosity, or enmity, or competition between us. There was no contest to see who was the best elder; there just was no friendship, no joking, and no love.

Elder White said something along the lines that he was frustrated too. But nothing really came of it. I finished my mission strong in that West Virginia humidity.

I didn’t get why Elder White and I weren’t friends, on my mission, in fact I didn’t make many friends on the mission. I figured it out over the course of several years, culminating when one of my younger brothers left on his mission to England. I was torn on what advice to give him. I felt that working hard was a key to having a successful mission, and I wanted to encourage him in that regard. But it felt like there was a missing piece to the puzzle. Then the equation finally came together.
I was so focused on being the perfect elder, that I had spent the latter portion of my mission suppressing myself. I didn’t see a place for fun. When my companions wanted to talk about non-mission stuff, I would ignore them. I remember one of my greenies trying so hard to connect with me, but I just sat silent as he spoke of his hobbies from home. I lost my ability to connect with people. I was blank.

I told my younger brother to make sure he worked hard, but to not suppress his self. To love his companions, the investigators, and everyone he ran into. It was hard to tell him that, because of how I had programmed myself into denying self.

I think my advice helped my younger bro, but it helped me more. I finally realized why I had struggled to connect on my mission, and the importance of relationships.