I never saw a tide rise so fast. As my son, in a panicked voice, alerted me that there was water at his window, I closed my eyes and asked for God’s help.
I’ve spent my life trying to figure things out on my own. Even though I was raised in church, I saw the ugly side of Christianity; I saw plenty of fakes and phonies, so I never took it seriously. As I constantly attempted to fix problems that were too big for me, my life was crumbling around me. My relationships were damaged, my finances were rocky, and I was drowning.
As a single mom of three kids, being independent and doing things without help from others was something I was used to. I’ve made a lot of poor choices in my past that made me feel unworthy of God. I thought I could never climb out of the holes I had dug for myself and felt like I couldn’t outrun my problems.
In the midst of struggle, my friend invited me and my kids to Sandals Church. My hope was that I would find answers that I hadn’t been able to find on my own, so I started attending every weekend.
Headed for the Sea
A few months later, I was still miserable and felt my life spinning out of control, so I thought a little getaway might make me feel better. I had recently bought a new car as a way to reward myself for how hard I had been working, so I decided that my son and I would skip church one weekend and take a drive up the coast in the new car.
My plan was that we would get to the beach and camp out for the night and all of my worries would disappear.
Even before we got on the road, there were lots of small things that came up that should have made me change my mind about the trip, but I was determined to still go.
About five hours later, we reached the shores of Central California, so I drove through the sand to be near the water. The day was absolutely beautiful; the weather was perfect and the sun was shining. My son and I were making jokes and taking photos of the day. As we were enjoying each other’s company, the tide began to rise. The waves were creeping further up the sand, little by little, and I realized that the water was getting too close to the car.
The Rising Tide
I quickly told my son to get back in the car and threw the car into reverse so we could get out of the tide. That’s when I realized my car wasn’t a four-wheel-drive, as I had thought when I purchased it. I tried to play cool on the outside for my son, but on the inside, I was scared. Our laughter quickly turned to silence inside the vehicle as I kept trying to get the car out of the sand. Every time I pushed the accelerator, the wheels kept spinning and digging deeper into the sand.
Within a few minutes of trying to get out, I heard my son’s tiny voice call to me, “Mommy! There’s water at my window!”
I knew I had to do something more if we wanted to escape.
I had purchased new sleeping bags for our camping trip, so I tore apart the cardboard box that they came in to use for traction under the car tires. Almost immediately, the pieces were washed out into the ocean, so I just sat there, looking at my son and told him to get out of the car.
In that moment, all I could think about was how hard I had worked my whole life and all I had to show for it was that car; and now it seemed that I wouldn’t even have that to show for much longer.
I felt so helpless and I cried out to God. I asked him where he was and where he had been throughout my life. His response was clearer than anything I had understood before; he told me that whether or not I had asked him to be part of my life, he had always been there with me.
No Longer Alone
Within minutes of that confirmation, people showed up, surrounded my son and I and began to help get our car out of the sand. I sat there, at the mercy of strangers, as the wind rushed by us.
All of a sudden, I had peace as I looked around and watched these strangers help us.
They pulled the car out of the sand and rising water, but they didn’t stop there. They followed us all the way out the park and stayed with us until they were sure we were safe.
I remember sitting in the car once we were back on the road and through my tears, I thanked God. I meant to miss church that following day, but I knew in that moment, everything that had just happened was a sign to drive back home. The drive would take us hours, but I wasn’t going to make my own decision again.
On the five-hour drive home that fateful night, I looked over at my son sleeping the front seat and reminisced about how much time I spent working and trying so hard to give my kids a great life. My son looked to me that day to keep him safe and guide him, and I was such a mess, even if he didn’t see it. I wondered what kind of example my life was for my children.
But God’s voice kept replaying in my mind, reminding me that he is always present.
That moment brought clarity and surviving that experience was one more thing that I didn’t have the strength or knowledge to do on my own. That car was a perfect picture of my life. I felt like I was in the water all the time without the ability to pull myself out. God confirmed that I was not alone in the universe and because of that, I feel like I can be a better mother, daughter and teacher.
I believe that God is proud of how far I’ve come and I think that regardless of all that I’ve been through, I think he is truly using me to impact the people around me and I am so thankful for that opportunity. I can find peace in moments that I shouldn’t – just like the peace I felt as I watched water that was stronger than myself almost drag me out to its depths.
Without what I’ve learned about God at Sandals Church, I would never have bridged the gap between knowing myself - the unpolished and messy person that I am - and actually believing that I do deserve God’s love. Even though my problems haven’t all been solved, I have peace and forgiveness in their midst.