Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Learning lessons from a shell

A Special Gift

Time was running out on 8th session of the Cleansing Stream class I was attending at church. For seven weeks the course’s content challenged my thinking and forced me out of the contentment of my comfort zone. God was using this course to overhaul my life in a mighty way and I could hardly wait to see what He was going to do next.

I intently listened as the facilitator told the story of the shells sitting on the table at the front of the room.

“While I was walking along the beach this past weekend in my quiet time with the Father, I asked Him what I could give you [the students in the class] as a reminder of how He is working in your life. As I walked along the beach I began picking up different types of shells, so many I had to go back to my car and get a container to carry them all. God revealed each one to me saying “I have this shell in mind for someone.” Obediently I picked the shell up and placed it in the box. What you see before you on the table are the shells I picked up that morning on the beach. What I would like for each of you to do is seek the Lord’s guidance and then come up and select the shell He has revealed to you.”

A shiver ran up my spine as I looked at the table full of shells from a distance. I bowed my head and prayed.

“Father, thank you for this incredible gift. Please allow me to see the shell you picked especially for me and then help me received what you have for me through its message. Amen”

Wanting to avoid the little crowd of students gathered around the table, I stayed in my chair a few extra minutes and listened for God’s voice. As the moments past, I allowed myself to tune everything out and focus on the shells on the table. I allowed my mind to drift back to the morning teaching and to the story of how the facilitator had found each shell on the beach.

I reflect for just a little while longer on my own trips to the beach to watch the beauty of God’s glory in the sunrise. “The very One I met in all of those sunrises has now picked a shell and delivered it here for me.” I sat awe, completely humbled, feeling completely loved and embraced by the arms of Creator of it all.

When I finally decided to approach the table, my eyes were immediately drawn to a small oyster shell in the center of a few large bulky clam shells. Is this the one you have for me Lord? I asked. My eyes scanned the remaining shells on the table, but nothing stood out as much as this one did. Reaching my hand out I prayed “Thank you for this beautiful gift. Teach me everything you would have me to learn through this very special shell.”

As I returned to my seat I admired the special gift from God. I ran my fingers over the outside of the shell noticing the various hues of brown. There were even hints of grey and white weaving their way through the sandy-brown colored surface.

My detailed observation of the shell was temporarily put on hold while the class was called back to order for the final assignment, prayer and dismissal. Our assignment for the week was to pray and seek what God would have us to learn from the shell. I couldn’t wait to get started. I was ready to hear from God.

Listening and Learning 

I spent most of my drive home with the shell in palm of my hand. As I drove in silence I heard the words of Psalm 139 verse 13 “I made your whole being Sheri; I formed you in your mother's body. You are as unique as the shell you hold.”

The hair on my arms stood up quickly populating with chill-bumps. A smile lit up my face and I lifted up praise to the Lord for making me so uniquely complex. “Thank you for being here with me Jesus. I can’t even begin to thank you enough for loving me with a love I can’t even comprehend.”

I closed my hand around the shell and noticed the way it fit perfect into my palm. “Sheri you know you fit perfectly in the palm of my hand too.” I allowed that thought to permeate my mind. “In my hand you are surrounded by my love. I am your resting place, your refuge.”

I turned the shell around in my hand to see what would happen and no matter which direction the shell was place, it was a perfect fit in my hand; just like I am perfectly fit in the Father hand.

When I returned home that day, I sat thinking about the message of the shell. The outside of the shell was smooth to the touch. There were visible cracks and holes, even ridges that reminded me of little hills and valleys.

“Take a good look at the outside of this shell Sheri. Do you see the cracks?”

Yes! There were two cracks but they didn’t go through the entire shell. They were merely surface level.

“You’ve faced some tough circumstances in your life. But they didn’t define you. You weren’t broken by them. Though you thought you couldn’t make it another day, I was restoring you from the inside, out. [2 Corinthians 4:16- 18]”

“Sheri, it’s time to turn the shell over.”

Gazing on the inside of the shell, I noticed portions that had been chipped away. As I looked at the swirl of colors, I allowed my thumb to rub upwards so I could feel the texture. Smooth in places but rough in others because of the tiny chips. Removing my thumb from view, my eyes fell to the color pattern just above one of the chips. I had to look twice and allow my thumb to trace the pattern down into the chip’s center. I stood in awestruck wonder as I watched my thumb retrace the pattern; the thumbprint of God.

“Yes Sheri, allow this pattern to remind you of the way I chip away pieces of you that don’t align with My will for your life. You are my handiwork [Ephesians 2:20], a new creation [2 Cor. 5:17] and I love you with an everlasting love [Jer. 31:3].

This little shell is never far from my sight. Even now, God is using it to reveal things to me. He isn’t finished with me yet. I am a work in progress. Like the shell, I still have a few rough edges that are being “smoothed” by the hands of loving hands of a merciful and gracious Father.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.” 2 Cor. 1:3 - 4

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