I’ve collected quotes for as long as I can remember. In the days before everything could fit on a thumb drive, I used to have binders full of them. They were inspirational and uplifting. They kept me focused on what mattered and helped me find peace when life knocked me on my butt. I loved flipping through those pages when I needed a pick-me-up. I thought I had heard all there was to hear until yesterday. We were in church and the sweet lady who was teaching the lesson shared this quote from Elder Richard J. Maynes: “You must become the rock the river cannot wash away” — and it got the gears in my brain whirring.
Would You Jump Off a Bridge?
How do we become that rock — and why would it matter? Then I remembered a pivotal experience when I was young where a literal rock in a river saved my life. When I was in college, I was quite the social butterfly. Anything and everything that sounded interesting became the activity of the day. I went along on every adventure that presented itself. Most of the time it was really fun! But one day I chose a little too thoughtlessly.
One sunny afternoon, a group of my friends decided they wanted to go bridge jumping. Believe it or not, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You jump off a bridge into a river. Remember how your mother used to ask, “If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Well, now I can honestly answer yes. And it almost killed me. (It’s now illegal, but it wasn’t back then.)
Peer Pressure is Real
To set the scene, we chose an old railroad bridge. It was arched and had crossbeams, and many of the more daring kids were climbing to the top rails before jumping into the water. The river was small, but the water was swift… And very cold. It was May in Idaho and the river was filled with freshly melted snow from the mountains that swelled the banks beyond their usual limits. So on this particular day, there wasn’t a regular bank — just rocks along the sides of the river.
In the center of the river, the current was very strong. Nobody told me about that part. My only experiences in the water had been in serene swimming pools. I knew nothing of currents and how hard it would be to catch your breath if dumped into ice water. So I was clueless as I lined up with my friends along the rocks to take my turn. They all seemed fine and had a lot of fun. Several went more than once. And as I watched, I gained more courage.
Gasping for Breath
I was timid, so I went last. Everyone else told me that when you jumped in, you had to start swimming like mad for shore because the water was moving fast and you didn’t want to get caught in the rapids. (Yeah, I had no experience with rapids either. They looked pretty in the pictures, but I had no idea what was under the frothy water.) With my friends’ encouragement, I finally stepped up to the edge and jumped.
The minute my body hit that water, I went into shock. The water was SO cold that every muscle in my body locked up. I couldn’t breathe out the startled breath I took on impact, so I couldn’t get any air to help my dire situation. I did my best to warm myself up by lifting my hips so I was floating on my back, hoping to relax the gasping spasms. And my head hurt like crazy — like an instant ice cream headache without the fun. It was awful. I was instantly regretting this bridge jumping thing.
My Personal Miracle
Then, through the fog, I heard a lot of yelling people telling me to swim to shore. (What?! Shore was a distant goal; I just wanted to breathe!) But I started swimming. The water became more shallow and I began to feel the rocks beating my body as I entered the rapids. Every rock I grabbed onto was ripped from my hands. It seemed like a layer of fast-moving water was right under my feet and there was nothing I could do to stop myself, no rock that could slow my progress.
I started praying, begging Heavenly Father to get me out of the mess I had gotten myself into. I promised that if I was allowed to live, I would never jump off another bridge and that I would stop being a social lemming. But more than anything, my mom’s face kept appearing before my eyes. I knew I couldn’t hurt her by giving up and dying in that river.
No sooner than I finished my petition to the heavens, I was washed into a tiny little cove. It was little more than a group of rocks that stuck out into the river. But it allowed the water that gathered just after it to have zero current.
Saved By the Rock
I was finally able to touch solid ground and stand up on shaking limbs. I had experienced my own personal miracle! As I looked back at the bridge, I could see two guys from our group had jumped in after me. They were strong swimmers, but still couldn’t emerge from the water till several yards later. It was seeing the fear on their faces that showed me the danger I had been in. Not that the enormous bruises forming on my legs weren’t warning enough.
I learned several lessons that day. First, that just because something is okay for others doesn’t mean it’s going to be okay for me. I also learned to follow my instincts, because they were screaming from the moment I saw that bridge. And I learned the importance of those rocks that formed that blessed cove. They were fighting the current constantly, but they were firm and immovable — and they saved my life. I believe that the Lord placed them in just that position because He had a plan, and He does the same for each of us.
Become the Rock for Others
We may feel like we are fighting too many battles. But in the wake of our efforts, there are those who need the calm we bring to the current. We are often literally saving spiritual lives. In the years since this experience, I have worked to become the rock in the river of life that the current cannot wash away.
I’ve still had challenges, but my perspective was changed that day. Now I can see the reasons for every rock in that river and every challenge that comes my way. I don’t enjoy them any more than before, but the perspective makes them more bearable.
There is a Plan
I think about those rocks and how they are like you and me. God placed them there, and He placed you and I where we are in life. God may be guiding us to create the cove that saves lives. With that knowledge, I am more often on the lookout for chances to serve and be that rock in case I’m needed. I like to think that one day I might help someone like myself who is foolish enough to jump in without a clue; I hope I will help them find firm footing to pull themselves from the foam.
I am so grateful for a Heavenly Father who hears and answers my prayers. It’s amazing to me, but I know now that He prepares in advance for every challenge we face. He puts people and rocks in our river of life to save us from ourselves and teach us the important lessons we need.
May you have the blessing of rocks when you need them — and maybe you’ll even get to be the rock that the river cannot move.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.