Anyone that knows me knows that one of my favorite places to be is at the ocean. It is a love affair that began several years ago when I took my babies to the beach for their first time. Although I had visited Florida as a young child and had gone to Myrtle once as a teenager, I had very little recognition of the trips. It wasn’t until July 5th 2004 that this wonderful romance was set aflame. My babies were so excited when we arrived to our destination and we hurriedly ran down to take our first walk on the sandy shore. I vividly remember it as if it were yesterday; the fresh smell of the salty air, the gentle breeze upon my skin and the warmth that penetrated my every being. I stood there in amazement as I gazed out as far as the eye could see, beholding the vastness of the ocean and watching as the water formed waves that rushed ever so politely to the shoreline, spilling over my bare feet. It was as if the God of heaven spoke in His still small voice, “this is where I was standing when I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!” (Job 38:11). Oh how my heart was smitten and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I had found ta special place that I wanted to visit often! Our vacations now consist of a yearly trip to the ocean. The geographical destination may change some, but I can’t explain the excitement that bubbles up in me as I anticipate my return to the place where my heart feels at home and my spirit feels at rest.
One of the things I like to do while vacationing is look for sea shells. I love all of them with their many shapes, sizes and colors and no matter how many I already have, I always like to take a new collection home with me. One morning on our most recent vacation, way before the sun had made its appearance over the horizon; I awoke with a plethora of things weighing on my mind. Instead of tossing and turning, I decided it was the perfect time for a walk/run so I snuck out quietly and off I went headed to the pier that was on the other side of eternity (well maybe not that far, but after running/walking to and from it with sand in my tennis shoes, it surely felt like it was eons away!)
My walks are always a two-fold mission – exercise and prayer time and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place to walk and talk with my Father. As soon as my feet hit the sand, I was saturated with the awareness of His presence. My troubled thoughts became praises of awe and wonder at the beauty that surrounded me. My spirit sang within me and like a child on a treasure hunt I whispered, “Oh Lord, let me find something spectacular this morning. Something you like. Something you can speak to me from. Something straight from your hand to mine.”
I was determined to make it all the way to the pier so the journey there consisted of no stops along the way. I walked, I ran, I ran, and I walked until finally, with sheer diligence I made it. I took a snapshot to prove my accomplishment to my crew, and after a few deep breathes I set out to return homeward, this time taking the time to enjoy the scenery and search for the treasures. There were so many pretty shells laying on the sand, I wanted to hoard up every one of them but each time I was inclined to bend down to grab one, a gentle voice would say, “no not that one.” I continued on with my search until I saw it. Lying in the midst of all the others was this one particular shell that stood out like a sore thumb. I knelt down to take a closer look. It was obvious that this weathered shell had experienced many years of being tossed to and fro at the mercy of the waters. There were lines and cracks endured from the pressures of the sea however the foundation of the shell was still intact. Its colors had been dulled by the friction of the sand. There were places it had been broken but not utterly destroyed.
As I picked it up and held it in my hands I was intrigued by its story. Where had it been? How many miles had it traveled, enduring the weight of waters afflictions? What had it looked like when it was whole? What had once thrived inside of it using its walls as a place of refuge? How did it get here? How many people had walked by as it lay unnoticed? How long had it laid dormant with no sense of hope or purpose? What about it captured my attention? A random seashell had suddenly become the focus of everything that was in me.
With that still small voice that I hear clearer than anything in my life, He said, “Isn’t it spectacular?”
Well, I guess so Lord. But why, out of the hundreds of shells within my sight, why this one? It’s not even a whole shell. There are plenty that don’t even have the slightest crack.
Thus began the lesson on broken things. Yes, time had tossed it to and fro. Yes it had lines and cracks from the pressures of the sea and its luster had been dulled by the friction of the sand. Yes, there were places that it had been broken but it wasn’t destroyed. Many had overlooked it and some may even deem it useless now. But the truth was that God had made it and it belonged to Him. He knew what it looked like in the beginning and in His eyes it was still as beautiful as ever. This shell had served many purposes in the past and on this day a new purpose had blossomed. When, to me it appeared to be completely out of place, to God it was exactly where He wanted it to be.
That morning the most spectacular thing on the beach was this shell and of all the people there God wanted me to have it. Only He knew the things that were weighing in my heart. Only God knew how to penetrate the scars that at times seem to seethe as a fresh wound in my soul. He knew which shell to place before me and only He could show me the beauty that He sees in broken things. Without any ado for those around me, I stood there for a moment and wept. Tears that healed. Tears that refreshed. Tears that strengthened. Tears that reminded me that I wasn’t any different than that old, cracked spectacular shell.