We crunched along the shoreline as the sun warmed up the earth. She in her princess sundress and I clutching my early morning sunrise coffee, we walked slow with eyes to the ground. The day was still young, just like her, and at that stage, everything is worth discovering. The ocean had carried in the sea of shells while we slept and from where we stood at 7 a.m., the sand was a mosaic of white, blue, black and coral. We side-stepped ghost crabs and walked slow into the foamy surf to see what we can find.
She picks up a small white shell. It is nothing special. Nothing more than an ordinary white shell. A quick search on Google turns up an ordinary name... "Common," it says.
She stoops, picks it up and asks the name.
"I don't know," I shrug. "Just a white shell."
Her interest wanes and she drops it back to her feet. It did not make it into her empty bucket. That place is reserved for the special. The set aside. The chosen ones.
Shell after shell I am empty for names and none of them are collected, and I'm realizing why with each ordinary step through the early morning surf. As she turns another white shell from the shoreline, she looks up at me rather disappointed, "This one?"
She places it in my hands and I stare for a moment. It's white edges are slightly painted with the orange. I gasped. "Oh wow! What a find. That is a white beaded rose pepper!"
Her eyes, widened. Her hands quickly reached for the shell in my palm and it was dropped carefully into the pink bucket. "Let's find more!"
She delivered a small shell with a blue stripe. "Well, that is a sailor stripe shell."
Into the bucket.
"That is a tiger shell."
Into the bucket.
"That is a surf apricot shell."
Into the bucket.
It seems so obvious to me now. Things become valuable when you give them a name. When you turn the ordinary into precious. When you call something boring by a name of its own. When you choose something from the dirt, wash it in the water and call it by a name. It's a treasure.
And it's no secret that lately I feel like I'm overlooked. Easily forgotten. Easily set aside. I tell my sister that my worst fear is that I missed all the good God had for me, and now I am set in some alternate universe. Everything is good, but not as it should be. Everything is just right, but somewhere across the water, I can see that I missed it all. That maybe God is keeping things from me to prove that He can do just that. Withhold.
Last night, we sit in her bed and the shells are waiting in the bucket for a home. By light of a nightlight, she asked me where God is.
"I can't see him," she said.
"Can you see the stars right now?" I ask.
She craned her head up toward the ceiling, shaking it quickly. "No, I can't."
"But you know they're there, right?"
She nodded, smiling. (Stars — something for which we both share a mutual love.)
"So just because you can't see God, it doesn't mean He's not still there."
"God is up in the stars?" she gasped. "And in my heart?"
I nodded, "He's everywhere." I proceed to whisper into her sleepy ear all the things that God says to her. That He loves her. That she's beautiful. That He's proud of her.
And she smiles, "And God's not angry anymore."
I don't know how or why she understands some of these things. But that one goes to my heart. That sliver of truth seems to make its way through my tired flesh, hard heart, deaf ears and straight into my marrow where it sits and ruminates.
That He's not angry anymore. Christ took His wrath. For me. For us. There is not a bucket of anger and disappointment waiting for me at the next turn. Troubles in my life are not because He has been waiting to "teach me a hard lesson". No, no. It's all love. Every drop of it all.
I've been at the shore lately, wondering why something so big would even care to carry me at all. Isn't he weary that I have not produced as I ought to? That I am nothing more than brittle bone and empty cargo? And isn't he so disappointed that I'm not the daughter He once hoped I would be?
And then I feel him turning me. Under stars, the sea of night. By the shore, the sea of salt. He's taking my half-hearted prayers and my worst fears, and washing me. Giving me new names. I've been turned up from the dirt, washed in the water, and called by a name I'm certain I did not and do not deserve.
But that's not why He treasures us. Not because we are anything special. Not because we do things right. Not even because we cleaned ourselves up.
No. He loves when we're hidden. He seeks when we're lost. He finds us when we're missing, turns us and gasps at the beauty that only he can see.
He is not angry anymore.
|"O Savior, I am like that empty shell, Thou art the Sea to me." (Amy Carmichael)|