You Were Doing Fine!

“You Were Doing Fine!” Friend, June 1992, 40

You Were Doing Fine!

All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good (D&C 122:7).

My little sister, Becki, was only four, and one of those rare people who fear nothing. She was strong, curious, and independent. I often wished she were different, because one of my big-sister fantasies was to rescue her. Little could I know that my daydream would come true that summer afternoon.

I was ten. Our family was traveling from California to Salt Lake City, Utah, on vacation. About halfway there was the city of St. George, Utah, where we decided to stay overnight. Daddy chose a motel with a pool, and it was only a matter of minutes to my first delicious leap into the cool water. I loved to swim, even though my best effort was a clumsy dog paddle.

I was lounging in a big inner tube, pretending that I was a glamorous movie star at a Hollywood party, when I heard a shout from my sister. “Watch, Daddy!”

I rolled over in the water, with one arm still wrapped securely around the inner tube. Becki was lying “through” a smaller tube, splashing her arms and legs like crazy. I knew she thought that she was really swimming. Daddy called encouragement from his deck chair.

Just then Becki’s tube slipped down her wriggling body and scooted several feet behind her. She was in the deepest end of the pool.

I started to kick furiously, pushing my own inner tube in front of me, hoping I could get it to her before she sank. It was only a few feet, but it seemed ages before the tube was finally within her reach. In my desperation to kick fast enough, I hadn’t wasted any breath calling for help, but I knew that Dad was there and would help me if I needed it.

Becki lunged wildly at the inner tube. To my horror, her sudden attack jarred it from my own grasp and sent it skittering out of reach.

Suddenly I felt Becki’s tiny but steely fingers clutch at my neck. She was kicking and thrashing like a miniature hurricane, making it impossible for me to see through the water she was churning up. I felt my mouth fill with water, and I realized that with Becki’s weight around my neck, I was now struggling beneath the surface.

As her grip tightened chokingly, the thrashing lessened. In a flash of clarity, I understood that Becki trusted me to save her now. Here was the chance I’d always wanted. But it was nothing like I’d imagined! With a sickening panic, I thought, I’m not good enough to save anybody! I can’t swim well enough, and I can’t even breathe myself!

I could see the surface of the water just an inch or two beyond my face. Every thought stood clearly in my mind, while my body acted almost independently at racing speed. I had been kicking for all I was worth, trying desperately to get my face out of the water, at the same time holding Becki’s head in the air.

Meanwhile I wondered about Daddy. I knew that he was right there, and yet he hadn’t come into the pool to help us. Was he going to just sit there watching while both of us were about to drown? I remembered that not only was Dad a super swimmer but he had learned lifesaving skills in the Navy. Why didn’t he do something?

Although I was now swallowing water, I kept kicking. I didn’t try to loosen Becki’s trusting hug. I knew that she was depending on me. I still wanted to save her, even if I died trying.

That was my final, foggy thought as her grip suddenly relaxed and my head bobbed up to see Daddy lifting her out of the pool. I’d managed to reach the pool’s side with all my frantic kicking. Gasping, I grabbed hold of the edge. I was dizzy, relieved, and weak.

“Good girl, Linda,” Daddy said, smiling down at me. “You saved your little sister!”

I stared at him. He squatted down to me, his expression full of emotions I couldn’t read. Reaching under my arms, he hauled me into that special hug that only a dad can give. Hugging back weakly, I still struggled to breathe normally. Finally I pushed away to ask the question burning inside: “Why didn’t you help me? I almost couldn’t do it! I nearly drowned both of us!”

Daddy shook his head. “I could see you, remember? You were moving toward the side of the pool the whole time. I knew that you would make it.”

He must have seen my unbelief and shock, because he continued, “You were doing fine! You did fine!” He patted my shoulder, then turned away to watch Becki, who was already heading back into the water.

I have often thought of that incident as I have grown older. I learned something important that day about my father’s point of view. He could see more than I. He could tell that I would make it—but he let me find out for myself.

I think Heavenly Father is like that. When I’m thrashing along with a bad habit I can’t seem to change, or a goal I can’t seem to reach, thinking I’m not good enough and about to “sink,” I remember that Heavenly Father can see more than I. Perhaps I’m moving in the right direction and don’t know it yet. Perhaps He knows how close I am to safety and success and has the confidence in me that I lack in myself. Perhaps He wants me to learn and grow from a hard experience. Sometimes when I’m struggling the hardest, I wonder why He doesn’t “jump in” and help me. That’s when I remember my dad saying, “You were doing fine.”

I know Father is watching. He’ll help me when I really need Him to. But for now I just need to keep kicking.

Illustrated by Phyllis Luch