I was 10 when it happened.
It was a warm September day in San Diego. Dad said, “Let’s go to the Cove!” Dad, mom and six kids piled into the van, and down to La Jolla Cove we went. We stood on the rock cliffs enjoying the pleasant breeze and watching the jumbo surf, the result of a storm off the coast of Baja. The water came almost to where we were standing. We kids wanted to take our shoes off, but dad said no, we aren’t going swimming. Bummed, we tried to at least move far enough down the rocks to feel the salt spray on our faces. Bliss.
The waves roared in and pounded the rocks. It was crowded that day. Lots of other folks trying to catch a break from the heat. My older brother and I inched our way out in front of the rest of the family. We hadn’t gone too far when dad called us back. Bummed again, I turned to walk back asking “Why?” I was too late. The breaking wave knocked me off my feet and began pulling me out into the ocean. I frantically grasped at the rocks of the cliffs, desperately seeking a hand hold. They were slick and only cut at my fingers as I thrashed. I remember my family receding from view as the water pulled me out and overcame me. I was not a strong swimmer, and I still had shoes on. I was pushed down deep in the water — so deep that I could not see any light. I was disoriented. I did not know which way was up. I tried to kick off my shoes. My life flashed before my eyes. My lungs were burning. I knew I was going to die.
Then another wave came pounding in and pushed me up to the surface of the water. I gasped for air and had only an instant until I was pushed down, down, down in the water a second time. In that split second, I saw my brother next to me in the water on the right. And a stranger, a man, to my left. I realized he was trying to help me, but then we were all tossed up, down and under by the ten-foot swells. The waves kept coming. Each time I was able to get a breath, I became more aware of my surroundings, but also more exhausted. I saw the cliff side behind me, and a large cropping of rocks in front of me. The waves rushed in around both sides and over the the top of the boulders in front of me; the force of the water slammed my body into the side of the cliff. Then the pull of the wave receding tossed my body like a piece of driftwood, and slammed it into the cropping of rocks. The pain was unbearable.
After one of my trips under the water, I came up to find two more men next to me. Lifeguards! They communicated with me the best they could over the immense noise of the ocean. Timing was of the essence. Taking advantage of the two-second micro pause between wave crashing and wave receding, one lifeguard pulled me quickly out from between the rocks and the cliff and over to the adjacent beach where he left me, lying on the sand, completely exhausted, bloody and unable to even get up. He immediately went back out for the man who had tried to help me. I lay there in the warm sand gratefully gulping the air and letting the adrenaline surge diminish while spectators gathered around me. My brother, meanwhile, was pulled out by the second lifeguard. and when they arrived on the beach, they started some first aid. We were bloody from head to toe. Cuts, scrapes and bruises. I still have scars. The lifeguards bandaged us the best they could, but they did not have enough bandages to cover all our wounds.
As we were reunited with our parents, I noticed that my mom, seven months pregnant, was soaking wet. I learned that she had tried to grab me as I slipped away. She had also fallen in the water, but the water had washed her a different way. She was caught in a crevice in the rock. Two men who had been fishing nearby pulled her to safety. We thanked the lifeguards, the stranger who had tried to come to my aid as I was washed off the cliffs and all the bystanders who had helped. Some had taken care of my younger siblings as my dad helped my mom. Someone who lived nearby brought out treats for the younger ones, to distract them from the chaos and fear of a world turned topsy-turvy.
Finally, very much shaken as a family, we made our way home. We were so thankful to just be alive. We spent the next several days just enjoying our time together. I did a lot of thinking. Why, God? Why did this happen? What was the purpose? I learned that less than 24 hours later, two grown men were swept to their deaths from very spot. It could have so easily been me! Why not? Why did God spare me that day? I did not know. I couldn’t fathom it then and I don’t presume to know now. But I know this. God snatched me from death for a PURPOSE. He had/has a purpose for me. I was called to follow him. I did not know what the purpose would be but knowing that he saved me gave me confidence and hope for the future.
I come back to that hope when things get hard. When I am discouraged. When I feel my life has no point, no meaning, no significance. Or when circumstances are overwhelming and I feel like giving up. This purpose for which I was saved gives me courage and strength to keep going. This purpose does not appear to be extraordinary. I have yet to save the world. My purpose is found in the everyday. Faithfulness in a life that is sometime monotonous. Often thankless. One that is difficult to judge the outcome and gauge success. I do not know the future. I do not know what impact my life will have on future generations for his glory. But it is good and this is where faith occurs. And if I had died that day, there are twelve people who would not exist today.
God has saved each one of us for a purpose. This is something I work hard to teach my children. I happen to be blessed to REALIZE I was snatched from death. We are all one accident, one false move, one phone call away from the same. What is your purpose? What does God have for you to accomplish while on this earth?
There’s more to this story, aside from what happened to me. My mom, after her fall, no longer felt her unborn baby moving. For a full day and a half, nothing. We feared the worst, but then the kicks resumed. My baby brother was born healthy, at full term, two months later. He is named Isaiah, which means “God has delivered” or “God saves”. Truly God is our salvation. Always. Whether we acknowledge it or not.