Several years ago, we lived in the suburbs of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. On one beautiful Sunday afternoon, we decided to take our family out to a known footpath that would lead up to the Brisbane Temple. We drove with our five young children to the Brisbane CBD where the large Brisbane River winds through its center. At one point, the river has carved out beautiful and dramatic cliffs. Wonderful for rappelling and climbing, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a famous attraction right in Brisbane’s busy downtown waterway.
We drove down the hill toward the water’s edge and parked near the base of these cliffs. Then we pleasantly strolled through a park over to the side of the cliffs where a paved footpath was built to lead those from the bottom of the cliffs to the top. As we made our way there, our eyes wandered to what lay across the wide river: a stunning view of skyscrapers and high rises. We followed those along with our eyes until the buildings dipped down and gave way to a brush of trees and bamboo directly opposite us. We knew that brush made up the Brisbane Botanical Gardens.
Taking in deep breaths of the vegetation drenched in a recent shower, we turned to our object, and maneuvered around the railing of the path to begin what we anticipated to be a spiritual and happy time together.
We had taken only a few steps onto the trail when a blaring electric guitar, and muffled talking over a microphone, sounded. Startled, we looked back in the direction of the sound, only to see the dense brush of the botanical gardens across the river. It occurred to us that in the amphitheater of the gardens, hidden from view, a concert was starting.
As we took more steps, drums and yells echoed across the water and bounced loudly off the nearby cliffs. Rounding a bend, we slowly ascended the first switchback. Deep screams and growls from the amphitheater began to cloud our thinking and made it difficult to have conversation. But, with good faith and optimism we determined to cheerfully go on—perhaps, wishfully thinking the heavy metal concert would end soon.
On we pressed, but as we did, so did the concert. We continued through several more switchbacks. The deafening sounds of the concert continued. I began to feel annoyance, even frustration. Why was this happening? How could other’s choices have this much influence and distraction over mine?
The trail was now getting steeper and we gripped the metal railing for support. As we went up, the volume of the concert also seemed to climb. It now became difficult to think of anything else. Occasionally, after traversing steep sections, we would pause to catch our breath and have a look at the views. The skyline was beginning to grey against the lowering sun.
Our eyes penetrated the dark and deep water that was now so far below. A memory came to my mind: another day we had floated that river together on a hot afternoon. The guide of our tour boat had taught us about the danger of the river due to bull sharks that swam up from the nearby harbor. Because of the ocean’s backflows, that dark river water was actually salty.
Up again we went. Tired from both the climbing and the jarring music, our optimism was fading. We tried to enjoy each other and the hike, but the screams and language worsened with each of the rock band’s numbers. Now, unable to hear each other, we quietly hiked along with our children. The views were beautiful, but the noises seemed to block the Spirit and any feelings of peace. Our pleasant time together was being ruined.
Presently, a thought came to me: “Isn’t this life? Is this not the vision of Lehi?” I considered the screeching heavy metal which seemed to be mocking us all the way. I looked again at the deep and dangerous river and glanced up at the “great and spacious” buildings on the other side. I felt the “rod” there, cold in my hands, protecting me and my family from a great fall (see 1 Nephi 8).
Several more minutes went by. I guess these thoughts were consoling me. Life is not meant to be perfect. Maybe its imperfections are the very things we need to become perfect.
I watched my tennis shoes plant on each narrow step. And then one of the most empowering, and loving impressions came over me: this music may be annoying, the yells were too, but they were not stopping us from putting one foot in front of another. Nor were the voices and sways of the world. They, in themselves had absolutely no power, because we were giving them none. We were free to act for ourselves!
I began to hike with a new determination.
How many times since have I heard the screams of close family members and friends walking and laughing away from the Church and into forbidden roads, beckoning me to follow? How many temptations, burdens, or feelings have I experienced which made the way difficult to see or the gospel extremely hard to focus on? At times, these noises have even blocked my ability to feel the Spirit.
But no matter the racket, how heavy the burden, or how dark or confusing the feeling, nothing has been successful in stopping me from walking step-by-step with the Lord back to His house. Exercising faith and repentance, we constantly move forward.
As dusk settled on us that evening in Brisbane, we all smiled together for a photo while shouts and guitars swirled in our ears. But in the background of that photo stood the temple. We had made it!
I testify, that every one of us CAN make it back to our Heavenly Father’s loving home. He is there waiting for us.