I couldn't breathe. Eyes squeezed tight with only the sound of water, that dreamy echo of bubbles and deafness, pulsing around me. My mind filled in the rest. Sometimes it's best to just keep your eyes closed when you know something bad is happening. Pull the covers over your head and it all goes away. Eventually you'll make it back to the surface. Just hold on for another second. Oxygen and light will drive away this dark, cloudy swirl of the unknown. Except I didn't make it to the surface. A massive wall of water picked up this husky 44 year old and threw me to the bottom.
I didn't resist. I flailed. Half trying to protect my body and half (well, probably more than half) trying to protect my pride. You're thinking about all the cool California people on the beach, watching your impending doom, and what occupies you mind is: "How can I not look stupid in this?" It's amazing the lengths our egos will go - even in the moment that we're going down, to retain our dignity.
Thousands of gallons of salty water thought nothing of my pride, hurling me into what felt like concrete. For some reason I thought that things happened in slow motion underwater. Like trying to run through a pool to chase someone while playing sharks and minnows. Water draped like a heavy blanket, keeping you from quick movements, pressing back into your body. Maybe you get scraped up from the sand or slightly disoriented from being tossed about, but seriously hurt? No.
Apparently bones are pretty strong. You can do some quick research on the internet (always reliable) and find any number of references to "5 times as strong as steel" or "can withstand the weight of 19,000 lbs". My bones neglected to read those posts and decided to give way to the physics of 1000's of gallons of water moving with the gravitational force of the sun and moon. Its one of those science things that I've never quite understood, but my body didn't care. Instead of 4 times the strength of granite, my left shoulder fractured into 3 pieces. The next thing to hit was my face. I can still remember the taste of sand, salt and blood. I thought/prayed one of those muddled jumble of words when I was underwater… Lord, just help me get up.
I teetered to my feet, found the boogie board that had failed me, grabbed it with the arm that still worked, stumbled up the beach and sat down next to Lisa.
"I think I'm really hurt."
This was me… watching out for my kids while they played in the ocean. This was me being the protector, the strong one, the Daddy who keeps them safe. Didn't I do a good job? Far from it. I bent (in more ways than one) to the will and strength of the ocean.
The ocean. A vast, powerful, mysterious element of creation that both frightens and beckons us to dip our toes. We plan vacations just to see it. I have always lived far enough away from the big blue that the first thing we always did - even after 10 hours in the car that smelled like old McDonalds - was to go straight to the ocean. The condo or rental house would wait. We needed to see it… again. To feel the soft sand on our lily white bare feet, to walk into the surf and stand there long enough to feel the spray on your face and the pull of the water beneath your toes.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?
We know the answer, but really we don't know… not fully. He is beyond comprehension, too vast, too marvelous for words to describe. We attempt to contain what cannot be contained. We try to control each moment, every small detail, in order to accomplish the best and prevent the worst. Yet He alone tells the waves where to stop and go no further.
I lay there that first night, shoulder obliterated, sleeping in the second double bed of that Seal Beach hotel so that any slight movement from Lisa might not awaken the pain. It wasn't that I was sleeping, merely trying not to move. I had plenty to think about in those first sleepless hours of the night.
We had been through quite a day as a family. I had not been able to protect them from the power of the ocean. I couldn't protect myself. I felt like a toddler, unable to do anything for myself. Lisa had to help me do everything. Salt and sand clung to me as the black and blue of blood filled my shoulder. I was a mess. I stood in the shower and shivered as Lisa tried her best to wash away the beach. Shivering caused my muscles to all begin moving and working in my shoulder, which is a bad thing for bones that are connected to those muscles and tendons. Far from being the tough guy who can take pain, I turned a milky white and the tears were unstoppable.
I was crying. Lisa was crying. The Bammers came in and they were crying. Well, here we all are… one family, gathered around a very broken Husband and Father… and the tears are flowing. Happy vacation. This isn't what we had planned.
I'm not much of a planner. It's probably the thing I will least likely do in life. If they had the yearbook category "Most Likely Not to Plan", it would have been mine in spaids. It's just not my thing- except for one time of the year.
When the ball drops on yet another year, I feel like Jesus just hit restart. And I begin to "plan" my New Year's resolutions. I love them. I buy new journals, download new apps, new pens… whatever it takes to feel the freedom of a blank page. I write those resolutions with gusto. Little boxes next to each item, written with precision so that they are ready to be checked off… until they aren't. I last for a few weeks. The journal entries become less frequent. The routines fade. It doesn't take long before every one of my resolutions is broken.
In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
I feel a slight ache in my (now healed) left shoulder. I move it around in small circles to remind my body what it used to be able to do. The pops and clicks tell me that a permanent limp (of sorts) has made a home. Scar tissue and new bone have re-shaped and renewed what was broken and weak. But something else has risen to the surface, past the debris and swirl of the churning circumstances of life.
I have no control. He has all of it. My perceived ability to protect my children, prevent disaster or transform my own heart are illusions. My dependence on Jesus is absolute. My resolve is nothing apart from the ocean of His grace and mercy. And once more, I make it to the surface of His love, picked up and carried by waves that I did not summon, nor can I control, but will surely lead me home.