Several years ago when my family first moved to Bakersfield, CA, we found a perfect home for our family that just-so-happened to have a swimming pool in the backyard. We moved from Little Rock, AR, where the high December temperatures had been in the low 20’s, so the “warm” 50 degree days in California were a welcome respite from the cold.
For the first three weeks of living in our new home my four children would beg me everyday to let them go swimming, as I would tell them that it was too cold. They were unconvinced and relentless in their inquiry. It is embarrassing that it took me to so long, but it finally occurred to me that I should just let them go swimming. And so I did. To this day I still laugh at how quickly their bodies hit the water and how fast they jumped right back out with full-body shivers. Hot baths and hot chocolate quickly ensued.
They didn’t ask to go swimming again for two months.
As the late Spring months quickly warmed the pool to a temperature that usually only children would venture, I had found a few occasions to go out swimming with the kids in the pool — but not many.
At this particular time, I had noticed that I was having a hard time “connecting” with one of my daughters. Not only were we butting heads more often than not, but she was emotionally distancing herself from me and other members of the family. My wife and I had tried on many occasions to reach her, but nothing was working and things were just not clicking.
Early one morning I took to my knees to express my gratitude for my daughter and to get some counsel from the Divine in whatever it was that I was missing. I accepted that I didn’t know what I was doing — right or wrong — and that I just wanted to make it right. I didn’t even know what to pray for, as, at the time, I didn’t really understand what was going on with me or my daughter, so that was my first request. That soon led me to praying for a way to somehow bridge the chasm that I felt was nearly unbridgeable — or at least that I felt at the time was unbridgeable.
And that’s when the Lord told me to go swimming…
Swimming? Yes, swimming. But the thing was, I didn’t want to go swimming. It was still early-ish in the morning on a Saturday, and the pool was still pretty brisk. No, it wasn’t brisk. It was cold. That, mixed with many other reasons, made me strongly hesitate to obey. Luckily, I quickly recognized the faithless irony in that I had asked for an answer, that an answer came, and that I was now arguing with the Lord in my lack of desire to do what I knew He asked of me. I quickly repented of my initial response.
So… I went swimming…
I was in the pool for 30 minutes before anything happened, which is strange because my kids usually swarmed me when I jumped into the pool to play. That was the longest, coldest, and most miserable 30 minutes that I can remember. But, even with the cold, something was different. That morning, only my daughter that I had been praying for came out to see me. We talked for a few minutes while I was swimming and she stuck her feet into the pool. Suddenly, she jumped up and ran into the house to change into her swimsuit.
For the next hour my daughter and I played, laughed, tickled, swam, bobbed, splashed, and swam together — just the two of us. We played until we were both too cold and too tired to swim any more. We both decided to get out.
As we were drying off my daughter came over to my side and sweetly and softly took me by the hand, looked up at me, and in an almost whisper said, ‘Thank you, Daddy, for swimming with me today. I have wanted to spend time with you for a long time, but I didn’t know how to ask.”
From that moment, everything with my relationship with my daughter changed and we began “clicking” again and things quickly improved — almost immediately.
I have thought about this moment more times than perhaps any other as a father, as I realized that my daughter had wanted something but didn’t know how to ask her father to fulfill her desires. At the same time, I had wanted something but didn’t know how to ask my Heavenly Father. I’ve since felt a lot of rapport with Nephi who with faith and determination set out on a task and being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Ne 4:6) — or even not knowing how to ask.
However, it was in the moment of need — in my ignorance, but in my devotion and desire (and even in my initial complaint and kickback after receiving an answer) — that the Lord helped teach me not only what to ask for but in how to listen and respond to the answer when it came. I relearned that I am still a child (in every way) in my Heavenly Father’s eyes, often not knowing how to be or act, just as I am a father in my children’s eyes as they do not often know how to be or act.
I am forever grateful for the moment when I knelt to pray to know how to connect with my daughter, as I am forever grateful for that moment when I listened to the voice of the Lord when he told me to go swimming.