Doubting God while collecting seashells
Why do we collect seashells?
And what does that have to do with dealing with doubts about God’s grace and mercy?
I remember happily collecting them as a young child in my bucket. I carefully rinsed them in my sieve of any remaining sand. I would hold each one between my small fingers and admire its fine, imperceptible lines and its colour combination. I would then haul my treasure back home and promptly forget about my shells as soon as I was reunited with my toys.
So why did I spend time hunting for the most beautiful ones, the most colourful, the biggest or the smallest?
My concentrated hunt for smooth, unblemished specimens prevented me from ever stopping long enough to examine the motivation behind my search. They are beautiful, yes. Nature has thousands of beautiful elements; why do seashells compel me to dedicate time in searching for them while I only admired colourful tree leaves from afar? Am I trying to save those I can from the humiliation that befalls them? I have seen them subjected to unheard-of insults: turned into ashtrays, curtains and loopy necklaces. Lampshades as well. Oh, the Horror!
Hunting for perfect seashells made me wonder about God’s grace and helped eliminate my doubts about His mercy.
This seaside ritual continued without reflection until recently. My last trip to the seaside provided another opportunity to hunt for treasures. I wondered if it was simply a manifestation of my passion for natural beauty or was it a chance to capture the essence of the deep seas in my hand; a token of the seemingly infinite ocean?
I interrupted my search for answers when I realized I had grown more selective, far less accepting of most seashells. I started tossing back any seashell that had a dent or a hole.
Shells that had evidence of trauma–half of it missing or the edges smoothed by thousands of waves tossing it back and forth-were also respectfully returned to their natural habitat. Shells that were slightly bruised were also rejected. The automatic disqualification was the destiny of any shells that had muted colours.
Does God only accept perfect human beings as I do with seashells?
After an hour of concentrated hunting, I had gathered only 3 shells and a pebble that intrigued me. Thousands of broken seashells surrounded me, forming the most beautiful mosaic in the sand. I ran my fingers through the moist sand as the waves rolled in. The assortment of tiny fragments changed and slipped through my fingers. After another hour, I had only found one other shell that satisfied my criteria.
Astonishingly, the day’s hunt resulted in a far greater treasure than I had expected.
I had found 4 “perfect” seashells, one pebble and an intense realization- and appreciation- of God’s mercy, acceptance and His longing for our salvation.
Unlike me, our Lord is not searching for the perfect human, the purest heart, or the most fervent worshiper. He takes us as we are, full of scars, bruises and defects. And that is the essence of God’s grace and mercy and how imperfect seashells eliminated any doubts I had about His grace and mercy.
“Who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.
Read more about God’s love here: God’s Infinite Love
Further reading: The Divine Transforming Grace- by Fr. Moses Samaan
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