Swim between the Flags


Stray outside the safety zone, let the currents pull you in over your head, and though you may see the flags from a distance, their protection will be hard to reach.

ALEXANDRA HILLS, QUEENSLAND—I was born and raised on a banana and dairy farm in the subtropical region of the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. But as I grew up, the beach had a big influence on me.

Keep in mind that three out of every four Australians live within 15 minutes of the sea. So it’s easy to understand the relationship I had with the water.

When I was younger, I decided to set some rules for my own protection and safety. Some of the rules I joked about. But one was absolutely serious: Always swim between the flags. Swimming between the flags was a habit. I knew the flags were a symbol of safety and security. If I swam between the flags, there would always be a lifeguard watching. If I got into difficulty, help would be there straightaway.

Even to this day, I still choose to swim between the flags because water and currents, like life, can be unpredictable. Even the strongest among us can be tossed around and pulled down.

Sometimes people are having heaps of fun. They may suddenly look up and realize they are outside the flags. On the borderline it’s a matter of a few steps back to be inside the safety zone. If a strong current is pulling you way off course, you may need to swim to shore, walk along the beach, and start all over again. In some cases, that’s the only way back.

One morning, a friend of mine who is a lifeguard on the Gold Coast was sitting on his lookout carefully watching the people swimming between the flags when a boy came running up the beach. His father had been swimming just down the beach with another young son on his shoulders. The father had suffered a heart attack, and both went down. They were 200 meters from the flags. The lifeguards did everything humanly possible, but by the time they got there, both father and son had drowned.

I like to compare the flags on the beach to the spiritual guidelines we’re given in the Church. The standards are there for your protection. Stray outside the safety zone, let the currents pull you in over your head, and though you may see the flags from a distance, their protection will be hard to reach.

But stay within the guidelines and though you may still have difficulties, you will also have help. Come to your Church meetings, even when you don’t want to, even when you’re tired or don’t have anything new to wear, and you’ll be blessed.

When you feel discouraged, reach for the firmness of prayer, fasting, blessings, and scriptures. Then push hard and breathe the sweet, pure air. Keep swimming. Lifeguards, like your parents, your bishop, and other Church leaders, will be on their way to bring you help.

[photos] Photography by Welden Andersen