Saturday, May 14, 2011
I have this fascination with seashells.
I think it started when I learned many years ago while teaching a class on baptism that the shell is a symbol of baptism--perhaps taken from pictures of John the Baptist pouring water over Jesus from a scallop shell. The evening I taught the class, I placed in each attendees hand a thin ridged still sandy crater to carry home as reminder that in baptism, they were claimed by God.
But there is this other thing that draws me to shells: It’s that each is like a snowflake, one of a kind. As I scoop them up from an encroaching tide, I study their various colors, and markings. None are alike. Even shells from the same kind of mollusks are singular in appearance.Though some might be tempted to throw back the ones with obvious flaws, I like them better. One with broken edges, another with weather worn creases, and still another with mottled color all scream imperfection, but they are still beautiful. For all their blemishes, they have endured to wash up on this shore.
Shells remind me that God sees our imperfection, our flaws, our brokenness, our holes clean through, and yet He has claimed us in baptism. We are his. Shells teach me of the great beauty in persisting, and enduring through many changing seasons. Shells speak of our unique place in God’s purposes. “If you don’t do you, God’s plan is incomplete, because you’re the only one who can do you,” McNair Wilson says.
If I could, I’d send each of you a cockle shell from my bounty. You could place it on your nightstand, and every morning when you got up, you could remember that in all the fragmentation of your life, you are claimed by God. He has created you uniquely. He knows. He sees. He loves. You are His beautiful child.
“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel. ‘ Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…For I am the lord, your God, the holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:1-3).