Editor's note: This post by Tracie Snowder originally appeared on the College Station 3rd Ward's blog, Aggieland Mormons. It has been reprinted here with permission. All photos copyright Tracie Snowder 2013.
That moment you wait for forever. A moment of forever. A moment of peace, power, bliss and the essence of what this life is all about: love.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of witnessing such a moment when a local young man returned home honorably from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After two years of service, his family eagerly waited in the terminal of the airport here in College Station, Texas. I can count on just one hand the moments when I have literally felt the anticipation of the moment coursing through my soul, and I can honestly say this was one of those moments.
The Hinckley family stood around the terminal doors as the passengers started filing past. Everyone we could see walking up the passageway was too short or casually dressed to be an LDS missionary. The anticipation was building ... where was he? It had been two years, and those final 60 seconds were excruciating for the family.
Finally, they spotted him walking up from behind. Elder Hinckley made his way from the terminal door to the lobby, grinning from ear to ear. And without missing a beat, he went straight to his mother and swept her up in the biggest hug possible.
As I stood back watching this sweet moment between mother and son, a family friend, who isn't a member of the LDS Church, leaned over and said to me, “How can you go two years without seeing your son? I don’t understand how they can go two whole years.”
He caught me off guard. I wasn't prepared to explain why missionaries leave for two years because I honestly didn't know. I missed this missionary opportunity and mumbled in agreement, "I don't know. I know, it would be so hard!"
But I've reflected on that question for the last few weeks.
Why? Why would someone go on a mission for two years? Why would someone leave their family, the comforts of home, and put off an education, career and relationships? I think there are many answers on the surface: Because of duty. Because it was expected of them by their family. Because that’s what 19-year-olds in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do.
I listened closely the following Sunday when Elder Hinckley spoke in church and reported on his mission. I suddenly had my answer. There is really only one reason to stay out in the mission field for two years without any real contact with your family, and that reason is love.
Elder Hinckley loves the Lord, more than his family, more than his friends, more than his education, career, home-cooked meals, and, yes, even A&M football games.
Elder Hinckley may have gone out on his mission because of duty, but he stayed out in California for two years because of love. He went and taught, often without success, but many times with it. He knows that the LDS Church is true. He knows that Jesus Christ died for his sins. He knows that because of Christ, he can return to live with his Father in Heaven and be with his family forever.
And because of love, Elder Hinckley went door-to-door for two years to preach the gospel to the people in Southern California because he wanted them to know of God’s love, too. He wants them to be able to be with their families forever, too.
Missions aren't always easy. You don't always know why you're out there. You don't always meet the nicest people. It can be discouraging. But it can also be joyful. You can have the Spirit to guide you. You are not with your parents, but you know they love you and are out there waiting with anticipation until you return home to them again.
I think the same applies to us. Life is hard. We don't always know why we are here on this Earth. It can be discouraging. It can be sad. But it can also be joyful. And our Heavenly Father loves us. He is watching and waiting with anticipation for when he can see his children again, and that moment will be more incredible than we can possibly imagine.
Life is too short and death is inevitable. Death comes for many too early and it is devastating. But it is not the end — it is only temporary. There is hope because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There is hope because we have the knowledge that because of Jesus Christ, we can be with our families for all eternity.
On that Tuesday night in October, the Hinckley family felt a small part of the pure joy, of what it will be like to be reunited with our families for all of eternity. That’s what I witnessed a few weeks ago: a small moment of forever.
Tracie Snowder is a professional writer, editor, mother to two girls and wife to an A&M grad student. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in broadcast journalism. She is a sometimes-blogger at Snowders.com.