Sea glass is a broken piece of glass that has been washed up on shore. But it is not just any piece of broken glass. It takes at least thirty to forty years of tossing and tumbling in the ocean to turn a regular piece of glass into a piece of sea glass. Sea glass, from its years of scraping against sand and rocks, is frosty and smooth. Jewel-like, sea glass is beautiful.
Each little piece of sea glass has a story. What was it before? A vase? A bottle? A jar once filled with something? Who owned it? How old is it? How did it end up in the ocean? Oftentimes, sea glass experts can come close to identifying what it use to be simply by its color (and occasionally other markings on it). But no one will ever know its complete story. I love the mystery of the story behind each little piece of sea glass.
And I love that each piece of sea glass has been on a journey. People have tried to artificially create sea glass by using rock tumblers, but sea glass experts can tell the difference. The thirty-plus year process of tossing and tumbling in the ocean cannot be reproduced. There are no shortcuts. It takes years and time. It is the long journey ~ the tossing and turning, scraping and tumbling ~ that turns a regular piece of glass into a beautiful piece of sea glass.
It’s the symbolism of all of these things that speaks to my soul. In a strange way, I connect with a little piece of sea glass. And somehow, through the story of sea glass, I’ve learned more about the story of me.
Cindy Kuhn writes on her website (www.tearsfromthedeep.com) that sea glass is “a symbol of our inner work and the process by which we are transformed.” I resonate with this description as sea glass has opened my eyes to transformative work that has already been taking place in my life and encouraged me to continue in my own inner work ~ my journey of identity.
Like sea glass, I have a past. Unlike sea glass, my past is not a mystery. I know who I was and where I’ve been. My growing edge is to let go of my past. Symbolically, let’s say I use to be a vase. I struggle to not still see myself as a vase. I want others to still see me as a vase. For me, being a vase was good. So much so, that I had a hard time letting go of my vase identity. It’s still hard sometimes, especially when I see other vases and find myself missing that way of life.
But sea glass has helped me understand, figure out, and accept who I am now. As I look at a piece of sea glass and wonder about what it use to be, in some respects it doesn’t matter. Was it a bottle? A vase? A glass? A jar? A headlight from a car? Whatever it was, it is beautiful now, in its new form. I find that encouraging for anyone, no matter what one’s past was ~ good or bad. It is who we are now that matters most.
When I saw my first piece of sea glass, I didn’t appreciate it. It was just a broken piece of glass. What’s so special about that? What I failed to see, to understand, was that it wasn’t just a broken jagged piece of something else. It wasn’t just a shard to be swept up and thrown away. Once I took the time to actually look at it, I saw that it was smooth and frosty and gem-like. And when I researched it to learn more, I realized each piece has a story. I found this fascinating. Yes, sea glass is broken, but through transformation it has been made whole. It is a new creation.
This understanding has been helpful to me. I don’ like to think of myself as broken. It’s uncomfortable. It’s inferior to being whole and put together. If it were up to me, I’d avoid brokenness at all costs! I’d like to stay in my put together vase form. Thankfully, God wants more for me. Through the analogy of sea glass, I see that He has taken me and dropped me into the ocean. He has broken me by stripping me of my old identity.
But accepting this ~ this uncomfortable state of brokenness and loss of identity ~ has been hard and has taken time. It has taken much inner work. I’ve had to come face to face with past and present struggles, insecurities, and disappointments. I’ve had questions, uncertainties, and experienced loss. Some of my old ways of thinking have been challenged. I’ve had to tear down walls I’d built around myself to protect my identity. I’ve had moments of thinking “I didn’t sign up for this!” But these are the things that have actually been shaping me and transforming me. This is the part that can’t be skipped over or shortened. It’s the tossing and turning and scraping that turns a regular piece of glass in to a piece of sea glass.
From vase to sea glass. I am exactly who He wants me to be. I can see now that God has taken what I was, broken that, and has been creating me into something new. Even as I fought against it. Even when I thought I knew what was best for me.
I am now learning to relinquish my own plans for my life and to trust God with it. To allow Him to shape and define and use me in ways He already has planned for me. In doing so, I realize that my new life and new identity can be even better than holding on to the safe vase identity I was comfortable with…and missed. It’s actually exciting to slowly discover what God has in store.
And in the process of accepting the person that I am now, I can still value what I was. But I no longer want my past to define me. God does that. But He can use my past to masterfully shape me and grow me. Kind of like sea glass. Its original state does not define it, but it does play a role in what it is today. And that history ~ that story of a piece of sea glass ~ is part of what makes sea glass so intriguing. Each piece of sea glass has a story. Just like me. And all of us. And each story ~ each person ~ is special.
Just like sea glass.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17