There’s no better place to unwind than the beach. That is, if you like the beach. If you don’t, then imagine yourself in your happy place, and draw your own parallels.
Since I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do at the beach is to find sea shells. They’re like little treasures, waiting to be discovered. They come in all colors and shapes, ranging from flat, translucent half moons to spiraling conchs and whelks. Their beautiful designs delight little and not-so-little girls.
Most of them have something else in common: they’re broken. Sand and surf have taken their toll, leaving them fragmented and shattered. Of course, we seasoned shell hunters look for the most perfect, most complete ones we can find; we keep those, and discard the rest.
As I examined a broken shell in my hand, I looked twice. It was broken, yes, but there was still something beautiful about it. And then the writer in me saw the metaphor. Are not we girls sometimes like broken shells? The “stuff happens” of life has snatched away some of our ideals and damaged our dreams, leaving us a little scarred. Maybe it was a thoughtless word someone said. Maybe it was a relationship we didn’t think would end the way it did.
Maybe it was the rejection we felt after investing so much. That’s something else most shells have in common: they’re rejects, abandoned by their original owners.
How thankful I am that God isn’t the kind of shell hunter I am! He doesn’t collect only perfect specimens. Actually, He often chooses vessels a little worse for wear so that when He does use them, they show forth His glory all the more.
For a short list, consider the women in Matthew chapter one, women who factor into the genealogy of Jesus.
I won’t go into lurid details, but suffice it to say that her first two husbands (brothers) were wicked men, whom God struck down. Her father-in-law promised to give her his third and final son as a husband when he came of age, but he didn’t keep his word. So, Tamar took matters into her own hands, disguised herself as a harlot and seduced her father-in-law in order to have sons. Yet, God in His mercy saw fit to include her in His Son’s lineage.
Throughout Scripture, she’s known as “the harlot.” Enough said, right? Despite her reputation, God used her to hide the Jewish spies who would set in motion the downfall of Jericho. Because of her faith, Rahab and her family alone were saved when the walls came down – and we know that she later married a man named Salmon, the father of Boaz, who became the husband of Ruth.
A while back, we spent quite a bit of time talking about Ruth, the Moabitess. After the death of her husband, she clung to her mother-in-law Naomi. Leaving behind her own country, she vowed that the God of Israel would be her God and gained the attention of her kinsman-redeemer Boaz. Hers is a beautiful story of redemption.
The gossips had a hay-day at Bathsheba’s expense. She was a beautiful woman who caught King David’s eye. Imagine the shame of committing adultery with the king of Israel, conceiving his child, finding out her lover sentenced her husband to death – and then having the whole affair “covered up”? When the truth surfaced a year later, not only did her reputation meet the rack, but their child died as well. Yet God in His grace gave her another son named Solomon, and he would succeed his father on the throne.
Young, pure and innocent, she submitted to God’s will and conceived the Son of God by the Holy Spirit. Though her conscience was clean, her reputation died a martyr’s death, and her fiancé almost broke their engagement. No one would buy the story that a virgin could conceive. With God, however, nothing is impossible, and Mary became the earthly mother of Jesus. She was most honored of women, yet a sword would pierce her soul when years later, she watched her Son die on a wooden cross.
Broken vessels. These women and so many others wear their scarlet letters and secret scars, yet God used them so that His grace could be magnified in their disgrace; His strength made perfect in their weakness; His compassion evident in their broken lives.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (II Corinthians 4:5-7, ESV).
Whether our hurts and disappointments in life are big or small, God can take them and transform them into something worthy – if we are willing to yield ourselves to Him.
I kept that broken shell. I’m a lot like it, and so are you. It will remind me to be thankful that God can make broken things beautiful and use them for His glory.