The salty, warm air of the ocean wrapped me in its embrace this week. Our family tasted the ebb and flow of a vacation with no plans. A week of togetherness. A week to breathe.
Not only stunning, but it’s known to be a shelling mecca. A place to hunt for conchs and cockles and tulips and whelks like buried treasure.
My best friend of 35 years, Kelly, is the shell-whisperer and great shell-hunt teacher. Our vacations crossed paths this year, and I was able to bask in the glow of her “Get the Isemingers Some Shells” campaign.
We spent a few days and evenings together with shovels, nets, masks, and snorkels stooping and bending and searching for the treasures of the sea—our families along for the ride.
It was heaven. Each perfect shell brought the satisfaction of a find, and we giggled like school girls.
My Court Jester joined in the hunt as his little toes dug into the sand and every shell became a prize. And I mean, every shell.
Broken shards. Holes bored through. Beaten down and grungy. My Caleb picked up them all.
Though I would praise his finds and cheer him on, I inwardly cringed as the imperfect found its way into my bag of treasures.
One evening, much to my parenting shame, I even suggested he look for the shells that were whole. And while he attempted to accommodate, he would bring me whole shells with holes…Because. Court Jester.
A few nights ago, as Kelly and I plunged our hands deep into the sand of the shore line and brought perfect banded tulips and rose murexes to the dusky light, Caleb walked, head down along the shallows—hunting.
Among the treasures we were finding, we would pull up the fragments. We would shake our heads at the what-would-have-beens and lament their brokenness. Then, over our shoulders castaway shells would fly, as we tossed the pieces behind—forgetting them, pressing on towards our search for perfection.
“Mommy! Aunt Kelly! Look what I found!” The tiny voice of my sweet, seven-year-old would call from behind. What did he have in his hands?
Our broken castaways.
Kelly looked at me and smile with knowing and a grin.
“Gorgeous!” I exclaimed, and the fragments I had tossed away would go into my bag with a sigh.
But as I spent my week with sand jammed under my nails, God whispered deep.
Because here is what I know to be true—God never tosses aside the broken.
My son showed me the face of our Creator as he saw beauty in every fragment and shard I passed over and threw away.
Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem.
No one is beyond God’s ability to recover.
Like Hagar, tossed into the wilderness by Abraham, broken and scared, there is a God who sees us. And really? We’re all a bit of a broken mess.
He sees us in the shallows, having been fiercely pounded against the shore, tattered with missing pieces. I imagine He picks us up, turns us slowly in His careful hands—examining. And to all who will hear? He gives a shout of joy.
Look at this beautiful one! What color! The Light shines through in all the magnificent places. This hole here? I know just how I can make it into something stunning. And this piece here? I’ve been looking for one just like it to fit into my newest mosaic of ministry.
While perfect shells can be found, and I continue to love hunting them, no unbroken person exists. And today, my friend? I want you to know our Jesus sees the beauty of your broken.
He spends His time in the shallows, looking for our fragments. He wants only to take us home, to expose our beauty because we are broken.
There are treasure seekers in this world who attempt to define perfection and only find importance in those who match the man-made ideal.
But not God.
He’s walking the shallows behind those treasure seekers, picking up their castaways and declaring their definitions wrong.
Because He’s found the beautiful you.