I was walking on the beach recently. For an Arkansas girl, that’s a big statement. I was forty when I finally got to watch a sunset on the beach. Beautiful. I was awed by every aspect of beach life. The warmth, the sand, but especially the sunsets and seashells. I imagined Jesus walking along the seashore. Walking on water. Cooking breakfast on the beach for the disciples after an all night fishing trip. Calming the storms and leveling the ships. I loved listening to the waves. Thinking about the power of God in the water, the creation of God in the depths of the sea. I made footprints in the sand just like the poem. I could feel Him there with me. It was calm, quiet and beautiful.
I couldn’t wait to collect seashells. Just like in the movies. I wanted to bring them home and fill a glass display vase on my desk, so that when I was suffering through these long miserable southern winters, I could hold them and remember. If fact, that was one of my goals for the trip. That was my excitement. The shells.
But where I was, everything was white. White sand, white shells. The first day I walked a mile in the shallow water, heading into the sun, wading ankle deep with my head down, searching for elusive shells. Not much luck. I was disappointed.
But an amazing thing happened when I turned around to head back. With my back to the sun, my body cast a long reflection to fall in front of me across the water. And there, shining in my dark shadows, were dozens of beautiful snow white seashells.
I knelt excitedly and scooped them up. All the shells I could ever want. They had been invisible in the sunshine, but when a shadow fell, they stood out boldly.
And here came a “God Lesson” for me. Those shells were the lessons and blessings in my life. The things I learned in the shadows, the beauty I found in the valleys. How many times had I blindly walked along for days, face to the shining sun, trouble free and oblivious to the wonderful gifts God wanted to give me. But when the clouds rolled in, the sun dropped, the shadows fell. That’s when I grabbed my Bible, fell on my face and looked for some seashells from Him. The most beautiful seashells are found in my shadows.
Everyone prays for peace and happiness. To be trouble free. But that’s not my prayer anymore. I’ve realized over the years just how well God knows me. And now I pray for just enough heartache, deep enough valleys, dark enough shadows, to keep me facedown searching for His seashells. I don’t dig for His lessons and blessings when the sun is shining. What I know about myself, and God knows too, is that I see best in the shadows.
Some of my biggest, most beautiful “light bulb moments” have come in pitch black darkness. And how many mornings, literally and figuratively, have the most beautiful sunrises come after the longest, darkest nights I’ve suffered through. Depending on Him, learning from Him, surviving and eventually thriving, because of Him. And gathering His beautiful seashells of strength and promise. Holding them tight.
I often hear people say “God won’t give you more that you can handle.” I always want to correct them. God has given me more than I could handle on several occasions, without a doubt. Too much heartache, too much pain. I buckled under it. I‘ve stumbled and fallen. Thank heaven I had Him to carry me. Because there has never been enough trouble hit me that He couldn’t handle, with or without me. Sometimes I just have to rest in His arms and give up, get out, and hide. Let Him take the fight and face my demons. Happens a lot in my life. And those are the times I learn, grow, rely on Him. Those are the times He stays closest to me. Those are the times I fill my vase with His seashells.
And those seashells stay on the “desk of my life.” Some displayed proudly, some hidden away in drawers. I take those hidden lessons and blessings out sometimes. I examine them, rub them, admire their beauty. And I remember the shadows I walked through to gather them. I remember the little white lights shining just for me. Lights that represent His power, His strength. His little seashells of hope in my darkest times.
From the deepest shadows have come my most beautiful seashells of all!