Holding On

My dog was drowning because he wouldn’t let go. Later I realized I was in similar danger.

It must have been the feeling of rhythm and strength in my stride that comforted me as I ran along the beach of Puget Sound. Troy, my big retriever, caught my sense of abandon and bounded first ahead, then back, stopping to investigate a shell or seaweed along his way. Out of breath now, I threw a stick out into the swells past the breaking waves and stopped to watch Troy leap after it. I threw the stick again and again as I continued down the beach. Each time Troy would find it in the waves and bring it to me with an expectant look. Finally the sun made work of the game, and I flopped down on the sand.

“Stay away from me,” I warned as the big dog shook salt water all over me. I grabbed his wet head and held it tightly. “You’re still my friend, old boy, even if I don’t spend much time with you anymore either,” I said half to him and half to myself. I needed to sort things out. My interview with Bishop Jenkins the day before had turned my recent vague uneasiness into a knot in my stomach.

“I feel like being able to dance is a gift from God, a talent I must express. I can’t explain it, but I cannot ignore it,” I told the bishop. “I really do want to come to church, but my practices for Young Entertainers are all day Sunday.”

“And you felt that a chance to tour and perform all summer was worth the price of your church meetings,” Bishop Jenkins guessed.

“Yes, I was so sure it was right,” I answered, “and that my dancing is more important. I love the energy on stage. I feel special and important. But, bishop, I feel confused.”

I sat back and tried to organize my fragmented thoughts. “I am compromising so much for my dancing. I feel engulfed in it. I’m too busy for old friends and my family. My new friends in the group think my faith is narrow-minded and naive. Their dancing is their religion. I don’t know what to do. To be a Young Entertainer is a dream come true. Do we dream our dreams and then let them go before they can be realized?”

Bishop Jenkins paused thoughtfully. “Let me share an idea from a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer,” he finally said.

“‘There are many who struggle and climb and finally reach the top of the ladder, only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall’” (Ensign, Aug. 1976, p. 61).

Thinking about it now, he didn’t really answer my question, but certainly the part about the person climbing the ladder applied to me.

“Heavenly Father, am I climbing the wrong wall?” I asked silently. “Is that why my life is so out of balance?”

Stirring from my introspection, I looked around for Troy but saw no sign of him. I stood up and searched up and down the beach. Still no dog. Shading my eyes from the glare on the water I thought I saw Troy’s head bob, then disappear under the water. Yes, there it was again. I dashed down to the chilling waves and dove in. The cold water took my breath away, but my concern was for my obviously drowning dog.

As I neared him, he was so exhausted his head barely broke the surface as he struggled. “What is holding onto him?” I swam almost to him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Troy’s jaws were tightly clenched on a bulb of seaweed! It was evidently still attached to the rocks below the water. He was paddling back and forth trying to free it and bring it to shore. I grabbed his jaws and forced him off the bulb. I half dragged him to shore and we both plopped down totally spent, gasping for breath.

My thoughts were tumbling. Why would Troy hold on to that seaweed until he nearly drowned? Why didn’t he let go and swim to shore if he was in danger?

Suddenly I stopped. How like my own struggle. My dog was working so hard to get something, he didn’t realize the danger he was in. My situation began to appear much clearer. I had been so caught up with my dancing that I hadn’t realized that I was in danger of losing the other things that mattered in my life.

With this revelation came a new agony—what to do. Could I put my ladder against the right wall, keep balance in my life, and still participate in the dance group, or did I need to “let go” and swim for safety now. Mentally tallying the list of compromises I needed to make for the dance group, I determined that my answer was to let it go. A sense of peace and comfort helped soothe the wrenching feeling in my heart and helped me to realize that it was the right decision.

“I can still dream my dreams,” I told Troy, “and perform and prepare so that my climb up the ladder will be on the right wall. Come on, Troy, let’s go home.”

Survival Tips

  • Develop your God-given talents.

  • Weigh opportunities carefully.

  • Follow the Spirit.

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Moore