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Seashell Assumptions

Seashell Assumptions

We wandered down the beach in the early light, the first to imprint the sand with our feet. We stopped with almost every step, scanning for seashells. I was selective, only making the effort to bend over if I saw exceptional colors on perfectly formed shells. My four-year-old wasn’t so selective. “Look at this one, Mama!” she said for the forty-seventh time in ten minutes. More often than not, “this one” was dirt-brown and broken, well on its way to becoming sand.

“Oh, throw that one back. It’s not beautiful,” I told her more than once. “Look at this one, how perfect it is, how nice the colors are.”

“But I like it.” She looked a little sad. “It’s interesting. Look how you can see the inside—all the spaces. I think this is beautiful, too.”

An objection formed in my mind but, thankfully, didn’t escape my lips. What was I teaching my child by insisting that “beautiful” and “perfect” or “whole” were the same thing? What did that assumption imply about people?

I didn’t mean to teach my child that a person must be whole, attractive, or pristine to be beautiful, but that’s exactly what I implied.

She saw the woman in the wheelchair at the grocery store, the burned man at the next table in the restaurant, the homeless man with a sign at the traffic signal. I valued such people—ones the world might consider broken—and knew they were loved. I tried to show respect when I could. But such people weren’t part of our everyday experience any more than walks on the beach, so we hadn’t really talked about it.

By rejecting the broken shells, I implied that some things (maybe even people) were more valuable than others because of their appearance. I knew I needed to correct myself before my daughter subconsciously acquired my tainted values.

I squatted beside her and held out my hand to receive the broken shell. She ran to wash it off in the shallow water before placing it carefully in my palm. It was beautiful: its intricate structure and shades of color revealed a Creator much more clearly than the smooth outer surface of my “perfect” shells ever could. Its chips and holes surely told a story.

All of us have prejudices (or at least assumptions). The Scriptures say we are woven together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139), that He has plans for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and that he values us above everything else He created (Matthew 6:25-34). We easily apply these truths to ourselves but find it more difficult to apply the same standards to others…and we may not even realize we’re doing it! I must genuinely believe these verses are true for every person, regardless of their outward appearance, then lead my children to know, at the most fundamental level, the same thing. Even when we’re talking about seashells.

Throw back the broken ones? No, they’re beautiful too…just like people.

By: Carole Sparks, mother of two (both now in double-digits) and Bible study author, remains amazed by God’s tendency to teach her about Himself through parenting. She and her husband are always looking for ways to help their children be authentic Christ-followers. Connect with her on Twitter or her parenting blog.

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  1. Seashell Assumptions – Intentional Parenting - […] shorter version of this story appeared on Just18Summers in March […]

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