All work and no play makes Jack a dull missionary, so that weekend, Lib and I leave YWAM Ships’ base and drive to Two-Step; a famous snorkel and dive spot, just 40-minutes south of Kailua-Kona along Route 11 on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Two-Step is called that because of a narrow set of naturally formed shelves at the edge of an ancient lava flow. Swimmers use these stairs to safely enter and exit the otherwise rugged mile-long crescent of Honaunau Bay. The water quality, corals and abundant marine life there can be spectacular. On good days, it’s like swimming in a saltwater fish tank.
This day is all of that. Lib and I swim for over an hour, exploring the north end of the bay in search of dolphins and ending the afternoon with an obligatory duck dive through the submerged arch at the south end of the beach.
Sun-dried and salty, we feel pretty mellow by the time we get back to the truck, but panic hits when I reach for the keys. They are not on the tire, nor in my pockets. The two tiny keys on a single ring are gone!
With a face-palm slap, I remember choosing to swim in my shorts rather than change into trunks and foolishly forgot to empty my pocket. I pray fast and simple: Jesus! You know where those keys are, please show me. And immediately, I begin to scour the ground around the truck hoping for a miracle but knowing full well the keys are out in the bay.
hu·mil·i·ty /(h)yo͞oˈmilədē/ noun.
“That feeling that overtakes you when you have to call the guy who loaned you the truck for the weekend to ask if a spare key exists.”
You really know who your friends are when your boss – the guy who owns the truck back up north – answers his cell on a Saturday afternoon and happily says he’ll be right there with the spare key. (Thank you, Nick.) That alone is a miracle these days, but hoping beyond hope to spare him the trip, I grab my gear and head back to the shoreline asking all who I passed if they have found a set of keys.
At the Steps I slip back in, swimming concentric arcs out along the bottom toward deeper water. Twenty minutes go by and I feel silly. Looking for two small keys on a single ring in a quarter-mile bed of complex, layered coral is like looking for a black needle in a field of blue ones. Ridiculous.
“Come on, Jesus,” I plead. “You know where they are. Please show me.”
What happens next is hard to explain in any way that I might expect you to believe me. But here it is just the same.
A strange kind of peace settles upon me and two words fill my mind out of the blue… Stop Looking. It dawns on me that I could look for weeks and find nothing unless my prayer for help is answered, so I stop and just float on the surface in six feet of water calmly breathing through my snorkel.
And that’s when a large, brightly-coloured Parrotfish swims by.
Parrotfish, what a funny name, I think. Like the bird that talks, but a fish. I am stupid tired and make a hollow chuckle into my snorkel. The fish continues past and makes a slow, sweeping circle around me, stopping about 15-feet ahead and to my left. The fish looks at me. I look at the fish.
The story of Balaam suddenly comes to mind. It’s a lesser known story from the Bible, where God gets the attention of a reluctant prophet using a talking mule. Balaam isn’t the good guy in the story and I’m not liking the implications of my recall.
“Lord, surely, You are not talking to me through a Parrotfish,” but in my heart I know that to actually find out I will have to follow this new lead. I swim toward the fish. Nothing. Yet, curious I follow the creature deeper toward the drop-off and only then realize that I have been led back to the route that Lib and I swam earlier in search of dolphins.
The coral seabed undulates beneath me now in 10-20 feet of water, but I am no longer looking. Instead, I am cruising along faster, still scanning, but enjoying the day more, diving when prompted, skipping over entire sections of reef at other times.
Twenty more minutes pass and still nothing, even the Parrotfish has abandoned me. I am almost 100 yards from the Steps and below in about 30′ of water is a large sand patch with a curious landmark. Divers have gathered white rocks together to spell “ALOHA” on the bottom. Kicking lazily overhead I am wiped out. It is time to turn back.
“Lord, I prayed…,” my heart recalls. And at that moment, for no particular reason, my eyes fetch upon a small black speck in the sand with the faint outline of an overlapping circle – a ring?
Too tired to lay any significance to the shape, I literally head for shore but some cockeyed combination of faith and curiosity get the better of me, so I paddle back over the spot and in a last-ditch effort to remove all doubt, I grab three lungfuls of air and head for the bottom with a steady kicking of feet and pinching my nose to equalize as atmospheric pressure doubles at that depth.
Lungs are burning, ears are popping, and faith is waning as I grab the half-buried object with my hand and turn to head for the surface. Sand filters through my clutching fingers and as it does, I feel the jagged cuts along the blade of what could be only one thing.
Punching to the surface with fists held high, I loudly exhale, “I found my car keys!!!”
Uproarious laughter can be heard from the shoreline and somewhere in heaven, I’m pretty sure even Jesus is smiling.
If you’re curious, check out this scene re-enactment of events, shot on location a week after the fact:
Found keys rest happily on the truck bumper.
Not only were the keys found, but also this nifty wrist bangle - for the next big snorkel adventure.