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Undertow

Earlier this Summer, my family took a trip to San Diego. As I sat there on the beach, I was revisited by childhood memories of swimming in the ocean.

The sun would barely be coming up, when my mom would cover my brothers and I in layers of sunscreen before we’d go out into the water. One particular trip, I was dragged in an undertow, seconds felt like minutes as I fought the wave to spit me out. My dad was able to grab a hold and pull my 40-pound self out of the water. As I coughed up stinging saltwater, I vowed never to swim that far again… my vow of course did not last long.

The following day at the beach, I stayed on the shore watching my dad and brothers get tossed around by the waves. I wanted to be them, carefree and fearless… but the crashing tide reminded me of the defeat from the day before. That afternoon, my dad took my board with one hand and my hand with the other and said, “Let’s go.” Just two simple words… two words that I could be sure of. My dad has always been a man of few words… his actions did the talking, and I could always be confident that with him at my side, I’d be okay. 

So, we went back out into the water. He taught me how to dive under the larger waves and jump through the smaller ones. His hand never seemed to let go of my board until I was ready to ride back to shore. It was as if time stopped, my fears were diminished, and I too, felt carefree.

As I sat on the beach this Summer, revisited by this memory, I felt my Heavenly Father speak to me through it. I can look back at times of trial or pain and think, “God, where were you?” The reality is that He was there, even in those moments. It was His hand that pulled me out from those undertows. It was the moments where I felt in over my head that I realized I needed the strength and protection of my Father. The same hand that pulls me out of moments of defeat, is the same hand inviting me to go forward on new adventures with Him. 

Isaiah 43:2 “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.”

4 Comments

  1. Nikki! Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory. It speaks to me of being seen, known, and called out — of being blessed. I am encouraged by the idea of God saving us (me!) from the undertow but also inviting us back in and equipping us for success, joy, and adventure.

  2. As one who did not have a father like this, it helps me to understand God as my Father. I know sometimes this is difficult to hear because you (or Sue, or Karen, or my own daughter Anna) had/have something I did not. Qver many years of healing, I experience such things as a beautiful view into the Kingdom of God. Thank you.

    • Julie,

      I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this. I can’t even imagine how difficult that would be to grow up without a Fatherly example.

      It is such a sad truth in our world today that so many people are raised without father figures. Watching my two new nephews (who hadn’t had a good father) with my brother has brought me to tears many times… to see how much they are longing for that fatherly love. That longing is such an innate part of us and leaves a missing piece when it is not fulfilled.

      Maybe that’s why I felt driven to share this… because I understand so many people have not had this in their own lives. I hope by sharing this that it can bring healing and encourage people of the kind of Heavenly Father that He is to all of us.

  3. When my sons were young we went to the beach and Derek, my youngest, also got caught in an undertow. I saw him as he disappeared under the water and I raced to get to him. The strong rip current also knocked me off my feet and I flailed around trying to find him and keep my head above water at the same time. I miraculously grabbed his hair and head and desperately held on to him and tried fighting the powerful current at the same time. I was soon exhausted and knew we were both going to drown. It was sheer terror. Lifeguards on a pontoon raft rescued us. Derek had swallowed huge amounts of water and they did compressions to get him breathing again. I was so grateful that I’d seen him go under the water and that rescuers came after us. I’ll never forget trying to hold Derek’s head above water and swim toward the shore when every one armed stroke and leg kick had me farther from the shore and more exhausted. I’ve never felt more helpless in my life.

    A dozen or more years ago I took Justin and Derek to California for a “boy’s week away” and we went to the beach. Derek was unable to even wade in the ocean and all my own awful memories came flooding back. I was reminded again that when a dad couldn’t rescue his kid, the Father could and did.

    Thank you for your beautiful story. It reminds me again of God’s goodness and provision.

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