A Worn Out Shell

Looking back, I noticed that it’s been about a month since I’ve done a re-post and this one really speaks to where I am today. I hope you enjoy this little story from October 2009.

A little known fact about me: once upon a time, I wanted to be a Marine Scientist. No, that isn’t a scientist that studies Marines. It’s someone who studies the ocean. And who knows? If this ministry thing doesn’t work out…

No, really, if you’ll forgive the pun, I think that ship has sailed.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you will have noticed that God often speaks to me through ocean-related experiences. If you haven’t noticed this, you can read examples of this in Battling the Breakers and A Patient Man’s Game.

A few weeks ago, I spent three days at the beach with Mama and our friend, Ruby. I got some much-needed rest while sitting on the sand, watching the ocean. It was that deep kind of rest that made me feel refreshed and renewed—like a new person. And although I paid attention in case God wanted to speak to me, for the most part, what I heard God saying was, “Enjoy your rest.”

The most strenuous activity of our vacation was the miles (literally) of beach that we walked, looking for shells. It’s not really as if we need more shells. In fact, the three of us agreed that one day, someone will throw out all of our shells without a single thought about how important they were to us or how much travel and work was required to find and collect them all. But alas, I can’t worry about that. I just enjoy them today.

Our last evening at the beach, before going inside for showers, we huddled around a bucket of water on the porch and rinsed all of the sand from our found treasures and laid them out on a bench to dry. The next morning, when we packed, Mama and Ruby let me go out first and choose which shells I wanted to keep. Mostly, I only kept the ones I had specially picked up. But ever since, Mama has periodically asked me, “Are you sure you don’t want some of my and Ruby’s shells?” Each time, I’ve politely declined.

Until this weekend.

Saturday afternoon, Mama and I stopped by Ruby’s house. Prominently displayed on her dining room table were two large baskets full of shells. Instinctively, I picked up a broken orange conch and as soon as I picked it up, God started speaking to me about it.

For those of you who are landlocked, “conch” is pronounced “konk” and it’s basically a salt-water snail. Some folks cook and eat the little animal inside of the shell, but the rest of us generally pick up conchs in their unbroken state so that we can hold them up to our ears and hear the sound of the ocean. If you’ve never done this, you’ve really missed out!

Usually, conchs are beautiful, swirly, spirally shells. But this one, dull and broken, had intrigued my mother. She picked it up to show to me. After it had been broken under the waves, other small, broken shells began to jam into the conch. The opening that had once sheltered the conch’s animal was now sheltering other little shells.

I took the conch from my mother and tried to dislodge the little shells, but they are so firmly jammed in there, that the only way to get them out is to shatter the conch. And to my total amazement, one of the shells “hiding” inside the conch is a completely perfect and unbroken shell (that I can’t remember the name of and Google can’t seem to help me recall… But you can see the cute little spirally shell peeking out of the conch up there.)

When I first saw this shell at the beach, it was a curiosity piece. I thought it was a one-of-a-kind, but on that one day, we came across at least a half dozen of these. We picked up two or three of them, rinsed them, brought them home, and sat them proudly in the baskets on Ruby’s table. But Saturday when I picked this one up, I saw it through different eyes and it took me quite by surprise. It isn’t just a curiosity. It’s a testimony and an object lesson all rolled into one.

If the conch could tell its testimony, it might go something like this:

For many years, I lived happily in the ocean. At times, storms would come and I would be slammed into ocean floor. Each time, I would be chipped or dented, but I always survived the storm. Then, I got swept up in a hurricane. For days, the current beat me and pounded me into the ground. When it was over, there was almost nothing left of me. Just when I thought that my life had ended and my purpose was gone, these other tiny shells began to come to me, taking refuge in what was left of my worn-out shell…

I’m thirty-one years old. And though my life has been easy compared to some, I’ve been through my share of storms, too. I’ve been beaten, dented, scarred, and left to die on the ocean floor. And I have wanted to focus on my brokenness. But each time, God would send other endangered creatures to take refuge with me. Even now, I’m harboring other little shells that couldn’t handle the waves by themselves…

Lord, help me not to be so focused on what I’ve lost that I ignore the importance of what I’m doing now. Help me to see the beauty in my brokenness and the brokenness of others. And help me to show that brokenness to the world so that they can also see the beauty in their brokenness and be encouraged to shelter others. Let us come together in the storms to harbor each other and to remember that one reason Jesus came was to bring the family together.

About Sarah Salter


  1. Loved the story Sarah and especially loved the last paragraph (the prayer). It is so easy to focus on what could have been rather than on what can be. I want to be one who forgets what could have been and asks, “Okay God. What you got planned now?” Since I wasn’t reading your blog back then thanks for sharing this. Blessings to you this weekend.

  2. Oh! I was a little surprised when I read your blog. I thought you were going to point out how the shell looks like a shoe. It could easily represent that walking with the Lord is taking it one step at a time too. 🙂 Okay, maybe that’s stretching it a bit but I think you’ll see the shoe if you really look at it. If not, then I’m guessing, psychologists would really love to get a hold of me. 🙂 LOL!

  3. I think you are lying at the beginning… I think you did want to study Marines. I hear women love seeing them in their dress blues… 😛

    I’m with Bill on the prayer and the desire to just look to God for the next step.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, I’m really not lying. But I did go to high school in New Bern, NC which is in close proximity to TWO Marine Corps bases (Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville and Cherry Point MCAS in Havelock.) I did some independent study on Marines, but didn’t pass the tests, so I eventually dropped the course. 🙂

    Bill & Denise- Thanks for your thoughts, your time, and your friendship! Blessings!

  5. It’s amazing when we realize we’re all in this together and we can support one another. Great story and post, Sarah. Joining with the other prayers–blessings and grace in Jesus’ name…

  6. Wow, what a great story Sarah! I’m so glad you reposted it.

Speak Your Mind