I was wearing Gortex boots as I walked hunched with my eyes fixated on the sand in front of me. Concern for soggy socks and chilled toes were the furthest things from my mind as the surf lapped against my heels. Meandering along the beach, I left a haphazard line of Vibram imprints for the water to wipe away, erasing my past. I was searching for something specific – gifts I collect for my wife each time I find myself at the beach.
She loves shells. We’ve collected all kinds, from the Jersey Shore to Puerto Rico. But my hunt that day was for a far more extraordinary item. Sea glass. Sea glass is how the ocean burps back our garbage. Old bottles, jars, and refuse glass tumbled by the ocean are polished by the sand creating “gems” out of broken bits. The best sea glass has no shiny spots and the edges are worn smooth. The rarest color is red with cobalt blue and pinks following behind.
As I wandered along the tidal edge, small bits and pieces of green and clear appeared here and there. After careful examination I tossed a large, brown chunk back into the surf so the ocean could finish its work. Still quite shiny, still so sharp, it needed more time to become what it was not. The bottle before and the finished sea glass after are both desirable, it’s the in-between phase that’s not so great.
Last night, as I lay awake from drinking too much and too late of Birch Coffee’s, “Emma’s Espresso” – fantastic stuff, by the way! If you find yourself in Manhattan, look them up – the photo I made of one of the pieces kept appearing in my mind. As I lay there thinking about that day and that image a revelation formed.
Sea glass has a beauty that comes not from what it was but from what it is. Someone-else’s-trash becomes someone-else’s-jewelry or collectable. But it only “becomes” after years and years of tumbling through ocean depths against abrasive sands. It’s the process that must take place in becoming something cherished rather than something tossed.
My wife and I find ourselves in a phase of life that’s very unpleasant. I’ll divulge more as time goes on, but right now we’re like the glass – becoming something more beautiful than what we were before. The process is very painful and holistic. From my perspective, there isn’t an aspect of our lives that’s not touched. The physical, financial, spiritual, emotional, social and professional arenas of our lives are being rubbed, abraded and tumbled. It’s painful. Lonely. Discouraging. Unpleasant. Unwanted. And much like the sea glass I threw back for more time in the wash, we’re not done yet either, not by a long shot.
Others who are aware of our tumble are sizing us up; some have care and concern, others have a distant, critical eye, still seeing our sharp edges. At times I get caught up in the eye of the critic, but it’s really the eye of the Creator with whom I need to be most in agreement with.
I believe with all my being and mind that there’s a God who loves me, is in control and aware of my tumbling and not just aware but orchestrating it. Although I may disdain it at times and others may be critical or dismissive, I have to trust that the loving God who determines the length of time I spend in the “ocean”, will create something in and with me that’s far better than what I was. I was never garbage, even if I felt that way. I was never trash even though some treated me as such. I was valuable then and I will be cherished once more.
Right now, some of you feel just like trash. People have discarded you and even tossed you back a few times. You may even shun yourself! Rejected and abraded, there’s nothing that seems to assuage the pain. So, I’m writing to you, to your heart and your mind. There is a God who loves you. He is acutely aware of what you’ve been through and are experiencing. And although this isn’t pleasant, what you will become – if you value His view and not others – is vastly more beautiful than what you were. Yup, you can reject Him, become bitter and fester in the unanswered question of why you were broken in the first place. Or you can view yourself and your world through His lens, His values and His love.For although we are afflicted, we are not crushed.
In a few weeks we’ll celebrate the expression of God’s great love for us, the giving of His only Son in Jesus of Nazareth. Take this time to truly and deeply contemplate what and why God would take on flesh. Find someone to talk with, someone kind, who has been through the wash. There aren't easy answers, sometimes far fewer than we're comfortable with, but the process is necessary and the outcome significant. May you keep your eyes on Him as you tumble towards something more beautiful than ever.