January 2018 Retreat at Sea – Register by August 10 for our group rate!

Read: “Check Your Baggage,” When You Come Unglued… Stick Close to God, page 37.

We all struggle with our self-worth, wondering if we are acceptable to God. We take an internal inventory of ourselves constantly, giving ourselves messages about how we stack up against an often unrealistic or unattainable vision of how we should be. Sometimes, I have a hard time believing that God loves me just as I am—warts and all!

I love to walk along the beach. For quite a few years, my beach walking was a way to “lay in stock”—that is, collect shells and bits of driftwood to create beach jewelry. I would walk the shoreline, eyes glued to the sand, looking for those perfect shells to use in my pieces. I also often referred to it as “looking for gold.” I remember one particular day when I was walking with my friend Kris, who also created beach art. She called out to me, “Found any gold yet?”

“Nope,” I replied. “There’s nothing today.”

As I said that, I glanced down at my feet. Nestled around a piece of driftwood embedded in the sand was a pile of small shells. There were hundreds of periwinkle shells, probably the most common shells found on the beach. In the past, I’d always dismissed them as not worthy of my jewelry since they are so small and common and brown. They seemed hardly worth picking up.

But that day, I looked at them closely for the first time. I realized that they were more than brown. They were grey and silver and every shade of brown and black, striped and striated in beautiful ways. I picked up a handful and saw that some were perfectly formed. Others had holes and cracks from being battered by the waves. Still others were covered with a thick layer of white calcium. Some were full of sand and debris. A few had barnacles growing on them. Some were tangled in long strands of seaweed.

In that moment, I realized that the shells are like all of us. Some of us are in good shape, but most of us have suffered damage from the buffeting of the waves of time and chance. We are broken, filled with the debris of our lives or covered with a protective layer that keeps out everyone and everything. Some of us carry baggage from our past—much like the barnacles on the little shells—and some of that baggage tangles us up like strands of seaweed. In God’s eyes, we are like these small, common, unwanted shells. God does not dismiss us as unworthy or unlovable because of our imperfections, our brokenness. God takes us as we are. In God’s eyes, we are precious and treasured as we are, not as we hope to be at some future time. We can embrace God’s love and grace, knowing that in God’s eyes, our human imperfection is just perfect.