Eighteen-year-old Kiana Hummel and a friend were staying at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when they went to the beach for a late-night swim. That’s when a twelve-foot crocodile bit down on her right leg and dragged her screaming into the water.
Her friend and onlookers fought back, throwing rocks, shoes, and anything else they could find at the crocodile, but without success. The animal pulled Kiana under water, then went for her left leg and pulled her back into the water.
A hotel employee then brought a hunk of wood and used it to strike the crocodile. That forced it to finally let go, and Kiana was taken to safety. The incoming college freshman says she’s grateful not to have lost a limb and reports that she will eventually walk again, despite serious tendon and muscle injuries.
She plans to become an occupational therapist and believes the experience will help her be patient with those she treats: “I realize with the amount of pain that I’ve been in, sometimes I’m not able to verbalize what I really want to say.”
“You are a mist”
We could think biblically about this story in at least four ways.
First, we can consider the importance of community.
If Kiara’s friend and others had not come to her rescue, she likely would have been killed.
In the same way, we are to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), understanding that we are better together. Every image of the church in the New Testament is collective: a vine with many branches, a body with many members. We need each other as we serve Jesus together.
Second, we can remember the urgency of mortality.
An eighteen-year-old with her life seemingly ahead of her nearly died while vacationing at a resort. No place on this broken planet is truly safe.
Scripture warns: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We should live every day ready to meet the Lord.
Third, we can affirm the importance of empathy.
Kiana will be able to treat patients with greater understanding because of her ordeal.
It’s hard to know what others are feeling, but when we have been where they are, we have more empathy for their pain. And they are more likely to trust our help since they know that we know what they are feeling.
God “comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:4). As Henri Nouwen noted, “wounded healers” are sometimes the best healers.
The only safe way to walk on your “beach”
However, a fourth principle is especially on my mind as I read Kiana’s story: the deception and danger of temptation.
A resort spokesman responded to the attack: “The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that the appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags, were and are properly in place.” I obviously have no way to know if Kiana and her friend could or should have seen these signs and flags, so I do not in any way intend to pass judgment on them.
However, this story does function as a parable for us in our fallen world.
God’s word on the moral issues we face is clear. What Joshua told the Israelites is still relevant to us: “Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).
Obedience does not earn God’s favor—it positions us to experience his best for us. Following his word and will does not guarantee that the “crocodiles” will not attack, but it does guarantee his strength, comfort, and peace when they do.
Our secular culture views biblical morality as optional at best and dangerous at worst. We are consistently being told that tolerance of all lifestyles and values is the key to flourishing. But this is a lie. God’s word is preserved for us as God’s gift to us. His will is always for our best (Romans 12:2).
As theologian J. V. Langmead Casserley noted, we don’t break God’s commandments—we break ourselves on them.
Just because you cannot see what is lurking beneath the water doesn’t mean it’s not there. The only safe way to walk on your “beach” today is to do so in the plan and purpose of God.
Are you walking in his word today?