deadly riptide

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Mark Occhilupo


It was a coastal wind and it was biting. We were at our usual spot on the beach in Santa Monica, early, at a time when few others had yet to wake up from the night. Towels served as insufficient blankets, noses popping out for air as we sat on the sand, watching our brothers surf. Eventually, the usual crowd of sun-seekers would come, but for now, it was just our small group and a few tourists who had come to take advantage of the beach outside their hotels. A typical morning that would soon become the day we stood trembling, our hands formed in teepees against our lips, eyes strained open in fear. The boys had finished their morning surf session and we all sat on the wet sand, watching the tumultuous waves of a sudden riptide. We had learned from a young age to allow the vast ocean to pull us out beyond our comfort level when we sensed the powerful draw of a riptide, drifting beyond the waves and then calmly swimming to the right or left, down the beach and forward again to safety on the shore. One’s natural inclination is to swim back to the beach, followed by panic as the arms of the sea hold tightly, sucking you back-a vortex of the will of the ocean against your own. The next moments exhaust the body and the danger of drowning becomes a real and perilous danger. Nearby, the tourists, who we would later discover were in town for a wedding, lived in a landlocked state, the ocean a wonder to them. Two young boys were bravely enduring the chill and splashing about happily near the shore. Soon, the waves began to draw them further towards the dark waters of the deep and their father plunged in after them. Noticing the women standing by the edge of the whitewater in a panic, our brothers ran down the beach to a distant lifeguard station for help. The father had reached his sons and we stood relieved as he pushed them forward into a wave and onto the shore and then just as quickly, he himself sunk under the water and did not reappear. Lifeguards in red swim trunks dove into the breakers, searching. At last, they surfaced with the father and began to perform life saving measures there in the waves. The paramedics arrived and several rescuers performed CPR, trying to revive him as his family stood by trembling in shock. Eventually, they loaded him into an ambulance and transported him to a nearby hospital. We would later learn that he suffered a massive heart attack in the water, and tragically, he lost his life that day.


That father gave his life for his sons, and for all their days they would remember his final act of love for them, his children. So should we remember the love of our Heavenly Father. God, unlike the father on the beach, purposed to give His Son in death on the cross that we, His earthly children, lost and drowning under the weight of sin, might be saved. And yet, we often go through life as though we were still sputtering about, flailing for help, all the while missing the buoy right in front of us. Don’t allow the burdens of your problems to cause you to miss the truth that God gave you His best gift first-His only Son. Look out over the vastness of the ocean of your trials and discover that God is an ever-present help in trouble, already proven on the cross and waiting to lift you up.

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