I was sitting in sacrament meeting this past Sunday and heard a father talking about his son who had recently returned home from his mission just two weeks before. He talked about how difficult the transition was for his son because he felt that everything he heard or watched offended the spirit. This father went on to explain how it was almost like living with The Holy Ghost in his home. This young man is someone that I do not know, but from everything I have heard, he was probably an excellent missionary. He gave a wonderful homecoming talk that was inspiring, and full of wonderful stories of the people that he shared the gospel with. I could tell that he was one of those young men who went on a mission and just “got it”.
It started me thinking about how hard it was for me to come home from my mission. That was in the year 2000, but I remember it like it was yesterday! I struggled so much those first few weeks. I was thinking, maybe there should be a handbook for returning missionaries. Wouldn’t that be wonderful??
One of the first nights I was home my parents rented a movie. I thought, “good, something to think about other than being awkward!” It was The Sixth Sense. You know, the creepy ghost movie with Bruce Willis? Anyway, I lasted a whole 10 minutes probably. I think they said a bad word, and I was out of there in a flash, with my whole family gaping at me like, “What is wrong with her!?” Meanwhile, I was thinking, “What is wrong with them?”
It is so hard to adjust when you are so used to doing one thing for 2 years (or in my case, 18 months). You feel like you can’t carry on a conversation unless it involves the Gospel. You feel like music is just wrong. And TV? Forget it! It’s full of filth. Yet, somehow we manage to slowly sink back into being “normal” again. But, the worst part for a returning missionary, is that is the last thing they usually want!! They just want to hop back on the plane and go back to the mission field.
When you feel like you don’t know what to watch, or listen to, how can you possibly start thinking about the rest of your life ahead of you? It’s a lot of pressure. My parents and I fought a lot. I think it was a basic misunderstanding of what we were all going through. My sister, who I am extremely close to in age and in friendship, couldn’t even talk to me. Life was just….well, awkward.
I wonder what, if anything, my family could have done to make my transition easier? Here are some things I’ve come up with:
1. Don’t rent any movies in the first week. No matter how innocent you think it might be, it’s probably not to your returned missionary.
2. Sit down and talk to your RM about something Gospel related.
3. Ask to see your RM’s mission photos, and hear his/her stories.
4. Don’t put too much pressure on your RM to get a job, go to school, get married, whatever during that first week! Remember, he/she has been living in a bubble for 2 years!
5. Just be patient. If he/she acts self-righteous for a little while, it’s OK. They aren’t judging you. It will probably feel like they are, but they just aren’t used to non-missionary behavior! It will get better.
For all families, I think it is a wonderful thing to have that missionary home again, but it can also be a big adjustment. The answer to most gospel related questions boil down to one thing: love. Just try to love them, and show charity, and they will eventually be “normal” again. Or at least our version of normal.