Guest author Heidi is a mother, former ward Primary president and current stake Primary president. She writes:
I’ve been thinking of something that occurred with my children that was a powerful lesson for me regarding repentance, redemption, safety, and coming to Christ.
When we got to their home, the kids excitedly went out on the dock and asked if they could play in the water at the base of the dock. This water is fairly shallow and all of the children could touch the ground. They all put on life jackets and began swimming and floating around. Because of the small craft warning, there were no boats in the water, where normally there would have been many boats out enjoying the summer day. My friend and I were enjoying each other’s company and didn’t think to tell the children to stay close enough to touch the dock, or to keep their feet planted near shore, so they began to enjoy floating the drifting currents.
Within a few short minutes the weather and water conditions changed quite quickly. Although the water on the surface seemed rather calm, a strong current had come around the children’s legs and they were being carried down the shore and away from our dock. When we started to yell to the children to call them in, we realized they were too far to hear our calls and it didn’t seem possible for them to swim against the current back to our dock.
The other mother and I began to panic. Right at that moment, a small dilapidated boat with two fisherman came into view (there were no other boats on the water), motored past the children and saw the worried looks on our faces. They asked if they should go pick up the children and we immediately accepted their help. I also tried to run to a nearby dock to try to wave the children into shore there, but about the time I got to the new dock, the fishermen were picking up the children. We all returned to our friend’s dock about the same time. The children were scared and a bit shaken, but safely back at our home dock.
Luckily everyone was safe and we continued our visit, but the magnitude of the tragedy that could have taken place was imprinted on my mind. In fact I felt the Spirit confirm to me that I needed to learn things from this experience that could help me better guide these dear spirits and help them see other hidden dangers in their lives.
Physical and Spiritual Life jackets – My children on this day were literally saved by the life jackets that they instinctively put on before getting in the water. They did this automatically, after years of safe water practice. I think we put spiritual life jackets on our children every day as we do the “automatic” practices of prayer, reading scriptures, holding family home evening, attending church, temple worship, and acts of service. Every morning we sing a Primary song as a family before they leave, and I like to think of this song as a life jacket for their thoughts through the day. These songs carry a spirit and can testify to our hearts like almost no other songs can.
Powerful Hidden Currents – The danger in the water was one we could not see. There can be currents in life that unbeknownst to us will carry us away from shore and safety of the gospel. We should help our children recognize these currents, and follow the promptings of the Spirit to move them out of these waters.
Accept Help – When we find ourselves in trouble, we should take help from the first and closest person in a safe position to offer us help. On this day it was two fishermen in an old, crumbling boat who, no doubt, were sent out to help our children.
Keep Our Feet Grounded – We didn’t explicitly tell our children to stay by the dock and keep their feet touching solid ground, and the exhilaration of floating was too appealing to them. In life, we need to find ways to keep our spiritual feet grounded in activities that will allow us to stay near the Holy Ghost. Following the commandments, even very small and mundane commitments, help us build the rock we are standing on (Helaman 5:12).
Heed Warnings – On this day my father had warned me of the dangers he knew about on the waters. He knew better than me, was more experienced and cared about my safety. We need to look to our prophet and heed his warnings, regardless if they make sense or fit into our lifestyles.
Find Closest Solid Ground – After the children were saved from this water incident, we discussed what to do if they found themselves in that situation again. I told them next time to go to ANY solid ground, and we could more easily get them home. My children said they had no idea that was an option as they drifted away. I felt this was the strongest message I needed to teach my children as they meander the waters of life. If they ever find themselves in need of repentance, or farther spiritually from the gospel as they want to be, they need to seek the closest solid ground. This could be asking help from a friend, relative, church leader, neighbor, or sibling, if they are unable to talk to their parents at the time. They will, from time to time, find themselves in situations where they look around and what to get out, and I want them to know all the options they have to find their symbolic solid ground.
In the minutes I was watching my children drift away and felt the panic boil up inside me, I had NO other desire in the world than to get them back to me. I would have done ANYTHING in that moment for them. I believe our Heavenly Father feels the exact same way about us now and wants us to return safely to Him. He has given us a Savior who atoned for our sins, along with so many life jackets and warnings, as well as the rock of the gospel for us to stand on. Our divine responsibility as parents and Primary leaders is to help our children recognize these signs and safe guards so they can safely return Home.