Time is an interesting construct. We use it as a gauge for length as well as accomplishment. It’s the one thing all of us wish we had more of. The interesting thing is, the more time we measure, the more we want or think we need.
Time also has a way of sneaking up on you like a ninja. You may think you have been judicious in your usage of this rare commodity or even think you have found a way to store time to be used when you need it the most; but just when you think you have a handle on managing time you find that it slid out the bedroom window when you weren’t looking and is gone.
On January 14th, 2018, Elder Summers reached a milestone of sorts. Using time as a measurement he recorded his 600th day of his mission leaving a scant 136 days before he comes home. This date and event snuck up on everyone including him.
Time taught me another lesson when this milestone occurred. On the one hand, I am finding it hard to remember what it was like when he was home. I’ve forgotten about his bad habits or that perhaps he wasn’t the perfect kid growing up. I can’t remember having to get after him or lecture him about leaving homework until the last minute or forgetting to put gas in the car. All of those memories seem to have been erased or put away in a dusty box in a part of my brain I have forgotten.
This is probably a blessing and shows that time heals most everything and gives us an opportunity to find joy when we are apart from those we love. Those positive thoughts I have of Dakota are like nuggets of gold that I hold dearly in my heart thinking about what an amazing young man he has become.
Six hundred days also has a way of reminding you of how long it has been since our family has been complete. With Dakota being gone our scripture study as a family has been increased. Our desire to follow the commandments has been strengthened. This is of course the blessings that our family was promised when Elder Summers was set apart before leaving into the mission field.
That scripture study is also a reminder of how long he has been gone and puts new perspective on time. In biblical times Noah was on the ark for 40 days while water covered the earth cleansing it like a planetary baptism. Elder Summers has been gone for 15 times that length of time and frankly I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to tread water.
Moses went to the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights to commune with God and receive the ten commandments. In 15 times that amount I have written 4 blog posts to Elder Summers blog (well that’s a depressing comparison). Each time I read one of these scriptural accounts the magnitude of 600 days leaves me in awe.
Looking back over the letters and emails we have received I can see that not only has time progressed but so has Dakota. He left eager but perhaps naïve of what a mission was or what it meant to serve. Through time coupled with study and prayer he has grown. His testimony in the gospel and in the work, has been magnified. He has such love in his heart for the people of Georgia and those members who have sent us pictures or notes warm our hearts that they love him as much as we do.
As in life, Elder Summers mission has been filled with mountains of joy coupled with valleys of sorry. How grateful we have been to be able to witness both of these living vicariously through his mission.
We have seen the smiles on the faces of those he has met and taught. We have felt the joy they felt reaching the waters of baptism and taking those first steps to return to their Father in Heaven. We have felt the agony of those who have stumbled from the trials Satan has placed in their way.
His mission has also been filled with difficult times and things we prayed would not happen. While in the mission field he lost his grandmother, my mom, but through that he developed a stronger testimony of the plan of salvation and that she is now free from the pains of mortality. He has lost friends and former missionaries who were taken so young with so much untapped potential. But through it he has learned patience and acceptance of God’s plan.
He has broken bones after learning the hard way that disc brakes work regardless of whether they are wet or not. He has literally walked through shoes searching for those who desire to learn of the love of Jesus Christ. He has endured hurricanes and snow storms neither of which he had prepared for coming from Arizona.
Throughout it all he has been strengthened and so have we.
After looking back and seeing how far he has travelled along the path holding to the iron rod it is time to look forward. With 600 days behind him the journey forward is only 136 remain. That number will quickly come to zero and we will be reunited after such a long separation.
That will no doubt be a joyous day being able to see him in the flesh after being apart so long. I have to believe that will be similar to how we will feel when we complete our mortal mission here on this earth and return to Heaven to be reunited with our immortal family.
But that is a story for another day. This is all about what it means to endure to the end.