Years ago, while at the beach with my family, I noticed signs and flags warning us of a strong current flowing away from the shore into deep, turbulent water. Invisible to my untrained eyes but easily detected by lifeguards on a nearby watchtower, the powerful current posed a danger to all who left the safety of the shore and entered the water. I remember rationalizing, “I’m a strong swimmer. Swimming will be great exercise. I’ll be safe in the shallow water.”
Ignoring the warnings and feeling confident in my own judgment, I entered the water to enjoy a “refreshing” swim. After a few minutes I looked up to locate my family on the nearby beach, but the beach was no longer nearby! The deceptive current I had been warned of had captured me and was quickly pulling me away from my family.
Confidently at first and then desperately, I tried to swim toward shore, but the unforgiving current dragged me farther and farther into deeper, rougher water. I became exhausted and began choking on inhaled water. Drowning became a real possibility. My energy gone, I frantically and finally called out for help.
Miraculously, it seemed, a lifeguard was immediately at my side. I wasn’t aware that he had watched me go into the water. He knew the current would capture me, and he knew where it would take me. Avoiding the current, he swam around and just beyond where I was struggling; then he patiently waited for me to call for help. Too weak to swim to shore alone, I was and still am grateful for his rescue. Without his help I never could have made it back to my family.
Randall K. Bennett, Choose Eternal Life, October 2011
This story really illustrates how this life works, and the roles that different people play in our lives. I would like to pick it apart a little bit and elaborate on the different roles.
The signs and flags that were along the shore were warning people of the danger that they themselves could not see. In life, we encounter such warnings all the time. The scriptures are one such warning. They show us the mistakes that others have made so that we ourselves can avoid them. Never mind that they were written centuries ago – the lessons are still just as applicable today as they were then. Another warning voice that we enjoy in this life is that of the Prophet and the Apostles. They have been called of God, and have the spirit of discernment and prophesy. Through those gifts, they have the ability to see dangers and we cannot see ourselves, and they warn us of those dangers hoping that we will head them. Parents also serve as a voice of warning. They have experienced many of the trials that their children are going through, and they try to warn them of the dangers.
In this story, the confidence of the individual was in his own abilities. He figured that the warnings were for everyone else around him, but because he had special skills they didn’t apply to him. Many times in this life we hear the words of caution from our leaders or our parents. We think that we are strong enough to flirt with danger when others cannot. This is simply not true. If you play with fire, no matter how good you are, you will eventually get burned.
After having ignored the advice that the signs offered, he looked back to shore and realized how very far from safety he really was. When we ignore the warnings all around us, many times we do not realize the danger we are in until we try to come back to the safety of the shore. You never really know how far you’ve fallen until it comes time to climb back up. When we flirt with the things of the world, we often drift further and further from shore gradually. We don’t realize the danger because nothing immediately noticeable is happening. When we do look back, we panic, and we expend our energy fruitlessly attempting to swim back to shore. At some point in time, we will finally call out for help. Usually we wait much longer than we need to wait in order to do this.
The lifeguard in this story is none other than our Savior, Christ. He watches as we fail to heed the warnings that He has sent us. He knows where the dangerous currents will take us. He is always in position to help us. In the story the lifeguard was there where and when he was needed. However, he waited until he was asked to help. Christ is the same way. He will not impose His desire to help on us. He respects our agency, and while He does want to help us, He will not until we show that we want His help. When we call our for help, He is immediately there for us. He has the strength and the ability to pull us out of the currents that we find ourselves in – we just have to ask.
So, don’t wait until the last minute to ask for help from your Savior. Heed the warnings that have been sent our way, and if you are already entrenched in one of these dangerous currents, don’t delay! Ask for help, and it will be given you.