On our third floor apartment balcony hang a set of melodious wind chimes and a mobile of carved wood fish, painted in brilliant patterns of blues, yellows, greens and reds. Tethered to clear monofilament line, the fish “swim” contentedly in the light breezes that sweep in from the ocean and over the lake next to our home, reminding me of our many scuba diving trips to islands in the Caribbean.
Sometimes the breezes are not so gentle and the fish spin and flail wildly, their tethers tangling horrifically until they are tightly locked in tangled knots and can manage to only swivel weakly in place. It does no good to wait and see if they untangle by themselves. The longer I wait to intervene, the worse it gets. I notice the mess every time I open my door to go outside or when I’m coming back to the apartment. Nothing else catches my attention: not the sun glimmering our lake, not the green jungle, not the osprey hunting over the water, not the brilliant Florida sun. I see only the tangled mess of wooden, brightly colored fish hopelessly entwined around each other. What a mess.
Finally, I can put it off no longer. I set down my keys, and whatever else is in my arms, and turn to untangle the fish mobile. Sometimes it takes almost a half an hour of patiently moving a fish and its tether to the right or the left, through a knot, over or under, one tangled clump of snared monofilament line at a time. Holding my arms up as I perform this duty is tiring and I have to put them down and shake out the stiffness once in a while. I’m tempted to just pull the whole thing down and toss it in the trash. But I never do because I know my efforts will be ultimately successful in untangling the mobile. I would not want to lose them; the fish are pretty, and they add a sense of fun and barefoot hominess to our place.
Finished at last, I step back to observe my handiwork. The fish are once again “swimming” freely in the light breeze and all seems right with their little world and mine too, for a day or two. Then the wind kicks up that night and the fish are once again thoroughly tangled by morning. It happens all the time. Wind tangles, I untangle. Repeat.
How similar we are to my bright fish mobile. The buffeting winds of adversity and our own weakness seem to combine on a regular basis to tangle up and complicate our lives. We make bad choices, we suffer from other’s bad choices, or we are plagued by the vagaries of mortality that visit us as physical and mental illness, financial challenges, disillusionment, despair, disappointment, death of a loved one, betrayal of a friend. The list is endless. All of these things tangle up our lives and stymie us. Entangled, we cannot swim freely, we cannot be the kind of person God wants us to be.
The longer we live being tangled up the worse our lives seem to get. Wrong choices become habits; habits become addictions. Discouragement becomes despair; despair becomes depression. We wind up even more tangled than before.
Untangling ourselves is impossible, just as impossible as my bright wooden fish untangling themselves. We need help from someone outside ourselves who understands how we got so tangled up in the first place. We need someone who knows exactly how to help us out of this mess, someone who is patient enough to work with us no matter how long it takes and no matter how many times we get tangled up, someone who loves us too much to ever just get fed up with untangling us and toss us in the trash.
I have learned from experience that this Someone is our Savior, Jesus Christ.
…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people…” Alma 7:12
If we turn to Him for help in untangling our lives He will indeed always be there for us. As we pray earnestly for comfort, for aid, for peace, He will sooth our souls. As we study, not just read, but study His word in the scriptures and from a living prophet His Spirit will guide us to paths of wiser choices. As we make the small (or sometimes big) adjustments in our lives to keep His commandments He will bless us far more abundantly than we expect. We will see the living miracle of our own untangling play out right before our eyes. Elder Draper and I have seen it many times in our own lives and in the lives of the precious military men and women we serve. We’ve seen addictions conquered, families put back together after crisis, depression overcome, faith restored, hope renewed – knotty tangles untangled by the Savior’s loving hand.
The solution to our untangling is found in the scripture we’ve selected as the theme for our mission:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
He is here for us not just when we get tangled up one time, but time after time. Every time we get tangled, no matter what a mess we make of our lives, He’s here to untangle us if we put aside our pride and petulant “I can do it myself!” attitude, trust Him, and have the tiniest bit of faith to ask for His help.