I didn’t notice it until I picked it up. Looking closely, I detect that on top of the perforated shell is a tiny piece of coral, glued on by another honeycomb substance, served up like a kind of beach hor d’oeuvre. Ocean tapas.
For sure, this goes into my collection. On this beach of Corolla, NC, I’m not alone in my shell hunting. People of all ages walk, bent over, eyes on the receding surf. A passing tropical storm has kicked up more sea debris than usual.
Why are we so eager for these broken treasures?
We are captivated by these little glimpses of a world removed from us. Holding a shell up to my ear, I can almost hear, “Oh I come from a land down under…” Yes, we collect them for their worn beauty, but also for the connection they give us to an ecosystem most of us will never view in person.
It’s as close as we come to the undersea kingdom.
It reminds me of what Paul said of our present glimpses of the Kingdom of God:
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
And I think of Jesus. No one has had a clearer picture of the world beyond our physical world. Imagine how hard it must have been for him to describe it to us.
So, he gives us little pieces of it. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” He gives us one, partial, metaphoric glimpse. Then another. And they start to pile up to a fuller picture of what life looks like under his reign.
More than that, Jesus himself is the full picture. As I collect the varied things that Scripture says about him (as well as what he says about himself), I start to understand the wholeness of the thing hinted at by each part.
My grandsons shows me what he has found. He has honed in on one shape and color. In the same way, we might limit our view of Jesus, latching onto one aspect of his complexity, and lose his three-dimensionality. He is the Savior. But he is also the shepherd, rock, vine, bread, king, author, light, healer, restorer, recreator and many more.
Each description is like a facet on the most beautiful jewel. Or another beautiful shell from a world beyond our imagining.
I have laminated my treasures. (And somehow, they’re still shedding sand. Incredible.) I hope to put these in a prominent place in my studio as I continue my meditation on Jesus.
For just as the variety of colors and shapes and variegation give me a more complete picture of the undersea world, all the nuances of Christ give me the best possible picture of the unseen Kingdom he reigns over.
Lord, we are so limited in our understanding of the reality of your invisible realm. How we thank you that you live out a perfect picture of it – not only the world to come, but the Kingdom that is already here.
Reader: Do you collect shells when you visit the shore? Why do you do it and what’s your best find?