Last week, my family had the joy of vacationing in Hatteras, on the southern tip of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, as far south as one can go before needing a ferry to continue. We basked in the sun. We played in the waves. We relaxed.
And we collected seashells.
The kids had been looking forward to that part for weeks. When family asked them what they wanted to do on vacation, their answers were: (1) play mini-golf, (2) get Sweet Frog frozen yogurt, and (3) collect seashells.
One small catch--the beach by our house had virtually no shells. For the first few days, they collected about 5. And at least two of those came from the strip of rocks and shells beside our condo rather than the beach, LOL. On Wednesday night, a few had washed to shore, and as we were out hunting ghost crabs, the kids grabbed up all the shells they could find. Very few were what I would deem keepable, but they were the only ones we'd seen, so...
Then on Thursday, we got an off-road driving permit and took the Jeep out onto Buxton point, behind the Hatteras lighthouse. This sandy peninsula was populated by other 4x4s, surrounded by blue-green water...and littered with big, beautiful shells. Eureka!
Now, I've been collecting shells for a lot of years...but always had limited space for bringing them home. So I had to come up with criteria for what I kept and what I left. For me it usually comes down to color and shape. I'm a sucker for pinks and purples. And for whole, unbroken shells. I like the kinds that have swirling patterns. And the ultimate find, of course, is a conch.
My kids though...they would pick up the ugliest, weirdest looking things! Ones I would have tossed back in a heartbeat they clung to with fierce determination.
The broken ones. (But Mommy, look at the cool pattern it makes along the break!)
The common ones. (I can use it as a shovel!)
The ugly ones. (But look, it has fossils in it!)
The ones just like the other twenty they already kept. (Oh cool, now it's a collection!)
At first I tried to reason with them, to impose my logic. (Ha! LOL) And on some, we had no disagreement, like the perfect little conch we found on Friday, our second day at the point. Or the ones with holes that Xoe can turn into necklaces.
But those others...
As I walked the sand, as I kept my eye out for what I deemed the perfect shell, I stopped arguing with the kids. Let them pick whatever they wanted right then--but we'd have to sort through them before we left. No way could we take all those buckets- and bags-full home! There wasn't room in our Jeep.
And yet, as I walked the sand, I knew I wouldn't have the heart to take away the shells they loved, just because I didn't see the beauty in them. In fact, the more I saw the mangled shells they chose, the more I loved those kids.
Because they see beauty where I saw scars.
They see purpose where I see brokenness.
They see what it looked like whole where I see the jagged edge left behind.
They see potential where I see hopelessness.
They marvel at the size where I screw up my nose at the color.
They are so, so much closer to looking at things through God's eyes than I am.
Because let's face it--we're not the pretty, perfect seashells. We're the broken ones. The scarred ones. The mangled ones. The shattered ones. The ugly ones. We're the ones discerning eyes would pass over. We're the ones perfection has long ago left behind.
And God loves us. Not despite our flaws, but because each crack, each track of worm-eating, each place where the sand has rubbed us raw...those are part of us. Part of what makes us who we are. Part of what God loves. He can see the whole, unbroken creation we are in potential...but he can also see the way he can use us in our brokenness. Because of our brokenness.
Yes, we came home with buckets and bags of seashells. And to be honest, I still shake my head at some of them.
But I'm glad. I'm so glad my kids picked up the ones I never would have. Because it proves that their eyes, their hearts, their imaginations go far beyond what I can see. And I thank the Lord that he's given them a bit of his vision. Because if they can find the beauty in this...
...then I know they also see the beauty in us. Just like our Father.