Dirty Seashells

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:10)

About seven years ago, I was walking along the beach with a friend of mine. I could tell something was bothering him. It showed in his figure. His shoulders were slumped. His head hanging just a bit, and he was dragging his feet along the sand. We were chatting about normal day to day things when he looked at me and said I was a good person. A compliment is always nice to hear but the way he said it really made me sense that he did not think that he was a good person. He could not see a particular purpose for his life and back then, I wasn’t mature enough to realize it would have been a great moment to witness to him about Jesus.

We walked in silence for a bit until I saw him stop and pick up a seashell. He held it in his hand like a lifeline. As we walked further, I could visualize the many thoughts that must have been going through his mind at that time. Before we turned around to head back, I stopped and asked him why seashells always stayed white. I had caught him off guard and he asked me to repeat what I said. So I did.

“Why do seashells stay white?” We lived on an island where everything that was white turned brown in a matter of seconds after touching the Island’s deep red soil, but the seashells were always white. He said he didn’t know. I did not have the answer either but that day I did have a word for him. I told him that I wonder if seashells were like people.

Sometimes we only see the external dirt that life has coloured us with instead of seeing the heart underneath. The color of the seashells, like the heart, is what matters. In this world, we are inevitably going to wear the colors of life and they aren’t pretty. We will be worn out and tired and there are days when our own clothes will become wrinkled or stained, our shoes scuffed, and if you live in my house, there is probably always food on some part of me (check my hair on spaghetti day and it’s pretty much guaranteed). But that doesn’t mean our heart has to get dirty.

Even though the seashells constantly sit in red dirt, being shoved around by endless waves on the grimy ocean floor, they remain white.

I never spoke to my friend again. He went on his way and I went mine but a while later, I was speaking to a mutual friend and I asked how he was doing. She said he seemed good and then she joked that the last time she had seen him, he had asked her why seashells were white. I smiled knowing that maybe it caught his heart enough to realize that he had a value and that he had a good heart too. Like so many of us from time to time, he just needed to wipe off the dirt the world had placed on his heart so that he could see life “as it was originally intended” clearly again.

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