“God, help me save my daughter!”

We can never know when a Goliath will suddenly appear. At any moment, we can be confronted with a life threatening situation and must call upon the Lord to act, or someone will die. Moments like these are not the time to start developing a strong relationship with God, when they arise we must already have one.

My wife and I are beach bums from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Summer days on the Cape are typically hazy, hot, and humid. The three H’s, as the weathermen would say, are what we associated with beaches. That is, until we moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Summer

Each Saturday, for two consecutive summers, we drove our little family ninety minutes to the Pacific coast—we wanted our two daughters to enjoy the same beach experience that we had enjoyed growing up on the Cape. We expected sun and fun at the beach. Instead, each day was overcast, often drizzly, windy, and cold. How could this be? It’s the beach!

On a late December day in 1993, we just wanted to get away from our daily inland routine, so we headed for Lincoln City. Once there, we bundled up to get in a quick walk on the beach at Roads End. But something extraordinary happened. As we walked down the expansive beach sand, passed the “sneaker wave” warning sign, the sun came out, the wind stopped, and it was warm: nearly seventy degrees warm. Just like that, the weather was perfect. We peeled off our coats, our sweaters, our shoes and socks, we rolled up our pants, and walked down to the chilly Pacific Ocean. All the while I was on guard for anything that might look like a dangerous wave. I didn’t exactly know what a “sneaker wave” was, but I knew that the ominous warning sign was there for a reason.

Oh, you don’t know what a “sneaker wave” is? Neither did we. We always saw the warning signs and flags, but we didn’t really understand what they were referring to. There are no such things on Cape Cod. But on the West Coast, “sneaker waves” are little tsunamis that silently pluck people from the beach or rocks. “On the West Coast, they kill more people than all other weather hazards combined.”[1]

RogueWave

We spent a few minutes playing knee deep in water whenever a wave came up. After ten minutes I thought we had had enough time at the water’s edge and suggested that we all move up to where the sand was completely dry. Above the point where the sand had been flattened, would be the point that a wave had made it furthest up the sand.

My wife was ocean savvy, I merely had to motion to the sand for her to understand where we could safely walk. She was walking about thirty feet behind me. Our six-year-old daughter was walking about the same distance in front of me. Our eighteen-month-old daughter was in my left arm. I had stopped looking for any danger from the now distant water. We spent about fifteen minutes lazily strolling along enjoying this perfect beach day. It seemed like September on Cape Cod.

Suddenly, silently, and without warning, I was waist deep in sea water. I looked up to see our older daughter reaching out toward me with her left arm and she was screaming . . . “Daddayyyyy.” The wave knocked her over, and down into silence. The water was over waist deep now and rushing up the beach. I tried to run but could barely move against so much resistance. My legs felt like they were dragging anchors.

It continued up the steep beach for about twenty-five more feet. As I shifted from side-to-side in my struggle to move forward perpendicular to the tide, I saw that my wife was successfully managing the threat. She was making her way up the beach, while I was making mine across it.

Then the inevitable happened, having exhausted its energy, the wave reversed direction. Our daughter was being taken her out to sea, and potentially out of our lives forever. This can’t be happening.

I had to get to an intersection point. But where was that, exactly? I couldn’t see her. I had to make the best possible guess as to where she would pass within my reach and I had to be there when she did.

I ran as hard as I could, scanning the water for any sign of her. There she was! I could see her terrified face, under the water, travelling quickly toward me. I got it right. She would pass directly in front of me.

“God, help me save my daughter!” I prayed, crying out in this fight to save her life.

I couldn’t grab her just anywhere; she might slip away in a tug-of-war with the wave. I had to grab her arm at the shoulder so that my hand would have a firm grip as well as leverage. A supernatural power come over my right arm. God was answering my prayer, but would I blow it? Could I hold onto one daughter with my left arm and save the life of the other with my right?

She came closer and closer. Miraculously, she was not writhing or struggling. Her body was face up. Her arms were by her sides. Her feet were first and she was moving fast. I waited. The timing had to be perfect: first her feet, then her waist, now! I plunged my right arm into the frigid Pacific, grabbed her precisely where I planned to, pulled her up out of the water, and hard against me. When she gasped for breath, I knew she was okay. Thank you, Father!

The water receded: knee deep, ankle deep, gone.

My wife came running over. We walked far up to dry sand to put both girls onto a previously discarded coat. The younger was fine. The older was soaking wet, coughing up salt water, sand was in her eyes, ears, mouth, and hair. She was shaken up, but otherwise fine too.

The ocean returned to normal. The sun was shining. It was warm. There was no wind. It was a beautiful day. We looked around in disbelief, but no one else was on the beach to ask, “Did you see that? Did you see that?”

God saw it. That is all that mattered. He had slain our Goliath that day.

Today, our daughters love and serve God locally and in the far reaches of the globe.

_______________

[1] Melissa Locker, “Mother Nature does not mess around,” Time, January 27, 2016, accessed June 9, 2016,  http://time.com/4195702/sneaker-wave-oregon-video/

 

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