Waves broke my friend’s face.
She lounged in a tide pool, enjoying the water, and holding her infant son securely to her chest. She watched her husband and two-year-old daughter exploring the tide pool’s ridgeline. Suddenly, in her periphery, she saw monster waves thundering toward them.
Regularly the news tells stories of people walking atop tide pools being swept away into the sea by random massive waves. Recently a crashing wave tragically pulled my sister’s friend’s husband out to sea at this same tide pool. His body has not been recovered.
With only seconds to react, my friend called to her husband to grab their daughter. She tightened her grip on her son and leaned her body protectively around him as much as possible as the waves crashed over the top of the lava rocks, pounding and crushing.
She couldn’t see or hear anything besides churning water intent on tumbling and breaking her against the rock walls of the tide pool. She tumbled and hit and tumbled and hit. With the powerful force of each impact, she feared she would lose consciousness and let go of her son. The unrelenting water finally gave way and subsided.
She peeled herself off the rock and retracted her body, anxious to assess her son’s status. Miraculously, he escaped unscathed. She looked for her husband and daughter. She found him, but he didn’t have their daughter. They frantically searched for her. They found their two-year-old daughter in another tide pool across the way, somehow treading water and uninjured.
My friend, relieved at her children’s miraculous protection, suddenly saw blood oozing across her son’s body. Upon examination, she realized it wasn’t his blood. Her blood gushed out of her face onto her son. She felt sharp, searing burning across her own eye, scalp, forehead, and cheekbone. Her face was broken. She thought she’d lost an eye.
A woman and her two twenty-something sons just finished the hike down to the tide pools as the waves hit. They were the only other people at the tide pools. The woman just happened to be a nurse. She immediately took charge of the situation, calmly telling my friend to hold her son’s shirt as a compress against the gaping hole in her face. The woman’s sons helped pack out the kids and helped her husband stabilize my friend for the hike back out to the road, to cell coverage, to the car to begin the long journey to a hospital.
Ultimately, a helicopter life-flighted her the distance to the hospital where she underwent hours of surgery to piece her face back together using miles of staples and stitches. Today, after nearly 22 years, only a sliver of a scar remains on her face, but she sees it every day. It’s a constant reminder of the day she broke her face and lived to tell about it.
I’ve thought of that briefest of opportunities she had to prepare. She shouted a warning to her family. She braced herself as best she could and determined to hold on with all her might.
Caught Unawares Waves
In contrast, I think of another type monster wave.
My husband and I settled on an outcropping a little above Maui’s Nakalele Blowhole, positioned to take great pictures of my sister Daciana and brother-in-law Mark at the blowhole. They finished the descent to the blowhole and stood off to the side of the blowhole itself, getting a selfie with their backs toward the tall lava wall that completely blocked their view of the ocean.
The blowhole spews out of a large flat surface enclosed almost entirely by tall lava walls. It’s an amazing blowhole. Water propels out of the hole high into the air, drenching anything nearby.
So they stood just out of the blowhole’s drenching range to get a first picture with their brand new camera.
From our vantage point above, I saw the waves rolling in and started shouting. They couldn’t hear me (amazing, I know.) The water surged high above the lava wall and engulfed the entire blowhole area and everyone in it.
The first inkling Daciana had of impending danger was when that wall of water pounded her and Mark. Luckily they, and everyone else, were 0kay. But, the first, and last, picture of their blowhole experience is of water and nothing else. The brand new waterlogged camera was as dead as a doornail.
Eli’s Periphery Wave
Throughout life, we’re pummeled by metaphorical periphery waves we can brace for and waves that catch us completely off guard.
The Lord told Samuel to warn Eli that he and his wicked sons would be destroyed if they didn’t repent. Eli’s sons administered in the tabernacle and had broken their covenants before God and the Lord was angered at Eli’s apathy for the sacredness of their office.
Apparently, Eli did little to curb their sins at the door of the tabernacle. As prophesied, in one day, both sons were killed in battle and the ark of God, which they carried into battle, was taken by the Philistines. Stunned when he heard that the ark of God was taken, Eli fell out of his chair, broke his neck and died.
The Lord warned Eli that the wave was coming. Why didn’t Eli react? The Lord told Samuel that Eli knew their sins and “restrained them not.” Because he didn’t act, the wave destroyed Eli’s entire household.
Nineveh’s Periphery Wave
Jonah warned Nineveh that if they didn’t repent, they would be destroyed.
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. … For word came unto the king of Nineveh … and he caused it to be proclaimed … let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”
They saw the wave coming and they immediately changed. Their repentance appeased the Lord’s wrath.
A Children of Israel’s Periphery Wave
To defer the final plague from their households, the Lord commanded the Israelites to do some very specific things.
“On the 10th Abib (March or April) a male lamb (or kid) of the first year, without blemish, was chosen for each family or two small families in Israel. It was slain by the whole congregation between the evenings (between sunset and total darkness) of the 14th Abib, and its blood sprinkled on the lintel and two sideposts of the doors of the houses.
It was roasted with fire, and no bone of it was broken. It was eaten standing, ready for a journey, and in haste, with unleavened loaves and bitter herbs. Anything left was burned with fire, and no persons went out of their houses until the morning.”
Moses warned them about the impending wave of death. Those who followed the directions lived. Those who ignored the directions lost their firstborn sons.
A Children of Israel’s Caught Unawares Wave
After that horrific night of miracle and death, the children of Israel began their exodus. After journeying, potentially, hundreds of miles, they discovered the Egyptian chariots hot on their trail. In stress and fear, they turned to Moses, the prophet, who commanded them to “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”
Though the wave caught them by surprise, Moses parted the sea, and the children of Israel walked through on dry ground and were saved.
Laman and Lemuel’s Caught Unawares Wave
Even though they grumbled about returning to Jerusalem for Laban’s brass plates, Laman and Lemuel still went. The periphery wave seemed to be their initial concern about Laban and his status. Two unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the plates, capped by fleeing for their lives, seemed to catch them by surprise. In their fear and anger, they began beating their younger brothers. An angel intervened, chastising Laman and Lemuel.
“And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?”
From this point forward, even after angelic promises, Laman and Lemuel’s wave tumbled them to destruction.
Joseph Smith’s Caught Unawares Wave
Joseph decided to ask God which church to join.
“After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Joseph felt like he would be destroyed by the wave that hit him, so he called upon God for deliverance and God saved him.
How Do You React When Waves Hit?
Even with advanced notice, waves can tumble us unrelentingly. How do you react? Are you determined to hold on or do you yield to the waves’ pressure? Do you exert all of your powers to call upon God or do you abandon yourself to destruction?
Even when our actions create the waves, we can still call upon God and look to His deliverance. We can break our necks in the tumult or respond to God’s call. Maybe He’ll part the waves for us to pass through or maybe we’ll break our faces on the rocks.
For me, the purpose of waves is to have some part of myself destroyed, some part of me changed. Being tumbled by waves brings me clarity and purpose. After the waves subside, if not before, I often find the two-year-old miraculously treading water or the light, above the brightness of the sun, resting upon me.
“For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”
What are your waves telling you? How do you react to the waves that hit?
Consider the Lord’s invitation:
“Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.”