By: Sheridan Lacy
Sneaking off in search of the river was a terrible idea. We had no permission, no wilderness skills to speak of, and no clue where we were actually going. The sound of rushing water beckoned from a distance, but our eyes saw only trees and mud. What we didn’t see was the real danger. Lying in wait, lurking below all that moss and mud and sludge, was quicksand. I took another step, and fear knocked the wind out of me as quickly as my feet sunk into its hold.
What was I supposed to do? I had never even seen quicksand before. How was I supposed to break free from it?
Unfortunately, that was something my ten-year-old self didn’t know.
Would I slip all the way under? How would I breathe? Was I about to be swallowed up in the depths of this terrifying, sticky, swamp-laden mess?
I panicked and frantically worked to pull my feet and ankles free from the sludge.
I looked around wildly. My little brother–eyes wide with worry–was sinking to his shins just out of reach and all I could hear was the sound of my heartbeat thundering in my ears.
With no earthly help in sight, I turned heavenward.
Heart hammering in my chest, I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and pleaded for a way out. I cried to Heavenly Father with all the faith I could muster and tried to ignore the desperation to fight against the gravity that was pulling me further into the sand.
I continued to move my feet, one after the other, again and again, praying for release. They hardly budged. I willed myself to have more faith and pulled against the sand again. My brother did the same. Our legs were wobbling, our muscles weary from fatigue. But we pulled again, and the sand loosened enough for us to slip from its grasp.
Thoughts of adventures at the river were now the furthest from our minds as we abandoned our original course and sprinted back toward the safety of familiar paths.
As time passed, the story of sinking into swamp-covered quicksand became a funny anecdote, but as I reflect on it now, I see the deeper lesson that the Lord wanted me to learn.
Wander. Sink. Reach for heaven.
Years later, I was in the midst of navigating the tender transition from high school to adulthood. I had graduated a semester early with the intention of working and saving money to fund my tuition and living expenses for a cosmetology and esthetics program.
I was fortunate to find a job quickly, and I jumped head first into a new routine. But I was unprepared for the loneliness that crept in as I charted new waters alone while my friends were all together finishing our senior year. I no longer felt like I fit in with them, or with the young women at church.
Instead of propelling me forward, my job became the catalyst that led to a long period of spiritual inactivity. I met someone at work who I enjoyed spending time with. Our work friendship began to spill into personal time, and it wasn’t long before we formed an emotional attachment. Because I was yearning for a sense of belonging again, I clung to the people and things that made me feel important.
I began to live my life constantly searching for my worth and value through the eyes of everyone else. At work, I excelled. I pushed myself, I was dependable, and when someone was needed, I never said no. In a relationship where attention and affection were conditional and unpredictable, I worked harder than ever to prove my worth. It was emotionally depleting and toxic. Little by little, I was losing myself.
I had been avoiding church for months. I thought staying away would help me feel relieved. That distancing myself from the gospel would also distance me from the guilt of the choices I was making.
I was wrong. And I was stuck.
I was lonely and lost. And despite feeling unworthy, I wanted nothing more than to feel the nearness of heaven again. As I knelt down and poured my heart out to God through broken sobs, I was blanketed by comfort and peace.
With heaven’s help, I shifted my focus. I found a new job, left distractions behind, and moved forward with a renewed purpose to fortify my faith and testimony.
Wander. Sink. Reach for heaven.
A few summers ago, I was swept up in one of the fiercest storms of my life. I’d just had my third baby when I received the news that my grandfather’s cancer had taken a steep downward turn. My mother, her five siblings, and handfuls of my cousins dropped everything to be by his side.
But I was stuck hundreds of miles away with a newborn, fresh out of surgery and unable to travel yet.
He passed through the veil just ten days later.
As the summer wore on, the dust began to settle. Until one sunny morning at the end of July, I learned that my cousin was missing, alone in the heat of the Sonoran Desert. At the end of an agonizing day of what-ifs, I received word that Nate was now heavenside with Grandpa.
I was drowning in grief. In the mornings, I would lie in bed with open eyes: too terrified of the nightmares to go back to sleep, too weighed down to place my feet on the ground and face the day.
I couldn’t see the light. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I spent my days praying and pleading just to make it through the next ten minutes.
Wander. Sink. Reach. Repeat.
My pain and grief were never taken away. But every time I chose to reach for the Savior, He held me through it. And our relationship grew stronger, because there are things only we have been through together.
Wander. Sink. Reach for Heaven.
I have often wished I could see the map of my life. How much easier would it be if I could see the upcoming twists and turns? If I could see trials and hardships months or years in advance? I might be more relaxed. Might have less anxiety. I could prepare and plan ahead.
But that is not the plan.
I learned early on, in that swamp in North Carolina, that sometimes there are no earthly answers. No earthly help or direction. But there is always heaven. There is always Christ. There are always angels waiting in the wings.
It is through the wandering, the sinking, and the reaching for heaven that I’ve come to know my Savior in a more personal way––in ways I wouldn’t have without those unforeseen trials.
So I will continue on, knowing He sees my map. I’ll reach for His hand and let Him guide, and walk with Him until I’m home.