26 July 2016

No Looking Back

A little over nine years ago, my oldest son and I exchanged good-bye waves and smiled at each other as he backed out of our driveway for the last time. My husband and I had sold our house, and were moving out of state to live nearer our grandchildren.

As he drove off, my son’s head was held high, and he didn’t look back.

He had recently been laid off from his job; but he was now excited about beginning a new career as a writer. Despite the known difficulties of breaking into the ranks of literary professionals, his success in getting several stories published during the last few years spurred him to consider the loss of his increasingly joyless job as an opportunity to jump wholeheartedly into that other field. With concerted effort, determination and a bit of luck, he was hopeful that he would soon be able to make his living doing what he truly loved to do.

As I watched his car disappear around a bend, the tears began to flow, and my mind went back to another farewell experience that had occurred when he was nineteen:

Our family was gathered at the Missionary Training Center in Provo to see our first child off on his LDS mission to a European country where we all knew proselytizing was extremely difficult. We were very grateful that he had a testimony of the restored Gospel, was worthy to be called, and was willing to spend two years sharing his testimony full-time, even though there was no guarantee of much success—at least in terms of convert baptisms.

We would miss him very much; but we were proud--both of the man he was, and the man he desired to become.

When the moment came for parting, we hugged, smiled at each other, and he turned to go. Head held high, he strode out the door at the back of the meeting room without a backward glance. At first I was surprised that he hadn’t stopped at the door to look back for one last wave to the family, as many of the other missionaries had.

Finally, I understood; confident that he was doing the right thing at the right time, there was no need for him to look back. He was ready to face whatever the future might hold with courage, optimism and faith in the Lord.

The succeeding months for our son were filled with all the enthusiasms, frustrations, disappointments, and joys that are common to hard-working, obedient missionaries laboring in areas where most people have not yet broken free of the traditions of their fathers. Slammed doors, broken commitments and a dearth of progressing investigators might bring hours of discouragement, but he always knew he was doing what he should be doing, and maintained his underlying optimism and faith. He returned home with a deeper testimony, and noticeably increased emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity. No matter that he hadn’t baptized many people; going on a mission had been the correct decision, and he was glad ever after that he had gone.

Just as my son didn't look back to see the tears in my eyes in the MTC, he didn’t see me cry as I watched his car pause at the stop sign at the end of our street. He didn't know I lingered in the garage doorway to watch him turn onto the main road, and finally disappear from my view as he rounded a bend. At first I was disappointed that he hadn’t paused to wave to me one last time at the end of the driveway.

After a moment of reflection, of course, I understood. Once again he was confident that he was doing the right thing at the right time. Then, and in the nine years since, he has chosen to face the future courageously and optimistically, with enduring faith in the Lord. 

No need at all to be looking back.

This is updated version of a post first published 9 June 2007 on the now defunct blog A Prayer of Faith.

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