I have always loved seashells, with their smooth or rough textures, their myriad of colors, their tumbling appearance on the shore, the way they decorate the sands.
They seem, to me, a little gift from God, straight from the heart of the sea to His people living on land, a reminder that He loves to give us beautiful things to hold and enjoy.
Recently my kids and I have been studying sea creatures for school, and I have learned many interesting things about sea shells that I didn't know before.
Did you know that the shells are actually MADE by the creatures living in them? (except for the hermit crabs, who steal them from the former inhabitants after the hard working, shell making creatures die.)
God gave these fascinating creatures the ability to GROW their own home. and the shell also serves as defense against predators.
Lucky sea critters.
I've been thinking about this lately, and I've decided that I'm jealous of those slimy little buggers.
I want a shell to protect me. Why is it that scallops and clams and all the rest get a hard, beautiful shield to shelter them from pain, and even death, and I get...nothing?
When the hard times of life come, wouldn't it be nice to just pull our heads and hands inside our warm, weather proof shells and know we are safe?
Don't you ever wish to just escape the turmoil; the roiling, foaming ocean filled with its uncertain currents and sharped toothed, hungry predators?
God knows I wish it. I long for armor against the searing pain. I desperately wish for a place to hide from the storm. I ache for reprieve from the battering, slicing wind and rain.
The wind lessens sometimes, and we get to take some deep breaths and feel refreshed and tend our wounds and begin to heal. But, the scars remain on our hearts, our souls, our emotions, and those scars ache anew when they are exposed to the elements the next time.
New wounds join the old ones and the scars reopen and bleed all over again.
Our hearts start to take on a battered look and feel.
You know what I mean. We've all been there.
Wounded and raw and frail and feeling as if every nerve ending is exposed and vulnerable, and no matter how tightly we curl into ourselves...we have no shell to protect us.
Our love is rejected.
Our trust is shaken.
Our failures are exploited.
Our weaknesses are preyed upon.
Our fears are realized.
Our hearts are...broken...shattered...mutilated with wounds so deep they will scar us forever, no matter how much healing we can eventually find.
Why, Lord? Why didn't we get a shell? A defense?
I asked Him that today, in a rare moment of total silence. Why all the pain?
I asked it without tears, despite the deep ache in my chest.
Tears don't come easily to me these days, which may shock those of you who know me. But its because I'm metaphorically curled up inside a shell I have constructed for myself.
It's a puny shell. It's made up of distance, distractions, and deflections. If you ask me how I am...I will tell you the truth. I will just do it without exposing my heart.
It's lonely in this shell.
But...I am certain that my heart can't take any more hits right now.
So, I ask Him my questions, but my heart is deep inside my shell, and hearing Him is hard.
He spirit nudges me, beckoning me to open up, and let Him in, so we can talk.
My shell slips a little. I hang my head.
I can't do it, Lord. I am too tired to keep getting knocked down. I can't keep getting back up. So, maybe, if I stay here on the ground, curled up in a ball...maybe I'll be safe here.
I can't take any more scars, Lord. Don't You see how bad I'm scarred already?
Do you know what the Lord said to me, today, in the middle of my fetal position conversation with Him?
"I. HAVE. SCARS. TOO."
And now there are tears falling freely.
And truth seeps into the cracks in my shell.
Jesus, this God/Man on whom I've staked all that I am and all that I do and all that I seek, He didn't have a shell to protect Him from the pain. And when the whip cut His back to ribbons, and the thorns tore his forehead, and the nails pierced Him clean through...He didn't curl up to save Himself the hurt.
Ah, quite the opposite.
He opened His arms to the pain. He stretched them out, and His mercy flowed out with His blood, and He fixed His eyes on the knowledge that HE WAS CHANGING EVERYTHING right in that moment.
His scars say something very precious.
They say HOPE.
They say PEACE.
They say TRUTH.
They say MERCY.
His wounds HEAL MINE.
I cannot tell you the way my heart leaps with His words flowing over me.
Just knowing that I am not alone, and I am not forsaken...its enough for today.
He is my safe place, my refuge, my strong tower, my shelter from the storm.
He is my shell.
And He has the scars to prove it.