(Moved over from previous faculty website; originally written in 2001)
Searching For Broken Shells - by Louis F. Morgan
It had been a difficult seven months. The summer workload was extremely heavy, finances were desperately low, and six close relatives had passed away. Needing both inner healing and a vacation, I soon found myself standing on the South Carolina coastline. I peered across the Atlantic, watching the reflection of the sun shining over the water while silently praying to God to use this time to comfort my grieving spirit.
The waves sweeping back and forth over my feet and the gentle breezes blowing across my face refreshed me. As I waded through the incoming tide and walked through the sand, I noticed many beautiful shells. While some were similar, each had its own unique pattern and shape. My troubles diminished as I focused on my newfound happy-- shell searching! I became determined to locate the largest, brightest shell to take back and display on my office desk. It didn't take long, however, to discover that most of the shells were broken.
I'm not looking for broken shells! I thought. I want one that is pretty and whole. As quickly as my mind processed the words, I heard the Lord speak to my spirit: "But I long to receive those that are broken."
Now I understand that the Lord is not interested in "shell searching" but that He seeks to heal hurting people. It matters not to God whether a person's brokenness is spiritual, emotional, financial or even physical. He longs to receive those who have nothing to offer but their brokenness, for it is through such weakness that His strength and power are made perfect as He brings restoration.
Losing the Perfect Ones
In the midst of my revelation, I suddenly caught a glimpse of a prize shell! It was larger than the others nearby and the colors were radiant. There was just one problem: it was rapidly being carried away in the tide! No sooner had I seen the shell than it was gone. It had been within my reach just seconds before, but suddenly it was swept away.
Maybe I was just being "superspiritual," but I immediately related the loss of the shell to the death of my relatives. One week I had spoken to my aunt over the telephone; the next week I attended her funeral. Ot maybe it was like the loss of a lifetime dream. Some people live their lives with hopes and desires that seem to never actualize. Perhaps they come very close to taking hold of their dream, only to watch it vanish before their eyes. Often devastation and brokenness remain. Yet, we have no need to doubt that God loves us, will restore us, and will transform our pain if only we allow Him.
I walked onto that beach with a heavy heart and grieving spirit, but God answered my prayer and brought healing to me as I searched for shells. I listened as the Spirit of the Lord reminded me that He is seeking those with a broken and contrite spirit, and that He has called me to be an instrument of hope and encouragement to others with brokenness in their lives.
Sure, I will miss my relatives, but they left me with the assurance of seeing them again in heaven. Work and finances might be stressful, but I can rely on God's promise that His children will never be forsaken (Psalm 37:25). I understand that my light affliction is but for a moment and is working in me a far greater "weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
When I returned from my vacation, I did not bring back a large, beautiful shell to display on my desk. Rather, I returned with wonderful memories, a renewed spirit, and a pocketful of broken shells to remind me of my true purpose and ministry--to do my prat in helping restore others who are broken. How about you? Have you been searching for shells lately?
Editor's note: When not working as archivist at the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center, Louis Morgan enjoys traveling and visiting friends in South Carolina.
(Published in the June 2001 issue of the Church of God Evangel.)
I am a professor, author, librarian, historian, and speaker living in beautiful Cleveland, Tennessee-- but I will always call Mississippi "home." I enjoy my work at Lee University and my hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, fishing, gardening, writing, reading, and movies.