I can't believe that it has already been a year since my first blog post! It has been fun to go back and read some of my earlier blog posts and see how much I have changed, not only with my writing but also my personality and character!
A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to make a post exactly a year after my first blog post, but I wasn't sure what to write about. I wanted it to be something epic and awesome but I just wasn't having any ideas of the sort come to me! I was pretty bummed about that because I thought that would be a fun way to celebrate the one year mark for my blog!
Then one day I was reading in my scriptures and I read a verse that I read at the beginning of my mission that I have thought a lot about over the past year or so and which has had a pretty big influence on me! I didn't quite understand at the time that I initially read it so I wrote home and asked my family if they had any advice for me. A few family members responded with some good insight, but it was my aunt and uncle who said something that really got me thinking.
The scripture, found in the first book of Nephi, says, "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments--then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." I have read through the Book of Mormon a number of times so I know that I have read this verse before, but for some reason it never really caught my attention until this time. I sat there wondering what it was saying, how peace and righteousness could even somewhat be related to a river and waves.
After a little bit of thinking I was able to see how our peace should be like a river, but I could not figure out why it would be good to have our righteousness likes waves. "Shouldn't we always be righteous? But waves aren't constant, they come in waves. That's why they are called waves! We shouldn't be righteous every now and then, we should always be righteous and obedient to God's commandments! How does that relate to waves??"
I thought about this for the next few days trying to figure out some way that righteousness and waves related and I just couldn't figure it out! So as I mentioned earlier, I wrote home and asked my family if they have any thoughts or insights and a few days later I got a letter from my aunt and uncle with some brief yet wonderfully eye-opening thoughts! As I pondered on those things that they said, I realized how wonderful Nephi's wish is, that our peace would be like a river and our righteousness like the waves!
Over the past year, my mind has often and repeatedly wandered back to this thought and it has had a rather large impact on my life. So I figured it would only be fitting to write a blog post about this scripture and thought that has had such a big impact on me over the past year!
So how can our peace be like a river? I think it is first important to know a little about rivers. There is a great line from the Disney movie, Pocahontas. In it, she sings "What I love most about rivers is: You can't step in the same river twice. The water's always changing, always flowing." When I think of a river, some of the first things that come to my mind are that it is constantly moving, the water always encounters obstacles, and that they always lead to a larger body of water.
I have always found in my life, that I feel the most peace when I am on the move and doing something. I recently wrote a blog post about how it is important to continue moving in all that we do. Sure I feel well rested when I just sit and lounge around. My body always feel good, but that isn't when I feel the most peace. I feel most at peace when I am serving others, or reading the scriptures, or enjoying the beauties of God. Those are always the times that I feel closest to God and the times that I can feel His love for me and for those around me the most--when I am doing things and am actively involved in serving God. Maybe that was Nephi's wish for us, that we would continually be serving God and feeling His love and peace through service and study.
But just as with a river, things always change. I don't think there is or has ever been a river in existence that just flows in a straight line without anything in the way. Rivers always have rocks and logs and other things that divert its course and force it to move. My favorite song from my favorite Broadway play teaches this principle well. In the song, they sing, "Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood...I have been changed for good."
So it is with the peace in our lives. There are times when it things are going well and peace is easy to find. But then our stream hits as a boulder and things seem to get thrown completely off course. But those changes and those obstacles often prove to be beneficial for us in the end. Just as when a river meet a boulder, the river of our peace always hits obstacles that threaten to overcome us. But as we press forward with our faith in Christ we are able to overcome that obstacle and our peace returns, often stronger than before. So in this regards, when our peace is like a river, it is enduring and persistent at all times in our lives.
The third main thing that I notice with rivers is that they always lead to a larger body of water. Likewise, the peace of God that we experience and feel in our lives always lead us to the "fountain of living water", even Jesus Christ. That is the nature of peace, it always, without question, leads us to our Savior! Just as the Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi, wished upon his wayward son, "O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness." More than anything, I think that is what it means to have our peace like a river--to have it continually pushing us forward and closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.
But now for the hard part of this verse that my aunt and uncle provided a lot of insight for--"and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." When I first think of waves of the sea, I think of something that many people enjoy riding and surfing on. "So maybe that is what Nephi is talking about." I thought, "Maybe he means that our righteousness should bring us joy in our lives. That is true. I know that whenever I keep God's commandments, I am happier in life! So maybe that is it? But no, that seems too simple."
The next thing I think of with waves is that they come and go with time. One second there is a nice big wave crashing onto the shore, the next you are watching another wave begin to build on the ocean. Waves are almost always building and growing, but they aren't constant. Granted, our righteousness should grow and build, but shouldn't it be constant?
These are the thoughts that I had when I first read this verse last year. But my aunt, as well as one of the missionaries I serve with (who is well acquainted with waves!) helped me learn to shift my focus. Initially I had been focusing on waves as a whole, but they helped me learn that by focusing on one individual wave, this analogy really comes to life!
A wave is created because of wind. As the wind blows out on the ocean, it moves the water around and stirs it up. As this continues to happen, the water starts kind of stacking on top of itself. The wind continues to blow and the wave continues to grow. If the wind stopped blowing, the water on the wave would just kind of fall back down and it would be as if nothing happened. But the wind continues to blow so the wave continues to grow and move towards the shore. Once there is crashes along the coast and dissipates into the sand.
What I didn't realize initially was that there is a ton of symbolism in how waves work. And it is because of that symbolism that Nephi's analogy is so powerful! We all experience the wind of adversity in our lives. There are always hard things that come up and push us in ways that don't really want to go. These winds that arise in our lives always challenge our faith and make us decide if we will choose to put our trust in God or in the "arm of flesh". When we are obedient to God's commandments during these hard times and choose to be righteous, the Lord blesses us. Being obedient in the face of adversity and difficulty is just like when a wave builds. Each time we make that hard, yet right choice, another layer of water is being added to our wave.
Just as a wave builds faster when the winds are stronger, so, too, our righteousness should grow even stronger and more powerfully as the trials get harder and press upon us more and more. As the wind continues to blow and the wave moves faster and becomes even stronger than ever before as it progresses towards the shore. When we are righteous and obedient to God's commandments, the trials will never stop or give up, they will always be there, but through obedience God is able to turn us into something far better and stronger than we could have ever become on our own!
I think the most important part of this analogy is what happens at the very end of a wave's life--it crashes against the shore. The wind always blows the wave towards the coast. I have spend a good amount of time at beaches watching the waves form and develop and I have never seen nor heard of a wave that runs parallel to the shore. That's because it doesn't happen. The wind always pushes it to the shore. The adversity that we experience, if we are righteous, will always push us towards the one sure foundation, Jesus Christ. We can choose to not be obedient and by the time we reach the shore our wave of righteousness will be little more than a tiny splash. But if we choose to obey and let them, our adversities can push and propel us closer to Jesus Christ so that when we reach Him, we will know Who we have come to and we will know Him.
That is the way it works. That is the way it always works! When we obey, our wave builds and we become like and are more prepared to meet our Savior. I think that is the biggest thing that I have learned from the two very vivid analogies that Nephi uses in this great verse--if we allow the Lord to guide us and always keep our focus on Him, our peace and righteousness with always bring us to our Savior. We do we will pass by wonderful scenery along the side of our river of peace that will tempt us to stop for a little while, but we can't! If we continue through the hard times and continue when things appear to be good, we will always be lead to something and Someone that is far better than we could have ever imagined!
I have experienced this more than ever while being a missionary and serving our Father and His Son. I know that when we obey Their commandments and do all that They ask us to do, our peace will be as a river and our righteousness as the waves of the sea.