How Does God See Broken Shells?
Jul 10, 2016 03:18AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Last week I was walking along the beach with my youngest son at the Outer Banks, North Carolina. After two days in the car, plenty of pent-up energy, and the anxiety that comes with change and travel, Little Man needed something calming. Searching for shells just before the sun set seemed like a magnificent way to end the day. Little Man and I are so much alike; when we need to get our peace on, God’s creation helps bring us each into focus.
I left my older two kids behind with their grandparents and grabbed Little Man’s hand. At 10 years of age, this was still “okay” since nobody knew us there. I think we both needed it: human touch that reassured us we are not alone, even in our darkest moments.
We’ve recently come out of some difficult years.
As we walked, he bent over many times to uncover a promising shell, only to discover it was only a remnant of what used to be; he chattered happily. I breathed heavily, inhaling the salty air and evening breeze deep into my lungs. Little Man and I both have artistic minds, ones that see the metaphor and analogy in everything around us, hear the poetic heartbeat, and hungrily gobble down the visuals before us, already imagining what we will draw (him) or write (both of us). The artistic personality often feels everything around him or her, and in this moment, when we were listening and feeling, God spoke into our conversation.
I suddenly felt compelled to ask Little Man:
“Do you think God sees the broken shells as broken?”
“I think He sees the shells as they were originally: whole.”
I’m pretty sure I don’t need much more theology than that simple statement. God sees us, despite our brokenness, as whole, healed, completely reflective-of-his-image as He created us when we trust what Christ did on the cross on our behalf.
Yes, we crack our shells and even damage other people’s. Sometimes we shatter into so many pieces we aren’t sure we will have a rightful form again, and yet, He sees the beginning and end of the story—not just the middle. In His eyes, we are restored to our intended beauty, without blemish for our Groom.
Ephesians 5:25-27, ESV, Apostle Paul
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Stunned by Little Man’s profound reflection, I got quiet and walked a bit more, marveling that what I see as broken is limited only because of my view—not God’s.
What a relief to think that we can still feel and look broken, but the story doesn’t stop there. He looks at us, like lost shells tossed about on the sand, and He sees so much more than that:
and, get this:
Did you take that in? If you didn’t, take a moment to ask God to reveal the depth of that to your heart, mind, and soul.
You are precious.
Isaiah 43:1-4, ESV, Isaiah the Prophet speaking
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life [emphasis mine].
While, contextually, the LORD is speaking to Israel here, the last line is foreshadowing the substitutionary death of His Son Jesus for the life of His children—us, those who believe in Him.
Don’t we sometimes feel like those shells that wash up, seemingly random and abandoned on the shore?
Ever ask these questions?
- What on earth was this situation about?
- Why am I going through this hassle, God?
- Did I not learn my lesson already?
- Where are the people I placed my trust in?
- What did I do to deserve this?
Proverbs 19:21, ESV, King Solomon writing
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
Continuing with our shell analogy for a moment, the Apostle Paul literally washed up on the shore of an island (Malta) at first unidentifiable to him. The soldiers holding him captive intended to kill him, but God had other plans.
Acts 27:41-44, ESV, Luke the Physician narrating
But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf.
The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape.
But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land,
and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
A shipwreck on top of captivity must have added insult to injury as he crashed into his new location. And yet, God didn’t see a broken, chained Paul. He saw a man He could use for His Kingdom.
Where are you selling yourself short as a broken shell when God sees you as precious and whole?
Read another chunk of Paul’s story. It doesn’t end there.
Acts 28:7-10, ESV, Luke the Physician narrating
Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.
While on Malta, Paul was to make ministry visits, pray, and heal in the name of Jesus. And in so doing, God provided for his needs.
What are you to do on your personal shore?
I guarantee you it will be filled with amazing purposes once you see yourself through His eyes: whole and ready to advance His Kingdom here on earth.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.