Reverent awe. Fear. Respect.
It was relatively early when I walked out the front door of our beachfront rental in Capitola and was – “alarmed” isn’t the right word, although that would come shortly after – but I was “taken aback” by how high the tide was and how close the water was coming to our condo. I thought, “I am this tiny human being, on this tiny piece of beach, and before me is this immense, powerful, and unruly ocean – beautiful, yes, but also capable of a lot more than just soft, playful waves.” And I just kept watching.
Then our nextdoor neighbor joined me out front, and, as I looked at the tide, she said to me, “Have you heard about the tsunami warnings this morning?” – to which I said, “No, I haven’t” and my “taken aback-ness” quickly turned to alarm. “Yeah,” she said, “you should turn on the local news. An underwater volcano is erupting in Tonga, sending waves and surges in all directions – including towards the West Coast.” At this point, I was definitely alarmed.
“So,” I responded, “do you think it would be wise to pack up and head to higher ground? I mean, could this property get flooded with these surges?” To which she answered, “We’ve been coming here for years, and very rarely have I seen surges flood these condos. And today’s shouldn’t be too bad. Our grandkids are coming today, and I don’t think these surges will be anything big.”
All this time, I continued to watch the water rise closer and closer to our condo. I turned to my wife and said, “It’s time to pack up and head out. Now. I don’t want to take the chance of being caught up in any flooding if the water continues to rise.”
So we hurriedly started packing up our things and loading our van – which was parked at higher ground. Amazingly, the water receded and calmed a bit, and we loaded our car with no issues. Until we were just about done.
I finished getting our final load in the van, and I returned to the condo to turn off the lights and lock up. The rising waters were back, and were starting to make their way onto the sidewalk out in front of our condo. I closed and locked the front door, only to turn around to see water flooding the sidewalk outside our condo – at least 3 inches deep, maybe more, and unruly with the ocean’s surges. Needless to say, I ran through the water, headed away from the beach to the parking lot, jumped in our van, and started the engine. My wife took a quick moment to capture the rising water on video, then she jumped in the van. We pulled out of the parking lot, and headed out.
All said, it was quite the morning.
It’s a bit surreal to write about this, 48 hours after it all took place. But that feeling of smallness in the face of an immense power like the Pacific Ocean has not left me. It’s a kind of reverent awe mixed with a sense of fear of and respect for the might that the Pacific Ocean wields each and every day – especially on days where there are tsunami warnings. We are just tiny humans, on a tiny plot of coast line, totally at the mercy of something almost infinitely bigger than ourselves.
Which makes me think, also, about our relationship with God. He is immense in His power and creativity and ability to shape human history – yet He cares deeply about us. With God, I can’t help but feel a kind of reverent awe mixed with a sense of fear and respect – yet He loves us. We are just tiny humans, on tiny plots of land, totally at the mercy of things infinitely bigger than ourselves – yet God sent His Son, Jesus, to live, die, and resurrect for us, so that we might be in perfect relationship with Him. I keep thinking about the Psalm: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalms 8:4 NIV). God is infinite and eternal and all-powerful and all-knowing, and we are totally at His mercy – yet His love for us is perfect and perfecting, and He welcomes us home into perfect relationship with Himself just like the father of the prodigal son.
Lin-Manuel Miranda writes in Hamilton, “Oceans rise, empires fall” – which hits very close to home today (to say the least LOL 😅). I’m super thankful we got out safely from Capitola, and I’m also sending lots of prayers to everyone affected by the surges along the California coast and beyond. But I’m also super thankful that the God of the Universe is mindful of us. That He cares for us. The power He wields is immense, just like the ocean and its surges. Yet, He loves us.
So I find myself with this three-part response today:
Prayers for Capitola and everyone affected by the surging tides.