Several years ago as the we were spending some time in Savannah, GA we went to the beach most evenings. Our family has discovered that summer sunsets on the beach are when we love to go the most. Most of the crowds of people have gone to have dinner and do other evening activities, plus many times parking is free after a certain hour. The weather is still beautiful and the water is nice.
This time we were walking and looking for shells, and Anna found a whole clam. It was washed up on shore and a pretty large size, and it was still intact. The mouth was slightly open, and it obviously wasn’t alive anymore, so she added it to the pile of shells we found and we took it back to dry out. Later, when we pried the top shell open, we found a surprise – a black pearl! It was embedded in sand inside and attached to the shell, We didn’t dare try to get it out for fear of damaging it, so we left it inside. A few years later for Anna’s birthday we asked Shawn’s parents to take it to the jeweler (they had all our stuff in storage at their house) and see about getting it made into a ring.
The jeweler was shocked and said they wouldn’t have believed we had actually found it that way if they hadn’t brought in the whole clam! It is a very rare thing find one like that – especially the dark color. The pearl was not a perfect shape – it is more oblong than round. But it makes a very pretty ring and a special reminder of a fun treasure.
This week as we have beach combed we found some fun shells. The boys joked about finding a pearl, and we told them how rare it was that we ever found one at all. As I was walking along the beach spending some time in prayer I thanked God for that gift so long ago that was still reminding me of his goodness.
The ocean is a place where I find rest and restoration. It puts my soul at ease. Yet in the same vein I feel the power and vastness of it as the waves crash in and the tides change the way the beach looks any given moment. If you’ve ever been caught in an undercurrent, you have probably felt the panic that comes from not knowing which was is up and having to surrender to trusting the water to push you back up as fast as it took you down.
The ocean took sand and pushed it into the mouth of a very specific clam to make this shiny black pearl over time. It has to be a certain type of clam to make a pearl, and even more specific to make a black one. It takes time and the clam uses a defense mechanism to try to get rid of the pearl that gives it the shine. There is nothing simple or random about any of it, yet over time a rare and beautiful thing (albeit imperfect when we found it) was formed.
The last several years have been good in many ways, but they have also been some of the hardest as far as growing and changing me. Many times I felt caught in that undercurrent and wondered if I would ever feel upright again let alone rooted and steadfast.
However, as I was walking on the beach this week I was marveling at this profound sense of peace and contentment I have right now. I feel so thankful to be this place, but I have not known peace like this before, and I admit that it feels foreign to me. It is strange, but it is changing my view of and reaction to so many things. Instead of anxiety and chaos being the filter that I see through, I feel like I am often looking through a filter of peace and hope. Sometimes I am not sure how to respond to this steadfastness that I feel deep in my soul right now. I realize that I am being shaped and molded into something beautiful by the maker of the ocean – both now in peace and before in the time of chaos. The one who made the waters to churn and shape and move and (and some cases) destroy is the one who has made me and continues to make me more like him. Sometimes it feels like chaos and is hard – like I can’t catch my breath and I might never breech the surface again, or like sand scratching the edges of a pearl and turning into something valuable. Other times it is done in slow, steadfast ways where my feet feel firm on solid ground and my roots feel deep. Both are purposeful and necessary to bring me to a likeness of him, and I am grateful for his great love for me.