By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training
I LOVE SEA GLASS. Some might even say I’m obsessed. That is a claim I absolutely will NOT deny. The process by which sea glass becomes a smooth and beautiful gem over time never ceases to amaze me. At a point in time, a piece of garbage is tossed on the shore or over the side of a cliff or sea vessel. That piece of garbage breaks into pieces that becomes shards of glass. After years of being tumbled and tossed about in water, sand and rocks, what was once a dangerous object that could harm, becomes refined and smooth. Doesn’t that just excite you? I know it does.
I can literally spend hours upon hours combing the beach in search of someone’s old, lost marble, a piece of broken bottle, or a beautiful chunk of pottery. My curious mind will make up stories about who has played with the marble, taken a drink out of the bottle or eaten off the china. Get my sister out there with me, and we are like two crazy middle-aged women on a critical mission, with hope in our eyes and renewed breath in our lungs. It’s like a huge treasure hunt, only without the map.
A couple of years ago, my sister and I were able to make a dream come true when we traveled to the North Sea, in England, finding glass, marbles and pottery dating back to the 19th century. We would leave our place at the crack of dawn and stay until we could no longer see the sea. Our backs had this beautiful ache from bending over to get the best view of what was in front of us. At one point, I found myself climbing a large wall covered in seaweed, only to get to the top where I lost my footing and slid all the way down. I was bruised, cut, smelled like fish and covered in seaweed, but not deterred. Praying nobody saw me, I hurriedly collected my loot that had spilled and moved on.
I’m not sure I have ever found a “perfect” piece of sea glass. Even the best pieces usually have some sort of flaw. It may take a microscope to see them, but they exist. There are some colors and shapes more coveted than others. To me, each piece has value, as well as a story to tell.
I think what I love most about sea glass is the way it reminds me of my own broken and restored life. Because of dumb choices I have made, falls from metaphorical ladders I had no business climbing, selfish desires and unpredictable storms, I have been tossed and turned in God’s immense ocean of love, where he has refined me, and continues the refining process. He has made beauty from the broken pieces of my life. Some of the refining has taken years, while some of it is still taking place. Some flaws are still visible, and others God has to show me. I don’t dare leave this ocean of love, because He who began a good work is still faithfully restoring my soul to His perfect image. What was once an individual that was broken has been healed and made new and beautiful through God’s deep ocean of love. If nothing else excites you, I hope the idea of a transformed life from the inside out does.
O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of Thy wonderful, life giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.