I don’t swim. In fact, I’m actually quite afraid of water in many circumstances. And Rick is afraid of heights. So it makes complete sense that we bought season passes to our local water park.
My mom swears I had swimming lessons as a child, but I don’t remember that. I remember doing water–related things and having fun, but was never a fish. And if I did have lessons, they didn’t do much good for my adult life. I can’t go under water without plugging my nose and I know just enough about how to stay above the water to stay alive.
But the summer one year after Rick and I were married put the terror of water in my soul. I had taken a job as a counselor at a summer youth camp. We all had to go on a three day mandatory (unpaid) camping adventure together to build friendships and unity.
Part of this outing was a trip down a mostly white-water river. We were spread out among three large rafts and were all outfitted with lifejackets. A few of the senior counselors had done this trip before and told us that there was one spot on the river where it was actually calm enough to get out of the rafts for a long stretch and float the mild rapids there. I and a couple others decided that we were up to the adventure. After all, I had been on several rafting trips before, had been bridge jumping as a college student, and though my swimming skills weren’t super strong, I wasn’t afraid of water.
One of the leaders shouted, “Okay! This is the spot!” It did look calmer than the rest of the river we’d passed through, so those of us who’d planned to get out and enjoy a peaceful float and the coolness of the river, hopped out and began to relax in the slow current. But, as it turns out, these weren’t the slow rapids. And water is a powerful thing.
I was pulled under without warning or breath. The rapids were strong enough that they were grabbing hold of my whole body and smashing me against the rocks below the water’s surface. When I was thrust to the top, it was so disorienting and for such short amounts of time, that I couldn’t even gasp for air. I truly thought this was the end of my life. I thought, “This is it. This is how I die.”
Because of my terrifying experience with water that summer fourteen years ago, I am anxious, at best, about water. I put on a good front, but when I am near it, in it, or see it on TV, I can never truly relax. My heart beats faster and my breath gets shorter. I have to inhale deeply when I see any waves or large bodies of water in person or on-screen, triggering Rick’s calming hand to grasp mine and say, “It’s OK babe.”
The Apostle Paul tells us, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” As children of our Heavenly Father, one thing He has passed on to us is strength to overcome our weaknesses. In The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, we read:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Throughout our lives we will no doubt face trials that threaten to pull us under. We will undoubtedly be asked to do something that we just don’t think we can deal with or accomplish. We will face decisions, big and small, that will end up shaping our path and future. These things are all hard. They are all daunting. They can all seem overwhelming and we may find ourselves thinking, “This is it. This is how I die.”
President James E Faust said:
As problems and difficulties have come in my life ... I have tried to face them as best I could, relying more on the help of our Heavenly Father than the comfort from tears. I learned the lesson that life’s burdens don’t seem to be so great if we don’t allow ourselves to get paralyzed into a stupor of inactivity by our sorrow and pain. As children of our Heavenly Father, we should learn to be happy, to trust in Him, and to not be afraid.
So why the passes to the water park? Because I have to show my kids that even though I’m scared of something, I can’t let it overcome me. They have to know that they can do things that seem daunting, things that seem (and ARE) down-right scary. And if I don’t get my feet wet and leave footprints for them to follow in, then whose will they follow?