My husband and I recently took our boys on their first beach vacation. We could only fit in a couple of days, but it was so worth the 7 hour drive to see them running in the sand, jumping waves, exploring and taking an interest in one of my favorite things to do at the shore – look for seashells. I have to admit, several of the shells they found didn’t exactly meet my criteria for “keepers” and were left in the sands of the Gulf Shores. I thought I was a pretty selective seashell collector, but somehow we still managed to come home with a gallon sized Ziploc bag full of them!
Early one morning, I was fortunate enough to sneak out of our room before my boys woke, and escaped down to the beach alone. I wanted to be among the first people combing the edge of the water for any treasures that washed up over night. Quite by accident, I discovered that the best shells were a ways back from the surf, buried in the soft sand that seemed to be virtually untouched. I walked along, sweeping the sand away with my foot, hoping to stumble upon that one perfect find.
As I sifted through the sands, I realized that a shell had to first catch my eye, before I would consider bending over to pick it up. It might have been the glinting reflection of the rising sun on a perfectly polished jingle or lettered olive, the tell-tale swirl of a conch or snail, the sharp, pointy end of an auger, or even an interesting pattern or color just peeking out from under a pile of sand that would snag my attention. I had to be attracted by some small portion of the shell to give it a closer look.
It wasn’t always the shells that appeared perfect to the naked eye that made it into my bag. After finding about three dozen pristine olive shells, I was no longer all that interested in them, as most collectors would be. Eventually, even the thrill of perfection lost its allure for me. I wanted the shells that were interesting. The one that had an unexpectedly bright lavender color on the inside of what was otherwise a rather dull home to a bi-valve intrigued me. I selected one that was cracked down the middle, revealing the intricately twisted inner workings of a conch. I claimed a few that were so tiny and fragile looking that it defied logic to imagine them surviving the harsh conditions they had endured. I kept one piece that was just the outer edge of what I believe is a scotch bonnet, simply because of its distinctive curve and texture. Even some fragments found their way into my bag of keepers, because I was intrigued about what they could have been, by just how big and beautiful the whole was before the elements broke it apart. The shells that held the most interest for me were the ones that seemed to have a story to tell, the pieces that caused me to marvel at the possibilities of what once was.
All those shiny, seemingly perfect shells I picked up that morning were only perfect until I got a closer look. Not a single one of them is entirely void of flaws. There are microscopic nicks, tiny cracks and imperfections that can only be seen with close inspection or even a microscope. They all bear scars where wind, wave and sand have beaten them, but every one of those shells that I brought home was a survivor. Each, in their own way, either mostly whole or riddled with holes and cracks, miraculously arrived on the beach. As I looked upon these small pieces of creation, I found myself in awe of the mighty power of our Creator.
The message I learned that morning on the beach was even more valuable than the rarest of sea shells I might ever discover. It was an understanding of my purpose as a Survivor! The original survivors who inspired this series for me were a small portion of God’s people, the Israelites, whom He allowed to escape His righteous judgments. These people, though scattered from their holy land by exile or in refuge, had an important mission to carry out. God told His prophet, Ezekiel, over and over again what purpose he had for them. After all the years of punishment for both individual and national sin were carried out, His desire was that, “Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 7:27. These people would stand to remember the sinfulness of Israel and the righteous condemnation of God. Those among the remnant who chose to repent and obey Him would be used to restore Israel to a status that would exceed its previous splendor. Their mission was to tell the story of how God saved and reestablished them according to His faithfulness so that He alone would be glorified.
Even the most sparkling of shells has no inherent light. It must reflect the light of the sun. We also have no light of our own, but rather are called to reflect the brilliance of God to all whom we meet. Do you remember how shiny Moses was when he descended from the mountain after spending time in the presence of God? Every one noticed him and they knew he had an important message for them. Before we can begin to share our personal story of what God has done in our lives, we have to grab somebody’s attention so they will listen. Let your best characteristics peek out from under all the things that tend to bury us and let your shininess in God be noticed. Spend some time with God and get yourself polished up so that people will notice you and want to hear what you have to say.
Let me be clear, this is not a recommendation that you should perform good deeds so that you yourself would be praised by man. Rather use the gifts God has blessed you with to get the attention of people for the purpose of glorifying Him. Paul’s message to Christians in Colosse was similar, “…whatever you do in words or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17. Give thanks to God for all that He has done to make you lustrous and glorify Him through the use of those skills, talents and abilities.
Just like the seashells, God made us each unique and intricate and beautiful, but we have to let people see those inner workings that make us interesting individuals. The shells are cracked and tossed about by wind and wave or crushed under the weight of a predator, and we humans are marked by the events of our lives as they shape and mold us. None of us lack faults either. These flaws are what make us interestingly human. Our perfection and our righteousness come from Christ alone.
We are all keepers in God’s book. He guaranteed that for us by sending His Son, who came from the line of David through the preserved remnant of Judah, to earth so that each and every one of us who believe in Him will be saved for eternity in heaven. None of our shininess, nor any completion of our mission can earn heaven for us. When we call upon Him as our savior, instead of baring all our faults and failures, God will see only His Son’s perfection and draw us into His arms. Eternal Survivors are assured of their keeper status because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus, the Ultimate Survivor, also knew that his purpose for coming to earth was to glorify His Father in heaven. He said, “But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” John 12:28. This is the mission for all survivors, to emulate Jesus, to live out the purpose of bringing glory to the Father right up until our death.
After His resurrection, Jesus reiterated this purpose for His apostles to glorify God in what we refer to as the Great Commission. He told them to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15. Their mission is the same as ours today…Go and tell everybody you can get to listen to you what Jesus has done for you, glorify Him in all you say and do, where ever you may find yourself.
My favorite shell didn’t actually catch my eye, it caught my foot. I remember thinking it was probably just an old shoe, but it turned out to a 10 inch piece of a lightening whelk. Although a large portion of the outer curve had fallen off, it was certainly a keeper just for its massive size and because enough of it was intact to be identifiable. Sometimes we, too, stumble upon people who haven’t polished up their shiny side, but still have an amazing testimony to share. I feel we have a responsibility to seek out these fellow survivors and help them to be radiant for God. Who can you point toward the light today?
Each of us who woke up this morning is a survivor. We have washed up on the shores of our lives by the grace of God who has lovingly blessed us with a shininess that reflects His love. I am committing myself to using my shiny shell of God-given gifts to grab people’s attention so that I can share with them what He has done to make me an eternal survivor. Have you told your story of how God made you a keeper? How can you use your skills, talents, and spiritual gifts to bring Him glory? Put your best facet forward and shine for Him today so that others are attracted to you, then live out your purpose as an eternal survivor by glorifying Jesus!