Sea glass…..I have gathered it for a number of years, from all over the world—from Lake Winnipeg to White Rock to Puerto Vallarta to Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. I love the symbolism. Sea glass is something like a bottle that once was whole and is now broken, but not useless. It becomes a beach treasure—a gift from the sea or the lake. If it is really sea glass–then it tastes like tears. Similarly, our lives can be shattered. Slowly, over time, healing can happen and we too can be transformed into a treasure. Sorrow can become joy again.
The truth of the matter is most of us are broken in life. The reasons may vary but somehow along the way we forget that we are a precious treasure, created whole and good. Glennon Doyle Melton of the blog Momastery says, life is brutiful—a mix of brutal and beautiful. That phrase definitely describes my amazing life adventure. My story begins early in life. My grandmother told me once that I did not speak much before the age of three. Instead of going to Kindergarten, I attended speech therapy classes. I could not say certain consonant blends well — I would say tree for the number three. I struggled with the J sound. You can imagine the nightmare Grade 1 was for me with the Dick and Jane books: See Jane jump. Jump, Jane, jump. Plus I had three friends named Joanne, one named Janet and there was a boy named Jeffrey. I really struggled because of my inability to speak like everyone else did and yet I could read better than most of the other children because of my speech lessons had taught me many sight words and I could do basic math because my older brother had taught me. However, I was an excruciatingly shy child because of “speaking funny”.
Before I entered Grade 1 my mom and I had to have an interview with the principal. I had to tell a story from a giant picture which I did and my memory is that I told a pretty decent one as I had a great imagination. However, it was not good enough to convince the powers that be of the proper placement for me. I am sure they had my best interests at heart, but the message that I walked away with that day was that I was not smart enough so would be put in the “dumb” class. Unfortunately, I hung on to that message for four decades. It broke a piece of me.
The message that we are not enough is a lie–but it took me a long while to figure that out. It showed up often in my life and I certainly recognized it in others. Countless women believe they are not smart enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, funny enough—fill in your own blank …just plain not enough. I worked with Deaf children for over 15 years—and with Deaf adults for over 30. I saw how some individuals thought that Deaf people were not enough. Deaf people are most certainly enough. I had the privilege of having a student on my caseload that became the first Deaf physician in Manitoba. She somehow seemed to figure out early in life that she was enough. I see it when I visit Stony Mountain Institution where I have done prison ministry for over a decade. Many of the men there do not think they are strong enough, good enough, nice enough, kind enough…they do not believe that they are loveable. An umbrella organization that I sit on the board for has three great ministries that begin to erase the messages that these ex-offenders are not enough. They need to know that they are more than their worst mistakes. In fact, we all do.
Whatever happens to us in life – whatever breaks us – does not have to have the last word. Do not let adversity destroy you. Let’s look at the sea glass analogy again. Something that was once whole is shattered. It loses its original purpose. It tumbles in the roughness of the sea and all of the jagged edges are polished smooth. This may take a while—seemingly forever. The shine and even the clarity will disappear. Instead a beautiful new texture appears. What appears worthless or useless has become a delightful treasure with a new meaning. People search for this treasure. It represents resilience, hope, and wisdom. This piece of sea glass is no longer so easily broken. The struggle has become its strength.
So what happened to that girl who was broken by her Grade 1 experience? She who did not find a voice early in life ended up in a career where she did public speaking and teaching. That girl in grade one who was put in the slow class won the gold medal at university when she graduated. Not that I tried to – I didn’t even know it existed. I had to Google it to find out what exactly what I had done when I got the letter telling me I had won it. I do not tell you this to brag but to let you know that the brokenness did not win. I learned along the way that not only was I smart enough, I was enough. The lie had been replaced by the truth. Like a piece of sea glass I had been transformed. That was a profound life lesson for me.
My brutiful life has had some significant challenges – not the least of which is being diagnosed with cancer for which there is no cure yet. This summer, while visiting with friends, one asked me what life wisdom could I share. Here is what I would say:
- Don’t believe everything people say about you, especially when it is negative.
- Being broken is not the end result, being transformed into a new precious treasure is.
- Look for beauty in life and be prepared to find it in odd places, like a glimmer hidden in the sand.
- Miracles happen every single day if we have but eyes to see.
- We are all more.than.enough.
- Hold on to hope.
- Who you were does not have to be who you are.
- The only moment we have is now. Use it well.
Do you believe you are more.than.enough?
Has your brokenness been transformed into treasure yet?
Creator of all, you made me whole and good. Help me to believe that, even when I feel shattered. Teach me to trust that whatever you have in store is for your glory. Smooth the jagged edges. Let me let go of the clarity and shine long enough to be transformed. I pray for hope, resilience and wisdom. Make me your beautiful new treasure. Amen.