I had messed up and I knew it. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I sat at my desk across from my companion. I had my scriptures and Preach My Gospel out, studying, as was the routine every day for the past fourteen months of my life. However, for the past two weeks, it had been harder to concentrate. As my eyes drug across the pages, they were splintered with the pains of sleepless nights. The words would leave me almost before I could finish reading them. Black shadows had formed under my eyes from the lack of sleep. This was ironic because sleep was the only thing that I wanted to do. It was the only way to escape from my own thoughts. I didn’t dream, luckily, for if I had I’m sure they would have been a compilation of the same endless terrorizing images that flashed in and out of my head during the long hours of the day.
Two weeks prior to that day I had decided that I would tell my mission president, God’s representative, everything from before the mission. I wasn’t worthy to be there. I had lied to my stake president and bishop. I thought that it would be easier, better perhaps, to take care of it after the mission. If I had said anything before the mission, I would have had to wait longer to leave. Everyone would have known. Wouldn’t it have been better anyway to just save myself from that embarrassment? Yet as the days and months of being in the mission wore on, the aching sore got deeper and deeper. The sting of embarrassment felt like it would be a great relief.
Back at my desk, I started writing in my journal. I had written in my journal every day of my mission. It was custom, although today was harder than usual. I scratched the month into the top of the page. N-O-V-E-M-B-E-R. Then the day and date. S-U-N 2. Up until this point, I had only mentally decided to talk to President. But today I was going to write it down. I knew that if I wrote it down I would actually follow through with my decision. My palms were sweaty. I could barely grip my pen. I felt so cold. The door was closed and the heater was on, but at my very core, I was shivering. As pen fell on paper, tears fell with it. “I need bravery to talk to prez….” Then in that very moment, I decided to put a disclaimer. A rationale. I would bargain with God. I would go home like I knew I needed to, but he had to give me something in return. I continued writing “… when I get my driver’s license and the Cardona familia gets baptized.” I felt guilty for writing it. Who am I to command God? But that condition I made with God was the only thing that kept me sane. I knew that going home would be hard. I saw all of the things that I would have to give up. I would no longer be going home at the right time with my friends. “I have to let down my home ward, my mission, the people in my area, my comp., district, zone, my family, especially my mom.” Oh, when I thought about letting down my mom, my angel mother, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I can’t. I have to. I must. “Right now it doesn’t matter. I know I need to be clean. I need to repent.” My mother had told me the week before in her email that I always knew the right thing to do. Those words entered my head with the sweetest peace that I had felt in the past two weeks. She always knew the right thing to say and when to say it. I could do this. Now I would just wait on the Lord. I still needed my license and for the Cardonas to get baptized.
The next day we had interviews with President. The walk to church was blistering hot in my black suit. I wasn’t going to tell president anything, it was supposed to be a normal interview. But as soon as we got to the church I knew what was going to happen. I was going to crack. I was going to spill everything. I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain I was carrying around was too much. I needed to get it out. I walked in, sweaty from the beating sun. I didn’t talk to anyone. I went to the chapel to wait for my interview. I sat alone in the corner, thinking about what the next few days would be like. Surely there would be more interviews. I would have to go home. Then I would see my mom. Tears streamed down my face as I thought about prematurely reuniting with my mother. I buried my face in my lap so no one else could see me crying. I didn’t want anyone else to see me. I wished I could disappear out of existence. There was no way I was going to tell President. Plus, my conditions had not been met. If I was going to do this I was going to do it my way!
That was me. It was my turn. I stood up, wiping the tears from my face. I tried to smile as I walked past the zone leaders who had called my name. No one must know that something was wrong. I could do this. I would just have a friendly chat with President as I had done in all of my other interviews, and then it would be over. I would leave. I didn’t have to do this right now. I walked down the long hall to the door. President opened it. “Hola, Elder Chapman!” President smiled with his cheery face, as always. I knew that voice well. He was a short little man, from Oaxaca, Mexico. He never spoke to me in English, this was comforting. It was something familiar. He had calm brown eyes that made me feel like he understood every word that I said. They let me know that I was loved and gained him my trust at the first glance. We entered the room. It smelled like chalk. We sat at the table across from each other. His eyes were locked on mine, as he asked me questions about my area and mission. But he didn’t seem to be looking at my eyes. I felt his eyes piercing my soul. Did he already know? Could he tell that I wasn’t worthy to be there?
Then he asked me, “Is there anything else you would like to share with me?” My insides cringed as if every piece of chalk in the room was being screeched, like fingernails, on the chalkboard. The tears fell like a waterfall down my face. I couldn’t even speak. I just nodded yes. He waited patiently, not saying a word. We just sat there for what seemed like days. Me crying helplessly in my chair and him lovingly waiting for my response. Finally, I cleared my throat enough to let out the words “I have to go home.” This must have taken him off guard, for he didn’t say anything. He looked at me with concern, wondering why I had to go home. He handed me a tissue and I blew my nose. I stared at my lap. I didn’t want to see his eyes. I didn’t want him to see me. I had let it out. I would surely lose his trust and love. I continued, “I need to go home and fix my past.” The words seemed to choke me as they came out. When I finally looked up I saw tears in his eyes too. The waterworks turned back on for me. I wasn’t able to speak again. It was his turn; I had done my part. He said with tenderness in his voice, “Thank you, Elder, for trusting me enough to tell me.” I was not expecting that response. I had expected to be reprimanded, or possibly yelled at and angrily sent home, shunned and unwanted. He continued telling me about what our plan would be over the next few weeks. But I couldn’t focus on what he was saying. I was too baffled by the way he had responded, he didn’t hate me. He was crying with me. He loved me.
That night, back at my desk, I wrote, “I had a giant splinter that had been buried deep in me and I had to cut myself open and take it out. But now it’s out and I just need to heal.” I was going to be sent home to heal, not to be punished. I had punished myself by keeping it in. I slept like a baby that night. I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was going home, but I wasn’t scared anymore. I knew it was going to be a good thing.
My flight landed and I exited the plane. The only person that was able to make it was my mom, on account of how short notice it was. As soon as she saw me, tears started streaming down her face, and she ran and gave be a huge hug. She told me how proud of me she was. It took me a long time to understand why everyone was telling me “thank you” and how proud of me they were, but finally, I got it. They were proud because, for the first time in my life, I put the Lord’s will before my own. I wasn’t bargaining with him anymore. It was His will over mine.
Elder Chapman returned to his mission and served the remaining 10 months, plus an extra transfer, before returning home honorably. He is now studying to be a heart surgeon and engaged to be married to a beautiful RM... that he met in his Eternal Families Class at BYU-I!