Many years ago I went through a life situation that pulled the carpet right out from under me. I was sad and depressed for a long time, a couple of years in fact. During that time I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror staring back at me.
My 21 year marriage had ended in divorce and it tore my life into shreds. I thought I would never smile again, never experience joy, and never be at peace. During the worst of it all I fled to Myrtle Beach for two months just to settle my thoughts and perhaps figure out a new direction for my life. While there, I did a lot of talking to God and I wrote an account of something major that happened as an answer to my prayers. Here it is:
Since my arrival here at Myrtle Beach, I have gone for walks on the beach just about every day, about three miles. I have gone at high tide, low tide, and everything in between. I have gone early in the morning before most other people are out and I have gone later in the day. I have walked in wind, calm, rain, mist, fog and cold.
Most days as I walked, I searched for seashells….nice ones, big, not broken. There just never seemed to be much down there on the beach. I saw some little ones, many old ones full of holes and many broken pieces. There were always people looking, with their plastic bags at the ready, but they weren’t finding anything either. In fact, I heard lots of complaining about the dearth of treasures to be found.
Most days as I walked and searched, I also prayed. I prayed for God to fix me and make me whole again after my divorce. I prayed for him to manifest himself to me and give me direction for my life.
And as I walked and searched and prayed, I grieved. I grieved my failed marriage; my lost dreams, and my broken family.
One day mid January as I walked and searched and prayed and cried, I did something I had never done before. I did something that I always thought people were hokey for doing. I asked God for a sign that he really heard my prayers and that he loved me. I asked him for a shell, whole and complete; unbroken and bigger than the others. I knew that if I ever found it, that it would be His doing, because what I was asking for I had only seen in shell shops and craft stores, never on the beach.
Well, I didn’t find one that day, or the next day, and not the day after that either. That made me rail all the more. Never mind that I had seen whales by twos and once by threes on three separate occasions, right outside my window; never mind all the other ways He had shown me grace, including the upgrade in my accommodation. I wanted my shell.
Sometime after that, I stopped looking, stopped striving, planning,
stopped asking God for my shell. I relaxed and just enjoyed the beach. I didn’t care that I looked like a crazy woman in a cowboy hat and running shoes. I could see the beauty all around me, and it made me happy. I kind of forgot about my request.
Then, just days before leaving to go back home to the reality of my life in Quebec, and more than a month since asking for it, I found my shell. I wasn’t searching, striving, plotting or planning. I was just walking, being happy and at peace. I was thankful for my first two nights’ sleep without medication in eighteen months. My shell was big, whole, no holes or cracks, and unbroken, just like I asked God to make me. (not that I asked God to make me big!) People had walked right past my shell, not noticing it, but it stood out like a beacon for me. I couldn’t understand how they all missed it. Funny, like sometimes when it is only by standing still that an elusive butterfly will light on your shoulder, you have to be still in your heart to see what God wants to show you.
I experienced joy on that day. True joy.
Sometimes by just letting things take their time and natural course, joy can be found when you least expect it.
The shell sits on a shelf in my office as a reminder that joy is not so terribly elusive and that God answers prayer.