Yesterday I went walking along the shore of Myrtle Beach to think, pray and clear my head. Along the way I found this conch shell, picked it up, noticed it was broken and almost put it back. Then it occurred to me—this shell is me, in so many ways. So, I kept it, and put it on the dash of my car.
We all are broken people in one way or another. We’re imperfect and we’re sinners. This conch shell will never be whole again. But, we will be whole. When Jesus enters our lives that return to completeness, to being whole begins. It will not be finished until we go home to be with Him or He returns, whichever comes first. On that day, we will finally be the way we were created to be—even so, that process, what some would call sanctification, has begun.
When the disciples went fishing in John 21, it symbolized their return to the familiar. They were fishermen, Jesus was gone, so they went back to being incomplete, like this conch shell. (And they weren’t very good fishermen that night, for they had caught nothing). They did not know what God was about to do through them. They were broken people. When they recognized Jesus on the shore, they left all to be with Him again. At one point in his life, Peter could walk on water—not so in his brokenness. He had to swim and swim he did. Once on shore, Jesus made him whole by coaching Peter to declare his love for Jesus three times—the same number of times Peter denied Jesus. How refreshing that must have been for Peter!1
In the background of the picture above is Myrtle the Turtle, a trinket that we picked up in Arkansas. I left in the picture because it symbolizes the past. It is also ironic, since we’re trying to move to the Myrtle Beach area. Eleanor Brown (I don’t know who she is) has said:
There are times in our lives when we have to realize that our past is precisely what it is and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it. And by doing that, we can change the future.
My wife and I are at that time. The past is over and a new chapter is opening. It may seem odd that I’m using a decayed conch shell as representative of our future. But, speaking for myself, I think for the first time in my life I am coming to grips with my brokenness—embracing it even. Embracing it, knowing that our completeness, our wholeness comes from Jesus.
I am also at a time in my life when I may no longer work a full-time job. Early retirement is on the horizon and it takes a lot of trust in God to step out on that limb. It is out of my comfort-zone, but I’m finding that God puts in places and circumstances that are uncomfortable.
With these changes comes growth and responsibility—responsibility because I (we) have a part to play. Much like a farmer who plants seeds and then awaits the sunshine and rain, I have to be diligent in looking for a job. The farmer cannot produce the rain or the sunshine; that is God’s part. The farmer’s part, that which God will not do, is to prepare the ground and plant the seed. I have planted seeds (job applications) and I am depending on God to bring the right one forward, while coming to grips with the fact that the job may not be full-time and might be out of my comfort-zone.
The conch shell is also, just that, a shell. The snail that lived in the shell is gone, and I would guess, dead. Without Christ, we are mere shells of humanity. Pascal postulated that there is a God-shaped void in our hearts that only God can fill—we’re just a shell without Him. My shell was filled on December 1, 1977; I hope that you too are living with a Jesus-occupied shell. If not, seek someone who can explain Jesus to you2; I know, it may be out of your comfort-zone, but do you want to be a shell or the person God designed you to be?
1 ideas gleaned from a sermon given by Matt Wilson at Ekklesia Christian Church on Wednesday April 24, 2019
2 your local church is probably a good place to start; or get a copy of More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell.