At the end of the sermon Sunday, a video played showing several people engrossed in their electronic devices while life was going on around them. One of the images was a proposal taking place in front of a sunset.
For some reason the image reminded me of vacation.
Typically our family takes a beach vacation. I sit under an umbrella and read book after book for a week or more while the rest of the family scavenges for shells, shark’s teeth, sea glass, sand dollars, and various other treasures. Every so often I will join them in the water to cool down a bit, but I never stay too long for fear of burning.
Vacation is my chance to catch up on recreational reading that I don’t get to do much of during the rest of the year. Some years I have read as many as twenty novels while lying on the beach under an umbrella.
This year my teenagers started making comments about me reading months before we packed for our dream trip to Sanibel Island. They weren’t being mean, simply dreaming out loud what vacation would look like for all of us.
However, it kind of hurt my feelings that they were counting me out of their plans. They had already decided that I would sit in one spot, babysit our belongings, and read by myself while they did all the things we had been talking and dreaming about since they had been in elementary.
Not this year. I thought. This year I’m going to do everything everyone else does. I’m not going to be holder of the stuff. I’m not going to be the responsible one, the good behavior example. We only have a couple summer vacations left before they leave for college. Who knows if we’ll ever travel as a family again after that. I’m going to participate. Not watch.
When it came time to pack, I didn’t include any physical books. I didn’t download any e-books onto my Kindle. I didn’t even grab a magazine for the road. And I didn’t say a word about what I wasn’t doing to anyone else.
When we headed to the beach on day two, no one even packed chairs down the path. If mom wasn’t sitting in them, no one else would feel a need to go keep her company every so often.
All three members of my family had found extremely unique, amazing shells within a day or two of combing the beach. I spent pretty much the entire time on the beach searching for my something special, and hadn’t found anything worth showing off.
After being excited for one of their umpteenth awesome finds, I found myself sitting in the sand digging through an enormous pile of shells, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, and just a wee bit jealous.
God, out of everything out here, I just want to find ONE special thing. I don’t need to find tons, but I’d like to take ONE thing home that I can say I found. One special shell that is whole. No missing pieces. No brokenness. One perfect, special shell just for me.
And when I looked back down at the pile of shells in front of me, all I saw was the same pile of shells that was there before I prayed.
It wasn’t long after that when I rose to take the daily sunset picture. Sunset on Bowman’s Beach was the daily highlight. We made sure we were present for God’s nightly light show. Every night was something different.
As I struggled to frame my shots of the sun melting into the ocean around all of the other attendees, I again became frustrated.
Just one perfect shot! If only those people would move! They are intruding on my view of your show, God.
It was in that moment I finally heard what God had been trying to say and my eyes filled with tears as I realized what I had been doing.
I wasn’t looking for special; I was looking for perfection. I was totally missing the special in my search for something that doesn’t exist outside of God.
Carrie, I created each of those people and each of those shells. They are all absolutely special and perfect. You’re looking at the wrong things. Of course they’re missing pieces, cracked, broken, and discolored. They’ve weathered the storms of life. Been battered by an uneven, rocky ground. They’ve been out their depths and totally washed up. And they are beautiful. Stop looking for perfection and see the beauty that is within each one.
Immediately I was humbled and had an entire new outlook on the images before me. Handcrafted by God. And He knew not only every individual chip, crack, broken piece, and hole, but He also knew the events that caused each imperfection to exist.
I wonder how often we get caught up in perfection that we miss the beauty God has placed right in front of our faces. See, I put down my electronic devices and books, and I still almost missed it. I spent most of my time searching for something that wasn’t even what God had prepared for me.
Has God placed any beautiful broken things in front of you this week? Are you trying to fix them or are you simple loving them as God’s creation?