The Two Shells

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     Only two shells caught my eye today on a Sunday afternoon beach-walk where thousands lay. I hadn’t intended to pick up any, but here I was now, drawn to first one, then the other, compelled to reach down and turn each over in my hands. One I had picked up on the walk out, the other on the return path. Their designs and colorings where in stark contrast to one another, as I held one in the left and the other in the right, continuing to walk and purposing to pick up no more. The first one I saw and bent to retrieve was a translucent salmon color whose lustrous surface seemed to be polishing worry lines etched across its face. It was light-weight and had a small hole near the top of the wide tear-drop shape, as if nature had made it to be worn as a necklace. I had carried it in my hand awhile, alone, finding no similar shell to be its match.
     Then, on the return path, after looking away at the ocean surf, receding then running ashore by an invisible force, pulling then releasing the wash of foam, the small tip of another shell caught my eye. It was once the pinnacle of a conical-shaped shell, a dark charcoal grey with a dull surface, but smooth and solid in appearance with no luster to its finish. Something in me wanted to put it back down, but I held it for a while, considering that the two were both made by the same Creator, though they were very different in appearance.
     The dark shell represented to me the swirling confusion of darkness and things hidden—-a tightly fortified strong-hold that would not be easily broken or breached. I had no real affinity for it, except that it was so different from the translucent, pearl shaped shell I’d been drawn to first. I wanted to throw the dark one back into the ocean, so maybe it would re-emerge lustrous and transparent like my first pick. But I wondered, if I took it home, held it , prayed over it enough—- like telling a mountain to move in faith believing—-if it too might become transparent and shiny. I could then set it beside the shell that resonated more easily with me, and it would look less cumbersome and somehow be complimented. But the truth is, when I set them down beside each other, I didn’t want the dark grey shell anywhere near my pearl shaped treasure. I wanted to take the dull one and walk back to the ocean, and throw it far out to sea—-back into the elements commanded by a larger force than myself, not knowing if it would ever be transformed.

     For whatever reason, I decided to let them sit on the shelf together for a while longer, and prayed to God that somehow the two would find their place in a world of diversity and uncertainty— together or apart—in a future I could not yet envision, but one where both could find purpose at peace with themselves and those with whom they might find community.

 

Lord God, please turn our hearts of stone to flesh, and make us transparent and full of light. Take away darkness from within and among us. Have mercy on us in our uncertainty and give us resolve to never succumb again to powers of oppression or a condemnation that destroys instead of redeems. Help us to believe if we say to a mountain of despair and confusion “Move”, it will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Help me to love the unlovely things that are harder to feel an affinity towards. Protect the lustrous coat and transparency allowing truth to finally set us free from guilt and shame hidden in darkness too long. We cannot do these things for ourselves, so in humility I ask for your mercy and grace to help in time of great need. Let us live to be witnesses of victories, though sometimes small, instead of succumbing to the spiraling downward whirlpool of defeat.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.

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