When I go to the beach, one of the things I love to do – besides eating cotton candy – is collect sea shells. On one outing, I found dozens of sand dollars at sunset, and made a game out of snatching as many as possible from the sand before the waves buried them. The dozens of perfectly formed shells are sitting in a large bowl outside my shed, right where I placed them nearly ten years ago.
But there are many other kinds of shells more exotic and fun than sand dollars. Each one has its own unique shape, texture, and color. I can still remember being a child and sorting through the large wood bowl of sea shells my grandmother kept on her coffee table. They were exquisite and made for hours of fun.
Shells have another purpose besides enthralling displays in wood coffee table bowls. They are actually created to protect the little animals that live inside of them. The thickness, shape, and sometimes even the beautiful colors enable the little creatures to move around and live in relative security in an otherwise hostile environment.
I wonder if we sometimes do the same with our lives. We build a shell around ourselves, decorate it with beautifully colored attitudes, likeable personalities, attractive appearances, and other acceptable trappings. Then we use that shell with such skill to defend ourselves against all the unpleasant things in life.
Even though they’re very colorful and fun to look at, the sad commentary on sea shells is that the shell is the only thing left after the creature dies. The outward monument is there . . . but the inside of the shell is empty.
We sometimes spend our lives creating shells of beauty, acceptability and safety, but in the end, it’s what we have on the inside that is really important.