Sneaky Crabs, Sea Turtles, and the Thunderous Swells of Life

Hawaii’s Big Island is still in her youth, growing wild and free as lava spews from Kilauea Volcano. All of Hawaii is made of lava; but unlike the older islands, much of Kona’s surface is still shiny, sharp, and twisted. Veins of black and brown run down the mountainside for miles, scars of fiery red rivers burning their way to the sea. Greenery eventually sprouts through the scorched earth, as seen in the rainforests on Mauna Loa and the gentle rolling grasslands of Kohala. Though her older sisters appear softer through their jungle greenery, I love this particular island because her story shows on her face; a life still in motion, a portrait still being painted.

Though Kona has her share of postcard-perfect beaches, they lie between vast stretches where only lava meets the sea. Ceaseless waves batter the shoreline home of creatures great and small; a landscape so inhospitable that humans pack their lunches, slather on sunscreen, and race their rental cars north in search of the sandy crescents. No one goes back to the mainland bragging about time spent stubbing their toes on lava. But I found treasures on this gritty gray shore. Critters both creepy and comforting depend on God in this scary place, where crashing waves bring nourishment as well as the danger of dashing them to death.

On my first day in town I sat on the seawall, watching the tide pools below. Something skittered across the rocks, black against black; like a movement you’d see from the corner of your eye. There it was again- things jumping from rock to rock, scrambling just out of sight. My legs dangled below me as I leaned over the side and saw CRABS! Black, skittery crabs leaping everywhere. I hate crabs! I pulled my legs up so fast I almost fell over backwards. Crabs have always freaked me out, since I was a kid growing up in south Florida. These were even worse- they were black and hiding in the rocks just below my feet, jumping out when the waves rolled back. Once my legs were safely tucked beneath me, I watched with amazement God’s design for these creepy critters; a design both simple and divine.

Each swell that broke upon the lava seemed to leave something appetizing for these sneaky little jumpers. I never could see what they ate, but after each passing wave they’d rush to the puddles, eat like mad, and skitter back to the shadows. Occasionally one would be washed away, furiously flailing his tiny pincers (ew!) against the tide in a hopeless effort to regain his footing. Only  God knows where he ended up. But His care for even these least-appealing creatures was obvious, both in the tide pool snack bar and in their camouflage coloring. The drama was not lost on me. If the God I love takes good care of these cold-blooded rock-dwellers, how much more does He care for me?

Quite a bit, it seems. Beyond the silver spray of the breakers, I saw a little flipper rise above the surface, waving lazily from the next tide pool over. A sea turtle! I love sea turtles! Definitely a step up from crabs. In the course of the next ten days I would have amazing interactions with these creatures, which I will describe in my posts to come. This one paddled around the pool, presumably nosing around for the soft green limu they love to eat. The breakers didn’t seem to worry her, and unlike her creepy neighbors, she wasn’t in a hurry. Her shell blended perfectly against the mottled black and brown of lava underwater. One thunderous wave rolled in and crashed upon the rocks, sucking the tide pool dry on its way back out to sea. The turtle was gone; off to greener pastures and deeper waters. Her quiet exit seemed to lack the panic of the crab flailing his pincers to regain his footing; she simply went with the tide, going with the flow.

As I’ve written in recent posts, I arrived on the island spiritually disheveled and emotionally leveled. Sitting on the seawall and communing with the crabs just about reached the level of my expectations as far as hearing from God. And because He loves me, He met me right where I was. Then a turtle raised her flipper, calling my attention outside the rocks; I lifted my eyes to life beyond the impact zone. Yes, I can be the skittery, panicky crab: afraid of the danger and running for my life. But God didn’t create me to run from every passing wave. He created me to trust Him. When thunderous swells suck the life from my soul, I can let Him carry me to greener pastures and deeper waters. I can aspire to be like the unperturbed turtle, trusting God in the breakers of life.

I love Kona, the Big Island of Hawaii, because her story shows on her face; a life still in motion, a portrait still being painted. I thank God that mine is, too.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5 NIV

© Rachel Ophoff 2011, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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