Although we might prefer our lives be as neat and cozy as a duck pond in a manicured garden, we must navigate the wilderness of uncertainty guided by the Spirit if we are to discover our personal promised lands.
While hurrying home one October day, I was struck by the reflection of the afternoon light on the water of the duck pond at the south end of Brigham Young University campus. I stopped. Fighting against the thought of all I had to do, I slung my backpack on the ground and sat down to watch the ducks.
The pond always seemed so crowded to me. A couple of ducks wandered around the surrounding boardwalk and grass, as usual. But most of them seemed content to stay in the pond, swimming in circles or floating idly. “Don’t they find it confining?” I wondered. “How do the groundskeepers manage to make them stay in or by the pond?”
After only a couple of minutes, I abandoned my meditation and continued on my way. I was seeking peace at the pond but had not even found distraction. That semester, my first after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hadn’t been going as planned. Like so many returned missionaries before me, I found that my worldview had been rearranged by two years of service. I was now determined to follow the Spirit in all things, yet it was leading me in confusing directions.
The week after getting home, I started applying for jobs. I got what seemed like the offer of a lifetime—but felt prompted by the Spirit to turn it down. Worse, as the semester progressed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my chosen major, a subject dear to me since childhood, might not be exactly what the Lord had in mind for me to study. Then I was guided to the information meeting of an unpaid internship I wasn’t sure I could afford. I applied—but not without some murmuring. Why did the Lord want things for me that I didn’t want for myself?
About a week later, I returned to the duck pond early in the morning to meditate and read the scriptures. After a few minutes, I came across the account of Lehi and Sariah waiting anxiously for their sons to return from their implausible mission to obtain the brass plates. As time went on, Sariah began to fret. They had already lost their riches, and now, it seemed, they had lost their sons, too. In her worry, she accused Lehi of being a visionary man.
Then I read Lehi’s forceful and unapologetic reply: “I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice.” (1 Nephi 5:4-5; emphasis added).
All the angst of the past months melted in an instant, and I began to cry. How many times had I read those same words and criticized Sariah for not having enough faith? It had been easy to judge her because I knew how her story ended. But my own life was another story.
“Hasn’t following the Spirit been worth it up until now?” I asked myself. I owed everything to God; I did trust Him, I decided. Surely I could afford to keep going, step by step, to wherever he wished to lead me, trusting that, somehow, I would end up in my own “promised land” of inner peace and personal fulfillment.
I looked at the ducks again. I knew now why they didn’t leave their pond. The outside world was dangerous. A lone duck would have to leave her friends as well as her comfort zone. She wouldn’t know what her next meal would be or when she would find another safe harbor. She might even get run over by a car speeding by on 800 North! It would make sense for her to stay in the pond, I thought.
But I am not a duck; I am a visionary man.
Source: 1 Nephi 5:4
—Ian McLaughlin, Rexburg, Idaho
This article was selected as one of four winners in the Fall 2015 Submission Contest for Mormon Insights. The work is original and is a true story from the life of the author. We are grateful for their contribution and encourage interested authors to look for another Submission Contest in early 2016.