Forty-five minutes after Courtney McLane Courtney dove head-first into the waters about 30 yards off St. George Island, trying to catch a 40-yard bomb thrown by her younger brother Joey, she heard a voice whisper to her not to give up hope.
Leaping for the ball had jammed her left ring finger, and when she went to look at the source of her pain, she saw a painful void.
Gone was the wedding band husband Sean Courtney placed on her finger six years earlier, fallen beneath the waves.
All week long the family were staying at the home of Courtney’s grandparents Bob and Ginny Burgess, where they had been coming down regularly for the past 14 years.
That Wednesday afternoon, July 6, with her husband having just left for home in Cumming, Georgia to make a meeting the next day at his law firm, and with their two sons, Connor, 3, and Tyler, 1, napping for the first time all week at the same time, Courtney had headed to the beach hoping to catch a nap of her own.
But her brothers and future sisters-in-law were up for a game of catch, and having been an outstanding high school and college athlete, starring on the University of Alabama tennis team, Courtney couldn’t resist the lure of competition.
“Throughout the week I had been taking my band off,” she said, but in this momentary rush to play, “I didn’t think about taking the band off.
“Wearing jewelry that you care about in the ocean is not exactly the wisest decision. In fact, I have never worn my wedding bands in the ocean until this week since I recently misplaced my silicon one,” she said.
“Hey guys, I lost my wedding ring,” she exclaimed, not yet processing the gravity of the situation.
“We all sprang into action searching for a literal needle in a haystack about 30 yards offshore,” Courtney wrote on Facebook. “Think about it. A tiny, primarily white gold ring amongst primarily white, innumerable grains of sand with three to four feet of churning water on top.
“We knew the general area where the ring might have come to rest, but with each passing wave, the likelihood of that ring shifting positions or being carried off forever increased exponentially,” she wrote. “This was a virtually impossible proposition.”
And so, after 45 minutes of searching, together with brother Ben and girlfriend Rachel Martinez, and brother Joey and fiancée Christine Howarth, and fellow beachgoer Julie Rubenstein Cohen and her husband, Courtney heard a still, small voice.
“A gentle whisper from the Holy Spirit directly into my soul, ‘Trust me, my child, I got this,’” she recalled. “I relented, but also wanted to thoroughly scan the waters on my way back to shore, doing everything in my power to find my ring on my own accord.”
As she walked back to shore, brother Joey still persisting in his search with a pair of borrowed goggles, Courtney felt a wave of emotions. “It was a nice ring, but nothing that couldn’t be replaced. I’ve never been into material things anyways and was surprised how upset I was over something so insignificant in the grand scheme of life.
“It was the sentimentality attached to the ring – the ring Sean put on my finger on our wedding day – and I allowed myself to mourn that loss nonetheless,” she wrote.
“Honey, no worries, it’s just a ring. We can get another one. We can upgrade!” Sean told her when she called him, after collapsing exhausted in her lounge chair.
“But I don’t want to upgrade. I want that one!” she said through stifled sobs. “I knew how ridiculous I was being, but I couldn’t shake my sadness over what had just unfolded.”
Back in the water, Joey had given a last ditch effort, snorkeling where he thought he remembered everyone being in on the sandbar.
A bellowing yell and his hands raised high overhead in triumph signaled he had defied the odds. Rachel and Christine took off to the water’s edge to validate Joey’s find as he made landfall.
“Joey said when he saw the ring in the vastness of the ocean floor, it was half buried in the sand and hardly visible, but the diamonds illuminated like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and he knew God had led him to that very spot,” Courtney wrote.
“I buried my head in my hands, weeping. You know, the heaving kind where you struggle to catch your breath as snot pours out of your nose,” she wrote.
“I knew Joey had physically found my beloved ring, but he was just the hands and feet of Jesus in that moment,” Courtney wrote. “This had not just happened, the one-in-a-million chance realized. This was the work of a loving Heavenly Father who cares for a broken, sinner like me and went to dramatic lengths to encourage me to lean not on my own understanding.
“The soft words resonated once again, ‘Trust me, my child, I got this.’ she wrote.
Deeply involved with her family at Creekside Church, a Methodist church in Cumming, Courtney said she believes the miracle does not alone lie in the fact that her prayer was answered.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that others have prayed similar prayers with much higher stakes and had a different outcome. If you’re one of those people, I don’t know why bad things happen, but my heart goes out to you,” she wrote.
“I did not want people to feel discouraged.” she wrote. “Our God is a God of miracles and cares about the little details of our lives, like something as insignificant as a wedding ring. He wants nothing more than our whole hearts and for us to trust in Him always – to fully surrender to his good and perfect plan.”