“Look at this, Mom!”
She rises out of the water, her mask pressed tight around her tiny face. Holding up her treasure, I examine it closely.
“That’s a beautiful shell,” I tell her, taking it delicately in my hand. It is perfect and smooth – completely unblemished. “Would you like me to hold it for you while you dive for more?”
She thinks for a moment, her five year old brain contemplating this offer. “Nah,” she says after a brief pause. She grabs it out of my hand and tosses it back into the waiting ocean where it’s immediately swallowed by the salty water. Taking a deep breath, she plunges yet again.
“Here’s another one,” she squeals, bursting above the surface. Again, I delicately take the small shell in my hand. It is the purest white with a thin line of lavender at the bottom. I marvel at how lovely her newest find is and I wait for her to ask me to guard it for her.
But once again, she pulls it out of my hand and tosses it back to the waiting waters.
A third time she dives and moments later splashes back up.
“This is the one I want to keep,” she says proudly. She plops a jagged shell in my hand. The edges are sharp and in the center is a large hole. It is not pure white like the last shell, but bears the marks of waves and sand on its scratched exterior. I’m confused.
“Why do you want this one, babe?” I ask as she pulls her mask off with a little pop. I can’t help but grin at the marks left behind on her sun kissed cheeks, her white-blonde hair gleaming in the Florida sun.
“Because it’s the best one,” she says very matter of fact, as if somehow I should have already known and understood this.
“What makes it the best?”
“See that hole right there?” She points and I nod. “I could put a string in there and make it into a necklace. That would be pretty, right Mommy?”
“It would,” I agree. “But what about the color? It looks rough and dirty.”
She shrugs. “I’ll clean it. And maybe I could paint it, then I could wear it around my neck.”
And off she goes, once again diving for treasures while I am left above the water to ponder at her child-like wisdom.
I am that battered shell. I am the tarnished beauty beaten down by the waves of life. I was left dirty, jagged and with a giant hole in my center. If left to one without imagination or the eye for potential beauty, I would be the one tossed back into the waiting sea in search for something better. Something more pure, less blemished. Beautiful.
But I was found…and I was kept. I was gently picked up, a treasure from the sea. I was cleansed and painted. I was made beautiful again, a jewel to be adored by my Finder, my Keeper, my Maker. The One with the Eyes to see and the Hands to create. The One who wanted to clean me, paint me and display me as His creation. Beautiful.
A broken shell has great value when you’re making a necklace. Beauty from ashes. Jewels from brokenness. A treasure to be admired and loved. Kept. Cherished.
There has only ever been One perfect shell worth preserving. But even that One was pierced. And as I watched my daughter dive over and over, looking for more broken shells, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.
You are a broken shell, too. You may feel beaten and bruised, tossed by the waves, worn by the sand. But you are a treasure to One. And that One wants to make you beautiful – a jewel to be displayed, admired and adored. You aren’t useful if you’re perfect. What freedom that brings!
You are found and the best part is you will never be tossed back.