Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nobody's Perfect! I Gotta Work It!

Well, it's Wednesday again.

It's really weird for me to already be writing my third post because I feel like I started this blog yesterday? But I'm also now only twenty days away from my departure date?

AND I AM KIND OF FREAKING OUT?? *"Le Freak" starts playing*

And so, that's the blog post you get today.

I've been kind of freaking out a little lately with the gradual dawning of the fact that I'm going to live in Chile for a year-and-a-half of my life and I'm leaving to do so in a mere twenty days. However, despite this monumentally large undertaking that is about to be upon me, I am trying a new technique to keep my wits about me.

It's called 'relaxing'.

I know, it's not exactly something that the average person might think a future missionary should be doing this close to her departure, but let me just share with you some wisdom that I've gained over the past week by talking to one of my good friends who just returned from her own mission as well as my mother.

As my friend and I were driving back from Institute (a religious educational class offered for young adults), I expressed some of the following concerns to her.

It may not look like it from the outside, but as a future missionary, I feel very pressured to do everything that is expected of me. I say that it may not look like this because, for the most part, I have found myself successful in these endeavors, however, there are many areas in which I don't quite measure up; areas that I am careful to keep hidden from the public eye. I feel like I have had a new set of standards thrust upon me that I must fulfill in order to be a good missionary. I must always be happy, I must always find missionary opportunities, I must always keep my chin up, I must always look cute as a button, I must study hard and if I'm having a hard time I must study harder, etc. These have been the thoughts going through my head constantly as I've been preparing these last few months, and I thought that must just be what being a missionary is.

Now, before we continue, I must make it abundantly clear that the previous statement isn't to say that I felt pressured into going on a mission, please don't misunderstand. I chose to go on a mission of my own free will; I filled out the application, scheduled the appointments and interviews, and I did it without needing persuasion from my parents or church leaders or anybody at all; I am serving a mission because I want to serve a mission.

However, with that choice also comes a great deal of power. I say this because missions in Mormon culture are highly esteemed; they're incredibly trying and take a lot of gumption to complete and anybody who is brave enough to go on a mission must be some sort of prematurely perfected being, right?

That, my friends, is where you're wrong.

There is an unspoken and outrageous standard set for those of us who decide to serve missions and I have felt myself being slowly suffocated and crushed by it lately, which is why my friend's words came just in the nick of time.

None of the following may be what she actually said to me, but it was what I heard and what I understood.

Nobody is perfect. Granted, this is something that we know and remind ourselves of on a regular basis. As Hannah Montana once said (hence the blog title), "Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days." As a matter of fact, we're constantly being barraged with these happy thoughts that we aren't perfect and we all make mistakes, but there is still an epidemic of perfectionism in the world; the thought that perfection is actually something that can be reached in this life. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I don't believe that perfection is something that can be reached. My personal belief is that perfection is a state of being; a state of constant upward movement with no solid endpoint. Perfection is endless, which is why I believe it can only be achieved in the eternities to come.

But that's not the point of this; the point is that we love saying that nobody is perfect. But how easy is it to say, "I am not perfect. I make mistakes." It's a lot easier to say the former, isn't it? It has a more unified feeling; it places blame on everybody, not just ourselves. Sadly, however, that's not exactly how the real world works. When that great and dreadful day is upon us, we won't stand in groups to be judged on the average amount of good deeds we've done and good desires we've had. No, we will stand alone. Alone and remembering everything we've ever done, both good and bad, and having to take responsibility for every deed, every mistake, every wrongdoing.

Now, I have intentionally set this up to sound dark and sad because of this:

When we are standing there all alone to be judged by God Himself; standing there hopelessly, unable to account for all the sins and misdeeds, possibly even on our knees in despair... that is when we will realize that the Savior has been standing beside us the entire time with his hands stretched forth to take our burdens, to account for our sins, to tell us that it's okay. He atoned for our sins that we might have peace and eternal life. He atoned for our sins because he loves us, and because God loves us. "For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

The problem with humanity isn't that we seek perfection; it's that we refuse to believe that making mistakes is okay. Making mistakes is part of our human nature, it's how we learn, it's how we become closer to and more like our Father in Heaven.

So, to relate this to my problem at the time, I wasn't allowing myself to make mistakes, nor did it feel like anybody else was either. I wasn't allowing myself to be human. Perfection is not a human trait; perfection is a celestial and heavenly trait.

It is okay to be wrong. It is okay to trip up. It is okay to take a break.

The Atonement is like really awesome insurance coverage; no matter what you do, no matter how low you think you've gotten, you're covered (like a good neighbor, Jesus is there).

Alright, that was a bit cheesy, but the point is:

It's okay.

It's okay for me to not be happy, to not find missionary opportunities in everything, to hang my head a little, to look like I just rolled out of bed (because I probably did); to not love every minute of every day, to not be everything that I'm 'supposed to be'. Who even made this unspoken standard of what missionary preparation should look like? Who's to say that missionary preparation doesn't look like a girl taking a nap, or a girl whose outfit doesn't quite match? In all of the studying and preparation I've done for my mission, not once have I read that I must always look and act and think perfectly, so everybody that thinks that just... just stop it.

All we as humans can do is our best and if our best is only five percent, then give the whole five. The rest is covered.

Take time in your efforts to save the world to think of yourself. Cry if you feel like crying, take a nap if you need to; feel your emotions, acknowledge them, and get back to work when you can.

In closing, I would just like to encourage anybody and everybody reading this to cut yourself some slack. This life is hard and chances are it's not going to stop being hard any time soon, so remember to take breaks, don't stress the little things, and drink lots of water.

I have a testimony of this gospel and of the healing power of the Atonement. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us and that they want us to be happy, but if we're not for a second, it's alright. I know that part of our purpose on this earth is to learn through our mistakes, which there will be plenty of by the time our time to leave this earth comes. God didn't create us to be perfect, but He sure don't make no junk either. I say these things in the name of our Savior and Redeemer, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Until we meet again,
     Elizabeth Schomburg

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