The warm sunshine touches my bare shoulders and I feel like I’m finally able to thaw after a long, dark winter. I sigh and dig my toes into sand the consistency of brown sugar, then shiver as the tip of the ocean rolls over my feet. I suddenly remember it’s only April, but the salty air reminds me summer really is coming.
I’m a beachcomber – I could wander along the shoreline all day searching for interesting seashells. My eyes squint behind my sunglasses as they land on a small piece of coral. I bend down, pick it out of the sand, and drop it into the makeshift shell-carrier I’ve made with the end of my shirt. I feel like a little kid on a treasure hunt.
My prizes bump against me as I sidestep a beached jellyfish. I’ve found some cool things on my walk: a piece of sea glass, a little dried-up starfish, and a sand dollar. But there’s one thing I’m after: A conch shell. A smooth, swirly conch shell like I always see in restaurant aquariums and tropical travel advertisements.
And yet, every time I dig my fingers into the sand to extract a mini conch shell, I pull up only a remnant.
Oh, there really are conch shells. Lots of them. Or rather, they were conch shells. Now they’re just the spiraled centers—the core. The beautiful exterior has broken off somewhere between the depths of the ocean and the sand at my feet.
I’ve always wanted to find a whole one. Something amazing. Something flawless. Something not so…common.
Maybe it’s because I spend so much time with my nose in a book, or so much time with my head lost somewhere within the depths of my imagination, but as I toss another piece of conch shell—another let-down—onto the dunes, I have a thought. It’s kind of deep and kind of weird. But it’s also kind of true.
I want to be a culture-shaker, a world-changer. I want to walk the walk. I want to make a difference. I want to use my gifts and live beyond my full potential. I want to not just chase my dream, but catch it and tackle it and then dream even bigger. I want to leave a legacy.
I’m 100% positive I can’t do any of this on my own. I don’t even want to shine. I want to be a reflection—A reflection of the Son.
I’m in a weird phase of life right now. I’m finishing up a college degree and wondering what’s next. What in the world am I supposed to study in graduate school? What kind of job am I supposed to have? How am I supposed to live for Jesus?
Because I’m such a dreamer and because I want so desperately to live with abandon, I want to know what my future looks like. I want to know the next step. I want clarity. I want direction.
I want to see the whole picture.
I want the whole conch.
See, it’s like this: I want to hold a full, perfect conch shell in my hands and say that I’ve found it. I want to stare at all the intricate details and hold it up to my ear and hear the ocean.
But think about it: maybe there’s a reason I’m only finding the center pieces of these shells.
Why? Because the center is the solid part. The sturdy part. The part that doesn’t chip or break or shatter into a thousand tiny, pokey pieces. It’s the core. It holds it all together.
The outer stuff—the stuff my eye is naturally drawn to—is fragile and temporary. Sure, it’s beautiful, but it’s not what holds the shell together. It’s decoration. Yes, it makes the shell unique, but it’s not what gives the shell its strength.
It’s the inner part that’s the most solid.
Translate that into the terms of our lives:
Christ matters most.
Ultimately, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
But how can I know the power of that resurrection unless I remember that I’ve died? When I accepted Christ, I surrendered my life. I became His. Fully, completely, wholly His. He became my core, my center, the only thing that won’t crumble when a storm rages and the waves crash.
You see, dreams are born and dreams die. Opportunities come and opportunities pass. Talents can even be temporary.
But what’s not temporary? Christ. The center. Our core. Because “in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). And “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
So what about the dreams and desires and callings? What about the things that make the conch shells beautiful?
They’re gifts. They’re God’s glory on display. They’re His craftsmanship. They’re unique and wonderful.
But they’re not the most important parts.
Our gifts are not our identity. We’re defined by more. Our identity is in Christ. It’s all about Jesus.
Sometimes that’s hard to remember and even harder to accept. To be completely honest, sometimes I really struggle with that. Sometimes I’m frustrated and just want some answers.
But then, it’s not about me. It’s all about Him.
It’s all about the One living in me, working through me, making me more like Him. It’s about His will and His desire and His purpose.
And when I remember that, suddenly it doesn’t matter how fragile or useless or average I feel. Because I’m not what matters at all.
I don’t find a flawless conch shell. But I find a conch shell’s core. And I brush it off and put it with my other seashore treasures because it has value.
I have value.
You have value.
Not because of what we do, but because of what Christ did.
What Christ does.
Not because of who we are, but because of Whose we are.
Because of Who He is.
Because of the One living in us, guiding us, revealing His plan for us in His perfect time.