Growing up, we lived in Southern California. The beach was a normal weekend family outing for us. I grew up riding the Newport Beach ferry across to Balboa Island and would get out of the car to feel the breeze for the 10 minute ride. I also hoped I would make it back into the car in time before we got to the dock and my Dad drove off – – as a kid, I thought I’d get left behind with no time to hop back into the car. Oh the thrill of timing it right!
If we weren’t eating bologna and Kraft cheese sandwiches on our drenched beach blankets, we were at lunch on the pier at Ruby’s Diner. Getting to the diner meant walking past dozens of fisherman casting their lines as we held our breath, quickening our pace past the bait prep stations.
On another part of the island, there was a frozen banana shack. I liked mine with sprinkles and dipped in chocolate and we’d sometimes wander down the walk to an open-air arcade that smelled of sea salt and wet bodysuits. I remember parking the family minivan at a metered spot, sometimes (most times) one of us needing to run back to add a few more quarters because the day had gotten away from us.
While we would play in the ocean on our boogie boards and build sand castles with my Dad, my mom was unpacking lunches and Capri Suns. She would set everyone up and then she’d start her normal routine, combing the shoreline and collecting shells, always on the lookout for coveted sea glass that had washed up; only the very best items would be added to her collection. Let me just tell you, her collection is impressive.
She would gravitate towards unique shells with flecks of colors, smoothed by the sanding of the waves. Sea glass and smooth stone were highly sought after treasures because they were most rare. A spectrum of greens, blues, reds and yellows depending on the original objects color were all potential items to be added to the collection. Smoothing jagged glass takes times and the yield from the sea’s efforts is highly valued if you’re a collector. A deposit, made by the sea, as a dividend to the beachcomber who valued it’s worth.
Driving to the beach last summer I rode in the back of our little energy efficient car, squeezed between a car seat and pack n’ play. Charlie at that point didn’t like car rides, so there was a lot of crying. The only thing that would quiet him was sitting within view. So, I sat in silence for 6 hours there + 6 hours home.
This combing of the shoreline has since become ‘my thing’ when we get to go to the beach. In the silence, I began thinking about the sea glass – guys I had lots of time. The shells, the glass, the sea — they have a very tumultuous relationship, but that relationship produces a beautiful treasure.
In my 6-hour ponder-moment, I thought this was a good analogy for our lives.
Shells come from the deep parts of the ocean. But glass, glass is not ‘of’ the sea. It’s natural residency isn’t there. These glass items that find their way in are at the mercy of the waves. The glass, broken from it’s original state, gets entangled in seaweed and the waves crash and overwhelm it. The eb and flow of submitting to it’s overwhelming new environment creates a symbiotic relationship for the glass.
The glass bottle is brought to it’s breaking point. The sea, in it’s greatest mercy, while breaking the bottle, is also refining it; smoothing the most jagged of edges and offering the glass a new identity with a purpose, different than before it’s breaking.
So what’s so special about these broken pieces? They are uniquely the sea’s product. Nothing else exists that is identical to those pieces.
After the churning and tossing has subsided, those shards of glass have smoothed and the collector combing the shores finds great value in the glass’ new identity.
Much like life, our brokenness has value. But having our lives refined isn’t easy and it’s definitely painful. Those seasons can seem long, right? Like, enough already. I’ve been churned. Would someone toss me the floaty doughnut thingy so I can get out?
While these unique experiences have value, they don’t feel valuable when you’re being subjected to the sting of salt water and beat with the instability of the tide. Nope. Not at that point does it feel good.
…there comes a moment. A moment when the sea stops swallowing us up and we catch a glimmer of the suns rays as we approach the shoreline once again. The tide brings us to the surface and we no longer gasp for air as we come to rest where we once began.
There is a specific clarity after crushing. A depth to feelings. An intentionality in words. A sensitivity in moments. And those pieces of our lives are highly treasured; uniquely us.
When I set out for a swim, I don’t expect to be sucked up & churned; at least I would never choose that for myself, especially if I were a glass bottle. Yet, I think our lives are exactly like the glass bottle. Purposeful and sturdy, but fragile and easily broken, yet not destroyed.
See, glass, however fragile it is, is also very strong. So while waves will refine and break us, they also shape the pieces of our unique calling, instead of destroying us. Our lives are in constant need of our relationship with the sea – to envelop us, smooth our broken pieces, and push us back towards the shoreline; to once again bask in the light of our new identity as sea glass.