Yesterday I was thinking about my recent beach trip with my friend as I added the latest additions to my shell collection. It brought to mind one of my favorite books, Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
I have always loved her raw honesty about her life and the incessant demands that come with five children and an aviator husband who was much in demand. She writes about her desire for a simple life. As she muses over the stages of her life and her dreams for it, she compares these to different shells she finds on the beach.
I always thought my affinity for the book was the simplicity of her tale and a longing for a pared down lifestyle. And as much as I would like to lead you to believe it is her philosophy I identify with, it is also the fact that I love seashells. Always have. I still have a polished shell my parents got for me at Coco Beach, Florida, when I was 5 years old.
I know I drive my friend crazy when we are at the beach. She’s walking at a good clip, getting exercise and all the while taking in the beauty of the skies, the dunes, the shore, the birds. And when she looks for a response to something she has commented about to me, I’m usually 20-30 feet behind her, bent over, staring at the sand, sorting through the shells judging them keepers or rejects.
I’ve always felt a little guilty when I toss a shell back to the ground and deem it unworthy. I’m sure it has value, but I always want perfection for my collection. This sometimes happens in life. We want the picture-perfect life that has been promoted in movies and magazines. But what if we’ve been sold a bill of goods? What if meaning comes not from how perfect our life is, but from embracing the beauty in our brokenness?
During that trip as I took my final walk along the beach I saw the “shell” of what was once a perfectly intact channeled whelk. I’m sure it had been stunning, and as I turned it over and looked at the place where a big chunk was missing, I couldn’t help but see a beauty in the damaged remains of what was once I am sure, perfection.
It reminded me of kintsugi, a 400 year old Japanese art of mending cracked pottery with gold. The precious metal illuminates the imperfections instead of disguising them. It makes the pottery stronger, more beautiful and more unique.
This seems to be a philosophy worth holding on to. If our brokenness, our hurts and insecurities, our imperfections, make us more beautiful and valuable, then that should make us masterpieces, shouldn’t it?