Searching for seashells is a favorite pastime of mine. Perhaps it sounds somewhat juvenile for a forty year old woman, but I just can’t seem to help myself. I’m drawn like a moth to a flame by all those shells that wash up on the shore.
At sunrise one morning, as I was trudging through the sand in search of a treasure worthy of my collection, I couldn’t help but thinking how similar finding friends feels to searching for shells.
If a beachcomber wrote the guide for making friends, here is how I think it would go.
Even when I’m actively looking at the shoreline, from my 5 1/2 feet about the sand, the shells blend together camouflaging their individual beauty. It’s easy to overlook the beauty below from that distance. I have to bend down to see them clearly, to discover their individual intricacies, to find the ones worth picking up.
Sometimes meeting friends feels a lot like this to me. The faces I see as I hurry through my day often blur together and I’m apt to miss a treasure in the crowd unless I slow down and really look at the people I’m seeing.
Friendship hinges on our willingness to get close to others to discover their true qualities so we can make lasting connections. But we must also be brave enough to let them see our dents and dings.
Friendship falters from afar, but flourishes when we get close.
Once I’ve bent over to get a closer look at a shell I may have to remove a little sand or seaweed obstructing my view in order to see if what’s hidden belongs in my bucket.
What caught my eye may have just been the tiny tip to a giant Australian Trumpet. So I have to dig deep to discover what lies below. A little bit of dirty work is worth the effort to discover a true kindred spirit.
Occasionally, what I uncover isn’t what I’d hoped to find. What I thought was a treasure turns out to be a broken bottle. And that is alright. I cannot collect every shell from every shore (or so my husband keeps telling me), nor can I turn every stranger into a trusted companion.
Shells and people are fragile, so we excavate the layers gently.
Even then when I sense a connection with someone, I often have to peel away the layers hiding their true nature. Most of us work hard to ensure our surface is shiny. But we cannot judge by what we see on the outside. The ones that appear at first broken and damaged often reveal hidden treasure within. And others that appear pretty on the outside hide a MESS on the inside.
Dig deep to discover the treasure within.
It’s not only the prefect shells that I gather. In fact, I’m more likely to pick one up that looks like it has a story to tell. I’m fascinated by those that are so tiny they hardly look hardy enough to have endured the grueling journey that brought them to the shore. I’m enamored with the broken and battered ones that reveal internal intricacies.
True friends find the beauty beneath the brokenness.
Whether in shells or people, if we’re always searching for perfection, our buckets will remain perpetually empty. While you might not mind it so much with shells, being picky leads to a lonely life if it keeps us from collecting companions. Finding a perfect shell may be rare, but finding a perfect person is even more unlikely. In fact perfect people don’t exist. Accepting my own inadequacies helps me to embrace them in others.
Recognizing our journey through life inflicts unimaginable wounds on us all and committing to love anyway creates camaraderie.
Acknowledging and accepting imperfections in ourselves and others lays the foundation for a treasured friendship MASTERPIECE.
Just like the shells I collect, my friends come in a wide array of shapes and colors and sizes. Each is lovely in her own way and together their differences add beauty and interest to my life. It doesn’t matter how many I collect, I’m always searching for a new treasure to add to my bucket.
Whether you’re combing the beach or finding friends, it’s important to remember to get close, dig deep, and accept imperfections.
How can you put one of these into action today to discover a connection you might otherwise overlook?
Liz Giertz is a U.S. Army combat Veteran turned Army wife and mother to two boisterous boys and one shelter pup. She graduated from West Point and served on Active Duty in the Army for nearly 10 years, living in 6 countries and 7 states. After marriage and the birth of her first son, she traded her boots and uniform for cute sandals and a craft apron. Her husband, Matt, continues to serve God and country, while she manages the home-front. She also encourages women to overcome their messes, embrace their memories, and become the masterpieces God created them to be at creativeinspirationsatmymessydesk.com.