Some years ago, I went rafting with a large youth group down the Green River, in Southeastern Utah. At one of the camp grounds there was a large rock in the river. The young men and women would enter the river 100 yards above the rock and then attempt to grab onto the rock as the river swept them along. If they succeeded, they could climb onto the rock. If they missed, the river swept them a half mile down the river where they would swim to shore and make the long trip back.
At one point, when the rock was covered in young people, one of the leaders gave it a go. He missed the rock, but quickly rolled onto his stomach and began to furiously swim upstream. He was about 7 feet past the rock and it didn’t look good. He swam hard for 15 seconds but got no closer. He continued to swim another 15 seconds, and then another, and another.
Although it was nearly imperceptible, he was actually inching closer. After a minute, he had moved a couple of feet. Suddenly, the back current of the rock caught the front half of his body, and pulled him to the rock.
Fifteen years later, I have not forgotten that scene or the lessons it continues to teach me. Let me share five lessons I have learned from that swimmer about surviving and conquering life’s struggles.
- The slow-moving, upstream, swimmer is actually making tremendous progress. Even though it appeared that our swimmer was barely hanging on, during the 60 seconds of stationary swimming he had conquered hundreds of thousands of gallons of swift moving water. Had he been swimming in still water, his speed and distance would have been incredible.
- As we keep swimming you will be pulled forward by 2 things; (1) your personal effort and improved ability, and (2) the Savior’s pull upstream. His atoning sacrifice enables him to satisfy the demands of justice as he helps us overcome the down-stream drag of the water.
- The sooner we begin to swim, the easier it is to get back to the rock. To the credit of our swimmer, the moment he realized he had missed the rock he rolled over and began to swim back to it. Had he waited to begin swimming another 5 seconds, the return swim would have been significantly harder.
- Quitting ALWAYS results in a swift trip DOWN river. The instant we quit swimming we begin to move downstream. No floater ever traveled upstream.
- If we quit, returning ALWAYS requires a long walk back. Sometimes we quit because the effort to swim is too exhausting. However, we fail to consider that the consequence of
quitting is a long and arduous trip back upstream.
To some degree, and by divine design, each of us struggles. That is an essential part of the learning experience known as mortality. Some challenges come because we live in a fallen world, some from others’ choices, and still others because of our own inexperience or disobedience. Whatever the case, the fact remains, we must swim against them.
If we choose not to swim, we, and our happiness, will be swept downstream. Very often we are tempted to quit, particularly when our best efforts seem to produce little progress. We must remember that even “holding our ground” against the swift moving current is tremendous progress. Most importantly, we must not quit.
When we miss the mark, the sooner we turn around and begin to swim back, the easier it will be. Quitting or giving in will always lead to a swift trip downstream and a labor intensive return journey. Thankfully, the Savior has promised that He “will not forsake us.” His promise is sure, all those who swim and keep swimming, will pull onto the rock of His salvation.