As I mentioned in my prior blog, the shells along Pompano Beach in Florida were stunning. Each day as I walked I would take my time, looking down to spot the most beautiful shells. I wanted a wide array of colors and sizes and shapes, even different textures… but I also wanted beauty because… well, who wants an ugly seashell, right? Sometimes I would pick one up but, looking at my current collection, realize that I already had one that bore a striking resemblance. Sometimes a shell would be partially buried in the sand or was being washed over by the waves. I would reach down to grab it but, as I pulled it out and examined it more closely, I would notice cracks or pieces broken off. I was flying back on a plane so I had no interest in taking up precious carry-on space with redundancy or imperfection. (You can probably see where I’m going with this!)
One morning I noticed a shell upside down on the shoreline. Its underside was bright and vivid… beautiful! I thought, “If that is what the underside looks like, I can’t wait to see the beauty of the outside.” I turned it over and my spirits sank. The outside of that shell was drab and ugly; a blah, grayish shade with random bumps. Instinctively, I throw it back into the ocean.
But as I walked in silence along the shoreline, my knee jerk rejection of rejecting that shell caused me to reflect: how often do I fail to notice the interior beauty of people because they don’t match my initial expectations? How often do I allow first impressions to stop me from engaging more deeply with people? Had I seen the outside of that shell first, I would have never stopped to examine it. I would have kept moving along, just ignoring it.
Now, it’s not a big deal when it happens with a shell. I’m pretty confident the shell I threw back didn’t cry tears that mingled with the waves. It’s an inanimate object. But I am also pretty confident that there are times when my judgment of what I see at first glance prevents me from seeing deeper, hidden beauty in people.
I now regret that I didn’t bring that shell home. I could have put it on the table in my study where I do my morning prayers. It would have been a really helpful reminder to me to focus more intently and seek out the beauty hidden within regardless of what first meets the eye.
Listen to my recent sermon podcasts at http://www.trinitylafayette.org/sermons and check out my new book, Companions on the Journey: Foundational Spiritual Practices at https://wipfandstock.com/companions-on-the-journey.html or view links on my home page]