The Best of What Remains

Nobody wants the broken shells. They're not scooped up, cleaned off, or taken home to be added to collections. Nobody strings them onto necklaces. There's no market to sell them to tourists.

At some point during their rough trip to shore, they've been damaged, and now they're less than beautiful. They can even be dangerous, as anybody who's ever stepped barefoot on a broken shell can attest. 

Perhaps considering themselves fortunate to be out of the waves where they were once so damaged, they'll burrow down in the sand with hopes to remain there forever--sharp and brittle and ready to gouge the tender instep of anyone passing by.

Unfortunately, they've avoided the very process that would have beautified their brokenness.

There are other shells, also broken, who--while longing for the comfort of shore--will instead find themselves forever tumbling in the surf. In a seemingly endless cycle they'll ride the waves toward shore, only to be sucked backward in the cold undertow again and again and again.

This long and dizzying process will nevertheless have one positive effect: it will wear down the broken edges, transforming them into smooth curves with the butter-soft finish of polished marble.

Deliver us not from the tumbling surf. 

Use it instead to beautify the best of what remains, as together we look forward to the day when You will make all things new.

* * * *

Upon the sandy shore an empty shell,
Beyond the shell infinity of sea;
O Saviour, I am like that empty shell;
Thou art the Sea to me.

A sweeping wave rides up the shore, and, lo,
Each dim recess the coiled shell within
Is searched, is filled, is filled to overflow
By water crystalline.

Not to the shell is any glory then:
All glory give we to the glorious sea.
And not to me is any glory when
Thou overflowest me.

Sweep over me, Thy shell, as low I lie,
I yield me to the purposes of Thy will;
Sweep up, O conquering waves, and purify.
And with Thy fullness fill.

Amy Carmichael, "The Shell," Toward Jerusalem.


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